NEW YORK — Piaget transformed the art of watchmaking with its ultra-slim luxury wristwatches. Starting with the hand-wound 9P Calibre in 1957 that was only 2mm (about 0.07 inches) thick, and followed three years later by the self-winding 12P, Piaget’s designs reduce the watch’s overall volume to expand the surface area of the dial, making it possible to read the time without the aid of a magnifying glass.
During the ensuing decades, the Swiss company crafted renowned thin watches such as the Polo and Altiplano that have been perennially popular. It has also distinguished itself as a fine jeweler by creating striking and unusual watches with stunning ornamentation. While diamonds are featured on many Piaget watches set against white, rose or yellow gold, its artisans also masterfully use gemstones and luxurious materials on the dial. Women’s cuff bracelet-watches in gold, set off with precious stones coveted for their color and purity, are highly prized. Piaget dials have appeared in nearly every color of the rainbow, fashioned from exotic materials such as jade, lapis lazuli and coral. In the 1960s, Piaget strayed further afield, issuing a series with dials that were shaped like television screens.
The Piaget’s family motto is “Always do better than necessary.” This search for excellence defines their overcoming the technical challenges of making super-thin watches with all the necessary gears, movements and components without losing sight of the importance of aesthetics. The motto also sums up the Piaget family’s continual search for new and creative designs that elevate watchmaking to an art form through unexpected pairings of onyx and coral or with elegant monochromatic watches that combine lapis lazuli and turquoise.
A fine example of Piaget’s creative pairing of materials can be seen in its women’s diamond, coral, black onyx and gold watch that sold for $60,000 plus the buyer’s premium in April 2017 at Heritage Auctions. Featuring a coral tablet with dauphine hands and a sapphire crystal, the watch is ensconced in an 18K gold bracelet that has a row of alternating pear and marquise-shaped black onyx and coral tablets along with diamonds.
The unisex look is ascendant in fashion and watches. Men have gained the confidence to don heels and necklaces as women reach for broad-shouldered jackets. Piaget has long embraced this trend; its razor-thin Altiplano has been a staple of the brand since the 1970s. A contemporary example in white gold and fitted with a crocodile skin bracelet achieved $27,700 plus the buyer’s premium in October 2021 at Bidhaus. The watch succeeds in looking great on any wrist, regardless of gender.
Piaget has also mastered the production of wristwatches that double as high-end jewelry for women. A prime example is a ruby and diamond 18K Polo watch that sold for $47,500 plus the buyer’s premium in June 2019 at GWS Auctions Inc. “Piaget has a long history, cultivating a spirit of luxury while emphasizing its creativity, attention to detail and fully integrated watchmaking and jewelry expertise,” according to the auction house. The watch sold in June 2019 shows off the skills of Piaget’s artisans, who designed and executed a square case that blends nearly invisibly into the bracelet. The pave rubies and diamonds perfectly complement each other to make a powerful statement piece.
Piaget has produced cuff bracelet wristwatches since the 1950s, and the Manchette design has been a steady favorite of both the company and its customers. The Manchette was one of the first Piaget watches to feature dials made from ornamental stone. An unusual and striking example took $45,055 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2019 at Monaco Legend Auctions. It boasted a tiger eye dial set against white gold finished to resemble tree bark – an unconventional stylistic choice that contrasts well with the rectangular panels of tiger eye.
Another unusual cuff bracelet-style Piaget watch is a circa-1970 example with chain links in 18K yellow gold that made $23,105 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2020 at Henry’s Auktionshaus AG. Featuring 18 jewels, five adjustments and movable links, the watch is much more than a mere watch or bracelet.
The company that Georges Edouard Piaget built in 1874 is still creating watches that combine beauty with demanding watch complications. Its proven ability to unite creativity, craftsmanship and innovation has turned the heads of movie stars such as Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor as well as other discerning tastemakers. As long as Piaget continues to live up to its family motto, it can look forward to a glittering future.