Piaget Brand History: The Art Of ThinHarold2018-09-27T12:10:34-04:00
Piaget is a Richemont Group watch and jewelry house with a knack for ultra-thin timepieces. This company began as an ébauche movement atelier, but eventually moved towards creating its own distinctive finished timepieces.
With a long history of craftsmanship and experience in horology, this brand has innovated in both mechanical and quartz watches.
Movements range from manual-winding, for the fewest components, to complicated calibres that are extremely thin for their class. Piaget is in the top three winners of the annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève awards by number of prizes.
In recent times, the brand has also been a champion of ethical and sustainable materials. Accordingly, it has contributed and participated in programs such as Fairmined, using gold mined in responsible conditions.
The company’s Geneva workshops machine, engrave and polish cases and components, which then find their way into finished watches. Watchmakers work alongside goldsmiths and lapidaries; accordingly, the brand’s jewelry and unbelievably thin timepieces share a certain elegant finesse.
Expert goldsmithing techniques appear not only in the cases, but also in watch bracelets, such as finely-woven gold mesh bands. However, the company is first and foremost a watchmaker, which shows in the painstaking assembly of its impressive designs.
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In 1874, Georges Piaget began making watches during the frigid winters in the small village of La Côte-aux-Fées in Neuchâtel. This was common practice for Swiss farmers, because they could not make money from their snow-blanketed cropland in winter.
Watchmaking remained a side venture for Georges on his family farm, as it would remain until his son took over. Timothée, the son, improved their workshop and began taking on contracts from various watch companies in 1911.
Larger watchmakers ordered watches from small family workshops like these, then put their own brand on them. Hence, watches from the Piaget family during this period are difficult to find.
It was not until 1943 that they began selling watches and movements under the Piaget brand. Afterwards, the company would bring its timepieces in a unique new direction, establishing its brand identity.
Going Thinner: 9P And Beyond
During this period, the brand’s first ultra-flat movement emerged in 1957, when the 2mm-thick Caliber 9P began production. This allowed for watches of only 4mm from crystal to wrist, such as the 9P series named for this caliber.
In this same year, the Altiplano series debuted, which would then become the brand’s main line of ultra-thin timepieces.
Although thin movements were a luxury watch mainstay in that decade, this watchmaker has continually worked to master flat timepieces.
Besides creating a thin movement, an additional challenge has been to fit more functions into such a tiny space.
In 1960, for example, Caliber 12P boasted an automatic mechanism inside a 2.3mm-thick movement. Later, in 1998, the 430P emerged, which would serve as the basis for the 600P complication caliber.
Indeed, 2002’s 600P was an impressive statement, fitting a tourbillon inside a 3.5mm-thick caliber. The flying tourbillon and elegant Côtes de Genève plate finishing are visible both through the front and the clear caseback.
Becoming Part Of Richemont
In 1988, fellow jeweler-watchmaker Cartier took a majority holding of Piaget. Therefore, the brand then became part of Cartier Monde, which would later become Vendôme Group.
Gradually, during the 1990s, Richemont Group bought out Vendôme, and all Vendôme watch brands are under Richemont today. However, the Piaget family remains involved in the company, and Yves Piaget, great-grandson of Georges, is its president.
Since joining Richemont, the brand has expanded its men’s and women’s jewelry collections, but also continued in ultra-thin horological innovation.
Current Ultra-Thin: Leading The Pack
In 2018, the Altiplano series would push the limits yet again with the Ultimate Concept. This automatic watch measures 2mm thick, case and all; thus, the whole watch is as thin as the 9P movement.
This improbable creation employs unusual engineering methods in order to reach such an extreme of thinness. For instance, its caseback and movement base plate are one and the same, and its sapphire crystal is 0.2mm thick.
Also, there is a risk of miniscule bending of the crystal or movement stopping such a thin watch’s hands. Therefore, the Ultimate Concept’s hands are recessed slightly below the bridges of the movement, protecting them from this effect.
Indeed, materials are as important as design to make such thin watches feasible. Therefore, the Altiplano employs a special cobalt-based alloy to attain durability and rigidity in such thin layers.
Meanwhile, the 1.1mm-thick strap uses a combination of leather and Kevlar fiber for maximum durability. As with most of the company’s watches, development of ultra-thin timekeeping is ongoing at the Côte-aux-Fées premises.
Keep Learning About Piaget
While other watchmakers pursue fantastic complications, Piaget is concerned primarily with pushing the boundaries of thinness. Accordingly, in a release on the Ultimate Concept, the company stated that ultra-thin is the “complication” its research targets.
Although it began its pursuit of thinness with many competitors, nowadays few brands that can compare in this arena. You can find more information on the company’s craftsmanship techniques and standards on the official site.
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