To people whose watches serve no other purpose than tell the time, the sense of fashion in these mechanical pieces matter the most and are the main attraction. Still, it’s sometimes a turn-off when useful accessories such as watches are reduced to being just accessories. It’s always better when they serve two purposes than one. At a time when most products in the market only deliver on just one or the other, Piaget SA is a watch manufacturer that doesn’t hold back on those two aspects in watchmaking.
From company to Manufacture D’horlogerie
The founder, Georges Edouard Piaget, started creating fob watches when he opened a watchmaking workshop on the family farmland in Neuchatel. The year was 1874 and before that, he had a lot of practice by only making movements. At the time, the movements’s precision and the production’s quality reflected in Piaget watches caught the attention of major watchmaking brands.
In 1911, Timothee, Georges’ son, takes over the company and continues the tradition of passion and expertise on the craft. It was still many years later in 1943 that Piaget became an official brand. It was around this time that Georges’ grandsons, Gérald and Valentin Piaget, began shifting focus to manufacturing wristwatches and incorporating brand signatures to the timepieces. Two years later, Piaget opens a new manufactory establishment because of the excessive amount of orders coming in.
Later in that decade, the grandsons finally put up Piaget SA, the name that’s going to be introduced to an international market. Then in the ’50s, they started creating their own movements, earning the brand the title of Manufacture.
Piaget Classic Polo S.
Piaget redesigns a classic with its new Polo S
Ultra-thin mechanical movement
One of the most remarkable achievements made by Piaget SA is the ultra-thin mechanical movement that they created in 1957. It was first released to the world as the caliber 9P, which only had the thickness of 2mm.
It would spearhead the revolution of ultra-thin movements. Soon after the caliber 9P, the 12P was made by Valentin. It had a thickness of 2.3mm. At the time, it was the thinnest, automatic, hand-wound movement and with a thickness of only 2.3mm, it held a record in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The extra-flat mechanical movements gave way to more developments and more evolved timepieces such as the coin watches and square and rectangular cases.
Merging fashion and haute horlogerie
Despite that great accomplishment, it wasn’t until Piaget SA made use of jewels that really led to a breakthrough that earned them an international elite market. After the ultra-thin movements, Piaget SA started creating jewel watches for the ladies using hard stones like onyx, turquoise, and lapis lazuli. Patrons of the watches included Jackie Kennedy and Andy Warhol, which brought Piaget SA to a trendsetter status.
The Polo was the watch that brought a defining moment to the brand. The construction allowed for a sleek merging of the watch and the bracelet. It changed the way people perceived luxury watches. What used to be a necessity became a sartorial indulgence simultaneously. It allowed fashion and haute horlogerie to cross over and merge.
In 1980, the brand officially earned the name of watchmaker jeweler. In that decade, they made the most expensive men’s watch. It was 2 years in the making, made with 154 grams of platinum, 296 diamonds, and a 3.85-carat blue diamond, and was worth 3.5 million francs.
Piaget emperador coussin. Les Rhabilleurs
Piaget SA in the new millenium
In the ’80s, changes of ownership began to occur and the watchmaking family heritage became heavily involved in corporate world when 60 percent of the brand’s earnings was acquired by Vendôme group until it got hold of the entire brand and became the sole owner in 1993. Yves Georges Piaget was then voted as the president.
It didn’t mean the end of luxury watchmaking though. The 430P and 500P replaced the 9P and 12P calibers and the ultra-thin movement expanded with the creation of Piaget Altiplano that took inspiration from its vintage predecessor, first launched in 1957. New collections were also released. First, there were the jewel collections, Possession and Tanagra, then the Emperador line.
Within the first decade of the new millennium, a new Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie was opened in center of watchmaking in Geneva, 30 new calibers were presented, and Piaget releases two of the first and thinnest self-winding watches and movements. Meanwhile, the brand’s La Côte-aux-Fées manufacture still stands as a historic home where movements continue to be made.
Since the updated movements, Piaget creates yet another thin minute repeater, the 1290P caliber, the thinnest of its kind in 2013 when it was first introduced with only 4.8mm.
At present, Piaget SA is one of last few Swiss watchmakers that fuses the art of jewelry-making with the craft of watchmaking. The brand can be progressive in presenting new designs and creative innovations, but it remains rooted to traditional values of Swiss watchmaking.