PIAGET (Est. 1874 – ) As both a watchmaker and jewelry manufacturer, Piaget has become one of the world’s most celebrated brands in both fields.
In 1874 Georges Piaget (1855 – ????) established the firm in the village of La Côte-aux-Fées. Georges was a farmer who built pocket watches during the winter to earn extra money. In 1911, Georges’ son, Timothée Piaget, took over the firm and made the family’s timepiece business its full-time endeavor.
From inception, Piaget watches were built for other companies who placed their name on the timepieces. The founder’s grandsons, Gérald (1918 – 1997) and Valentin Piaget, registered Piaget as a trademark in 1943. Since then, the factory at La Côte-aux-Fées has produced its own creations and the family name has become internationally recognized and highly desirable. Over four generations, Piaget has operated as a family-run business, and the words of its founder, “Always do better than necessary” remain its guiding principle.
According to the firm’s official website, Piaget “…combines [jewelry and watchmaking] … as no other brand has done before.”
“This fusion finds its fullest expression in the gem-setting workshop within the Manufacture. Thanks to its gemologists, jewelers and gem-setters, Piaget controls each stage in-house to make its creations masterpieces of jewelry work.
“Depending on the model, our gem-setters choose a grain setting, a claw setting or a prong setting and mix and match cut stones. [The firm] also take(s) into account the infinitely small levels of flexibility allowed for by the specifications of the watchmaking Manufacture.
“Each gem-set component is delicately worked and requires the closest attention at each stage in order to meet the high standards that Piaget demands. Entirely produced within the Manufacture, [their] fine jewelry watch bracelets perfectly illustrate how Piaget establishes its mastery in this domain and offers the wearer an experience of total comfort.”
The website does not reveal much about the company’s early years except that the sons took over the business and ran their father’s company through the First World War, Great Depression, and the Second World War. From the year, Piaget began producing and selling watches under its own name, the brand began a geographic expansion that increased its international reputation.
From 1943 on, orders started pouring in and production ran at full capacity. Even though the company’s workshops had been modernized, they could not keep pace with demand. Consequently, in 1945, Piaget built a new manufacturing facility (also in La Côte-aux-Fées.) which soon distinguished itself by making innovative advances in the area of ultra-thin movements.
Foreign markets including the United States opened up during the 1950s and led to the establishment of branch offices in New York, Geneva and Germany. It also helped that the company introduced a number of innovative movements during this period including the ultra-thin nine ligne “9P” movement. This precipitated the creation of a popular series of elegant, ultra-thin Piaget wristwatches for both men and women. Another commercially successful movement was the “12P”, which was the world’s thinnest automatic watch movement until 1967.
During the 1960s, the company acquired several case and bracelet manufacturers. This allowed for strict quality control.
Over the next few years, Piaget’s market focus changed. The watches themselves took on the appearance of fine jewelry. Dials were available in a number of styles and the materials used became increasingly exotic. Most tellingly of all, there were more jewelers than watchmakers employed by the House.
In 1957, the firm introduced the Emperador men’s watch. In the 1960’s, Valentin Piaget created the flattest automatic movement in the world for its time, the famous caliber 12P, at only 2.3 mm thick which was recognized as such by the Guinness Book of Records.
The mastery of the brand’s extra-flat movement opened the field to other ambitious developments including coin watches, extra-flat profiles, square and rectangular cases and ladies’ jewel watches.
The real breakthrough for Piaget came at the start of the 1960s when the brand created and launched the first dials in hard stone, onyx, turquoise and lapis lazuli. Piaget designed and created superior jewel watches that attracted an international elite, including, among others, Jackie Kennedy, Gina Lollobrigida, Andy Warhol, and Elizabeth Taylor who would wear the Piaget colors worldwide. From this point forward, the brand became a trendsetter in the world of watch making.
After the introduction of watches featuring dials made of hard stone in 1971, Piaget launched its cuff watch that became a symbol of precious watchmaking. Creativity and expressions of difference became Piaget’s style signature.
In 1979, the firm launched the Piaget Polo watch. Avant-garde, yet classic, it quickly became an icon.
A legendary model from its introduction, the Piaget Polo helped the brand renew its international reputation and global recognition. As the first watch to offer a bracelet completely integrated with the case, it demonstrated expertise that would later not only prove this double characteristic’s success, but would also demonstrate that the firm had introduced a new way of thinking about timepieces that would find favor with the international jet-set.
To meet rapidly growing demand, in the 1990’s Piaget reinforced its presence in mechanical movements by developing new lines: Calibers 430P and 500P. These replaced the historic ultra-thin 9P and 12P movements that had forged Piaget’s reputation in the ultra-thin field.
