Interview: Piaget’s CEO Chabi Nouri On The Brand’s 2020 Releases
The future of watchmaking is in connecting with the community. This year, at the virtual Watches & Wonders, Piaget made a real-life impact with its 2020 novelties.
One of the things we miss most about physically attending watch fairs is the long conversations and debates about new timepieces. More specifically, about the ideas behind them. Sitting in on a Zoom call with colleagues is okay, but we’re all still getting the hang of these virtual hangouts. So we were fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with Piaget CEO Chabi Nouri to talk about this year’s additions (read HERE) as well as the future of luxury watches.
This weekend at the virtual Watches and Wonders, Piaget made a real-life impact with its 2020 novelties. The reason why the new Altiplano Ultimate Concept and Limelight Gala watches had such a wow factor is that even though the press, buyers, and enthusiasts couldn’t hold these timepieces in their hands, their beauty and technological achievements were tangible.
Piaget has been breaking records in ultrathin watchmaking since it introduced the OG Altiplano with its 9P movement. “Throughout our history, Piaget has always been pushing boundaries,” says Nouri via telephone from Switzerland. “We first broke the record for the thinnest watch in 1957.” Since then, the brand has also set new benchmarks for the slimmest versions of watches of all types and complications.
“And we never stopped trying to push those boundaries,” Nouri adds. “And now we have another crazy moment with a watch that’s only 2mm thick!” Because we can’t hold it in our hands, we asked Nouri to describe it to us. She relates that it feels virtually weightless. And because the mechanism and case are integrated, it has a very unique and modern feel.
It becomes one with the wearer. The AUC is also customizable. Buyers can specify the color of the bridge and dial, the finish of the hands and the main plate, or select straps that match or contrast. Basically, there are around 10,000 permutations.
Also available is a special, ultra-thin alligator skin strap with a velvet calfskin lining. And an ultra-strong Kevlar core was developed and secured by an ultra-thin cobalt pin buckle, so you will feel assured that the watch won’t float off your wrist.
Piaget has been going back and forth in its battle with Bulgari to make ground-breaking creations. But this year, Piaget is back in first place with the 2020 Altiplano Ultimate Concept – the skinniest mechanical watch ever manufactured. At 2mm, it’s almost impossible to imagine a watch ever getting thinner. To help you better visualize, 2mm is approximately the equivalent of two credit cards placed back to back.
Piaget first presented the AUC in 2018 as a concept piece thanks to a couple of technological innovations, including a case made of a high-tech cobalt alloy that’s 2.3 times stronger to prevent the housing from bending while on the wrist. And some of the movement’s 283 individual parts (at least 100 more than a basic, hand-wound watch) are microscopically small.
Now, this mechanical marvel is actually in production (although given the complexity of building the AUC it will probably only be able to produce about five pieces a year). The case and movement are one-and-the-same, comprised of up of 167 microscopic individual parts. A special, super skinny crystal also had to be developed to allow enough air space for the minute hand and hour indicator disc to rotate.
“It’s all about passion,” says Nouri. “Our engineers worked on this for several years because they are so passionate. It’s not about breaking records but driving innovation.” She adds that before the AUC could go into production, it still had to meet Piaget's strict parameters of accuracy, reliability, and robustness. The watch also had to match the Maison's reputation for producing exquisitely hand-decorated movements.
That passion is palpable when you look at the watch. It’s not just the cleverness of the AUC’s architecture. It’s also an object of beauty. “Altiplano has always approached its design with a certain audacity,” says Nouri. “That audacity is why its design is so contemporary.” “It’s pure but expressive. It’s technology but used in an emotional way.” That passion is palpable when you look at the watch. It’s not just the cleverness of the AUC’s architecture. It’s also an object of beauty. “Altiplano has always approached its design with a certain audacity,” says Nouri. “That audacity is why its design is so contemporary.”
“It’s pure but expressive. It’s technology but used in an emotional way.”
Passion and expression are two of the main reasons that Nouri feels there will always be a place for haute horology and haute joillarie watches. Piaget has always been a favorite of high society, and its glamorous jewels and watches have been worn by the likes of Salvador Dalí and Sophia Loren. In the 1970s, the Maison also created the famed Piaget Society – a series of events for A-listers and collectors. It’s a party that still rages on today.
It was in this jet-set era that the Limelight Gala was born. Like all watch enthusiasts, the Piaget Society celebrates our emotional attraction to objects of rare technological brilliance. Every year, the brand introduces new versions of this classic women’s watch based on the Maison's ever-evolving savoir-faire.
But this year they have outdone themselves with a host of new Limelight Gala timepieces, each exploring Piaget’s four pillars of excellence: The Art of Gold, The Art of Light, The Art of Color, and The Art of Movement. The first addition to the family is the Limelight Gala Precious – a white gold edition with a textured, blue enamel dial surrounded by a frame of open set, gradient (in size and color) sapphires.
Says Nouri, “These watches express the desires of humanity.”
Piaget is renowned for both its fine jewelry and watches and the Limelight Gala exemplifies the best of both worlds. Says Nouri, “Inspiring this world is a combination of all our craft. Jewelry making, gem cutting, creating movements. It expresses everything timeless and glamorous.”
While microscopic movements may be grabbing all of the headlines this year, the technique involved in making the Limelight Gala are no less impressive.
For example, Piaget is one of the few remaining manufactures that can make handmade gold bracelets in-house. In this example, the chainsmiths use a skill set on the bracelets of the Limelight Gala Precious editions similar to that of an haute couture seamstress.
The bracelets are handcrafted, from hundreds of gold links, that must be carefully soldered and tightly assembled for a strap with extraordinary suppleness. Then the 18K white gold bracelet is engraved with Palace Décor and outfitted with an integrated scale clasp.
There’s another reason that the Limelight Gala has been a touchstone for women since the 1970s. With its lively patterns, colors, and lines, it has an almost artistic look. Nouri explains that buyers respond to it as they would to art – in a very emotional way. So pandemics and stock markets be damned. When you fall in love with this Limelight Gala, it’s a match for life!
“Piaget is the brand that shares the extraordinary,” Nouri says, with emphasis on sharing. The passion of the wearer is just as important as the enthusiasm of the watch’s gem setters and engineers. When you buy it, it becomes part of your story, not the other way around.
While many women buy a Limelight Gala to mark a milestone, says Nouri, “All Gala pieces are timeless. It’s what makes you unique, yet the artistry will continue to impress for centuries.”
Finally, Nouri hints that there are even more delights on the way from Piaget, but we will have to be patient. Surprise and delight, two other things that bind watch enthusiasts together. And it is good to know that watchmakers like Piaget are just as passionate about the future as the fans!
(Images provided by Piaget)