Since its founding in 1874, Piaget is a brand that has been dedicated to innovation, luxury, pioneering technology and classic elegance in both its jewelry and watches. Today, the brand continues in this vein – regularly unveiling timepieces that are technically advanced and alluringly appealing.
“We have sexy and amazing watches and technologically superior watches,” says Philippe-Leopold Metzger, CEO of Piaget. “It is our DNA; we are known for technical prowess and for creative classical looks.”
Piaget creates almost everything in house - from the tooling to build the new calibers, to microscopic movement parts and cases, bracelets and final finished works of art. The brand has two carefully construed workshops, each dedicated to different watchmaking tasks. In its La Cote-Aux-Fees workshops in the Swiss Jura – where the brand has its roots – Piaget makes the old-world tools necessary to create its calibers (every new watch caliber requires a new set of tools), builds its complicated movements, assembles its high-watchmaking complexities (such as its famed Tourbillon Relatif) and executes its most impressive component decoration.
Because a new movement can cost $4 million to $5 million to create- it is a piece of grand art. As such, once developed, Piaget spends a great deal of time on finishing components with exquisite designs – from perlage to circular graining and Cote’s de Genève patterns. In fact one watch can have as many as 1,000 circular engravings on the movement -- a feat that takes hours upon hours to complete.
In its more recently opened state-of-the-art Plan-les Quares Manufacture just outside of Geneva, Piaget executes its design and technical work, makes its cases and bracelets, completes assembly and casing, as well as fitting and polishing, and performs dozens upon dozens of quality control checks. Piaget conceptualizes and creates of all its exquisite high-jewelry collection.
Recently, we had the wonderful experience of touring the Piaget workshops. This is truly an adventure in the making of masterpieces from start to finish. In the Jura Mountains, we experienced the real birth of the Piaget movement, the magic of its decoration and the jewelling of calibers that is an art Piaget mastered as a leader. The assembly workshop, where the haute horlogerie mechanism components are patiently put together by hand is one of the most fascinating to observe. In the Geneva offices, the creative design is all important. Here designers meet regularly to construe and innovate – often developing the design years before it actually comes to fruition. The engineers in the state-of-the-art computer-assisted development department remain constantly in tune with the watchmakers and designers as they try to bring future calibers to reality. Development of a new movement requires between two and four years of work depending on its complexity.
Splendors of 2012
One such example of the long lead times in watch development is the newest – just released at SIHH 2012 – Piaget Altiplano Skeleton Ultra-Thin watch, which was several years in the development stages, and that requires months to build a single piece.
Says Metzger, “The skeleton is the most difficult and delicate to create and decorate. It takes three to six months to produce a skeleton watch, with much of that time used to realize the high-decorated plates and components. Only about 10 watches per month can be finished by the one woman who specializes in this Skeleton decoration.”
This watch boasts two world records – it is the thinnest self-winding skeleton model (at 5.34mm) and houses the world's thinnest self-winding skeleton movement (2.40mm). The Piaget 1200S ultra-thin skeletonized movement is completely developed and made in house by Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget. With a range of 18 ultra-thin movements in its repertoire and five skeleton calibers, Piaget is an expert in this field with untarnished credibility and unparalled expertise. The newest skeleton, however, required ever more vigilance in its finishing and engraving work, as the caliber components are obviously among the thinnest, as well. The long curves that extend across certain parts, such as the mainplate and bridges, ensure necessary firmness and resistance – all of which was carefully thought out in the visionary design process.
The stunning, resolutely modern skeletonized caliber is housed in a 38mm white gold case specially designed for it. An exceptional beauty, the watch features a platinum micro-rotor and 26 jewels. The surfaces are alternatively finished in matte sunray brushed or sand blasted for excellent contrast on the polished angles. In all, this new world first is a harmonious blend of high-technology and artistic prowess that only Piaget could achieve.
Other exquisite new pieces from Piaget include the Dragon and Phoenix watches. In an exciting new collection, the brand has created the mythical dragon and phoenix in enamel in a stunning, exclusive series. We had the privilege of viewing these pieces during our tour of Piaget’s workshops and they are definitely collector items thanks to their exquisite mechanisms and absolute artistic craftsmanship. In one watch the phoenix in all its majesty dominates the dials in white and gray tones, while in another watch the dragon monopolized the dial in vivid hues. In yet another magnificent version, the two mythical creatures appear together.
Also new for 2012 is an entire collection of advancements in the Limelight Garden Party series, with floral-inspired secret watches, and mother-of-pearl and diamond-set gold florals taking center stage. Naturally, Piaget complements the watch line with a superb jewelry series of floras diamond and precious stone motifs. All of these splendors are made with strict attention to every detail and under vigilance only Piaget can guarantee.