In 1998, to build on this broader range of mechanical movements, Piaget launched the Piaget Altiplano collection of ultra-thin watches – inspired by the vintage 1957 model – that embodied purity, classicism and elegance. In 1999, it re-introduced the Piaget Emperador line that now housed the most sophisticated mechanical movements.
To maintain and surpass its success, in 2001 the company opened the Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget in Plan-les-Ouates, just outside Geneva. This high-performance facility, regrouping both watchmaking and jewelry crafts, complemented the historical site in la Côte-aux-Fées where the movements were made.
Currently, Piaget International SA designs, develops, and manufactures watches and jewelry for men and women. The company offers ultra-thin, skeleton, complication, jewelry, gold bracelet, tourbillon, chronograph, and dual time zone watches. Jewelry includes rings, necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and earrings.
It also provides high jewelry; and wedding collections that include platinum, white gold, pink gold, and yellow gold wedding rings. Also available are diamond-set engagement rings, and engagement rings without gem-setting.
Over the years, Piaget has received numerous awards. These include several awarded to various models of the Emperador. At the 2002 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix, the Piaget 1967 watch received the Design Watch Prize and the Altiplano XL watch won the Ultra-Flat Watch Prize in 2003.
In 2006, Piaget received the Ladies’ Jewelry Watch Prize for its Limelight Party model. The Piaget Polo Chronograph watch was elected Watch of the Year 2007 in the Chronograph category by the jury of the French magazine, La Revue des Montres.
In 2005, Piaget created their own Best Jeweler Prize to award to the most deserving watchmaking student at the Certificat Fédéral de Capacité. Dorian Recordon was the first to receive this prize.
In recent years, the company has emphasized three lines of Piaget watches: the Ultrathin Altiplano watches, the Miss Protocole collections of jewelry watches (women’s watches with interchangeable bracelets and straps), and the Polo Forty Five collection of sports watches
In 2015, PRESSCAVE named Piaget as one of the Top 10 Famous Jewelry Designers for 2014-2015 and called the firm, “…one of the best jewelry designers in the world which [with its] wide range of elegant designs [make] each piece of their jewelry [a] masterpiece.”
According to a March 2015 Forbes article, Yves Piaget, now chairman of the company that bears his name, came to New York to promote the book Piaget and attend the New York unveiling of the company’s Mediterranean Garden high jewelry collection.
The hefty 327-page volume was designed as a coffee table book and is the first definitive record of the brand in its 140-year history. The book was a two-year undertaking that was a difficult and time-consuming project because early company records were nearly non-existent. Having been at the company for the last 50 years of its history, Yves was especially interested in this period.
In June 2016, it was announced that Deadpool star, Ryan Reynolds would join actress Jessica Chastain as a Piaget brand ambassador. Reynolds will be modeling the firm’s collection of watches in an international advertising campaign.
Piaget CEO Philippe Leopold-Metzger said that Blake Lively’s husband is the perfect person to front the brand because he has the charisma, good looks, and on-screen talent to represent the company around the world.
He adds, “Like Piaget, he fearlessly brings creativity to his art.”
Chastain, the Zero Dark Thirty star, who was appointed the new face of Piaget’s jewelry division in early 2015 hit the red carpet at the 2015 Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles dripping in 34 carats-worth of diamonds on loan from the firm. Days later, she was introduced as the company’s celebrity spokesmodel.
A statement released by the actress at the time read: “It is an incredible honor to be in partnership with Piaget. Their attention to detail is unparalleled and their beautiful collections reflect the company’s motto to ‘Always do better than necessary.'”
As it has for decades, Piaget focuses its marketing only to the very rich. The most popular models sell for more than $20,000 and the company has introduced a platinum watch with 295 diamonds that costs $3 million.
In 1988, Piaget was acquired by the South African-controlled Richemont Securities, a company that in turn owns 70 percent of the Vendome Luxury Group. Vendome owns a number of watchmakers including Cartier, Baume-Mercier and Vacheron Constantin.
Piaget continues the tradition of miniature painting and enameling. The enameller begins by crushing and cleaning raw enamels to obtain a very fine powder which is then mixed with essential oils to achieve the color palette. The enamel is applied with a brush in successive fine layers, each of which is oven-fired at temperatures exceeding 800 °C. Each enameled piece requires nearly twenty firings in the oven. The enamel and its colors are then set forever.
Piaget own the largest jewelry workshop in Geneva. Every stone is cut, adjusted and set by hand. The diamonds meet the highest standards of color (D to G) and clarity (IF to VVS.) The diamonds are tested according to in-house guidelines based on their color, size, clarity, and carat.
Piaget is among the members of the Council for Responsible Jewelry Practices and the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which guarantees that diamonds do not originate from areas of conflict.
Even today, in a world where it can appear that everything has already been done, Piaget continues to pioneer and forge ahead with technological advancements and dramatic designs.