The Marvels of Piaget

23 Dec 2014
4 min read
Creative abundance, dazzling diamonds and ultra-thin calibres are what this watchmaker-jeweller is all about. By Eva-Luise Schwarz for FOUR International Luxury Supplement…

Unlike so many other prestigious manufacturers, Swiss brand Piaget has a double personality: as a watchmaker and as a jeweller. The brand assiduously develops its two areas of expertise, which it unites under a signature that distinguishes itself from others in the world of luxury.

Founded in 1874, Piaget started out as a watchmaker’s workshop, a family firm that was all about creativity and diversity. Over the years, its watchmaking speciality became ultra-thin movements, and the Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie can now boast an outstanding range of its own make.

But watches weren’t its only area of expertise. Piaget’s creativeness has consistently risen to the regular production of new jewellery collections. From its two facilities—one in La Côte-aux-Fées, where the movements are manufactured, and one in Plan-les-Ouates near Geneva, where the watches are put together and where the bracelets, the case, the gold crafting and all the jewellery work is done—the company’s vision is realised from first idea to finished product.

Philippe Léopold-Metzger has been Piaget’s CEO for the almost 14 years. He says that the company has set out to do two things: making movements and crafting gold. “Piaget started out as a watchmaker that designs, develops and manufactures in-house. We started doing some jewellery in 1960. When we set a watch, very often people would ask for jewellery to match. From then on, watches and jewellery were made alongside each other, until Cartier bought Piaget in 1988 and they decided that there was a lot of potential for jewellery watches and going deeper into the jewellery business. And that’s what we’ve been doing since.”

Today, the company employs 1,152 people. Among the hundreds of creative minds and craftsmen are eight designers that are working in-house, five on watches and three on jewellery. Contrary to many other brands that concentrate just on one or two best-sellers, Piaget works on a lot of different designs, anywhere between 50 and 80 new products every year. The creative input of the designers is paramount. Léopold-Metzger explains: “The designers like to have design freedom but they also like to have a frame. About once or twice a year, we run focus groups to select a theme for the year, and we make sure that they are part of the discussion as well as the decision.” Instead of doing research on luxury and fashion, Léopold-Metzger goes with intuition and what goes well with the DNA of the brand. “We are not going to research whether the market expects us to do certain things. A lot of the jewellery we make at the moment is inspired by the rose because Yves G. Piaget, who is the fourth generation, had a great passion for roses and he actually had a rose named after him. That was obviously a great source of inspiration.”

In its current collections, Piaget is using a lot of white gold. This is simply explained by the fact that a lot of the jewellery contains diamonds, and diamonds and white gold are a winning combination. But even though white gold is most popular with the brand, pink gold is also becoming more prominent.

With 91 boutiques around the world, Piaget is a brand that constantly grows. Léopold-Metzger is looking towards Asia but has also started developing the network in Europe and America. “We like growth markets—obviously Asia continues to be good for us. But there are lots of markets today where there is growth, whether it is South America, developing markets in the Middle East, even Japan, Continental Europe and America. At the end of the day, luxury is an industry which tends to do well, including in the developed markets.”

The brand never stands still and what might be surprising to some is that Piaget keeps developing new watch mechanisms all the time. It will take a large team of specialists more than two years to develop and construct a new movement. For example, this year for the first time Piaget has introduced an ultra-thin minute repeater watch and movement. And if there is one major complication that is particularly difficult to produce, it would be the minute repeater. To also enrich the movement with an automatic winding mechanism, to endow it with an exceptional sound, to offer the thinnest calibre in its category along with the thinnest case, to guarantee water resistance to 3 ATM, and to achieve all this 100% in-house, has taken six dedicated engineers three years of work.

Therefore, if there is one thing that never changes at Piaget, it is the tireless determination to constantly push the boundaries of the infinitely small, as can attest the succession of record-thin watches over the last 50 years. These include the world’s thinnest shaped tourbillon, Caliber 600P, as well as the calibres of which the new 1250P is a direct descendant: the 12P, the world’s thinnest automatic movement ever at the time of its launch in 1960, and subsequently superseded by the 1280P in 2010, and the 1200S, the world’s thinnest automatic skeleton calibre introduced by Piaget in 2012. The classic and timeless Piaget Altiplano Date model was launched in 2013. It boasts Caliber 1205P, the world’s thinnest automatic movement at just 3mm thick, housed in a likewise record-breaking 6.36mm case. On the women’s side, a new watch has been introduced that will be the new icon of Piaget, according to Léopold-Metzger. The Limelight Gala collection draws a wealth of inspiration from the elegant and dazzling jewellery watches of the 1960s. Entirely in tune with its incomparable aesthetic, sensual curves and precious gem-setting, it reveals a distinctive personality imbued with a sense of glamorous chic. At the same time, the beautiful feminine curve and the understated dial radiate an extremely contemporary aura, while the black Roman numerals match the refined satin strap.

The fluidity of materials and the radiance of light in each piece of jewellery as well as the perfection of movement in each ultra-thin timepiece pay tribute to the skills, precision and finesse of Piaget’s master craftsmen.

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