Thursday, 11 February 2016

SIHH 2016 Personal Perspectives: Piaget

Piaget presented a small collection with two unusual watches at SIHH 2016, one being the thinnest high jewellery watch, and the other a novel mechanical movement with an electronic regulator. Here's all you need to know about its new watches, complete with original photography and prices. 

With the luxury watch market lacklustre, Piaget's SIHH 2016 line-up of watches was compact, with its new jewellery additions more numerous. Unsurprisingly, one of the new watches was a record-setting ultra-thin watch. Being the maker of the thinnest mechanical watch, and also the thinnest chronograph, Piaget claimed yet another title in the slimness stakes with the Altiplano 900D, the slimness high jewellery timepiece. 

The Altiplano 38 mm 900D is essentially a gem-set version of the Altiplano 900P, the exceptionally thin, hand-wound watch launched two years ago. Its thinness is due to the unconventional movement construction: instead of sitting on a base plate, the moving parts of the movement are mounted into the case back. 

But the 900D is not just a matter of setting diamonds on an existing case - the case had to be redesigned to fit the stones. While the plain 900P was just 3.65 mm high in its entirety, the diamond-set 900D is 5.65 mm.

The reason for that increase in height is the 5.77 carats of diamonds set on the front, sides, back and even the movement. Every surface that can accommodate gemstones is set with diamonds, in various cuts and sizes, ranging from baguette-cut stones on the bezel to brilliant-cut diamonds on the case back. Setting the 361 diamonds takes some four days. The price of all that bling is €193,000 or S$261,000, taxes included. 

More fanciful are the Altiplano 38 mm rose timepieces with metier d'art dials depicting the Yves Piaget rose, a flower named after the last Piaget family member to own the firm. The more unusual of the trio is the Altiplano 38mm engraved gold dial that features a hand-engraved, relief dial that is less than 2 mm high yet seemingly possessed of great depth. 

Created by Swiss engraved Dick Steenman, the dial starts out as a disc of rose gold which is engraved and sanded over 30 hours to create the luscious petals of the rose. The rose resembles liquid gold that has been poured onto the dial. The case is also rose gold, with a diamond-set bezel. This is a limited edition of eight watches, with a price of S$95,000, equivalent to US$68,000.

Featuring a similar motif, but executed with a completely different decorative technique is the pair of Altiplano 38 mm watches with marquetry dials created by Rose Faneuil, a Parisian marquetry artist.

The first is the Altiplano 38mm dial in wood marquetry, with a dial made of paper-thin slices of bird’s-eye maple, light red and pink sycamore, all exotic woods in varying shades of red. Though the dial is flat, the shading and colours of the wood gives the rose motif depth. And it has to be said the dial is reminiscent of an apple.

The Altiplano 38mm dial in white mother-of-pearl & wood marquetry on the other hand, includes iridescent mother of pearl interleaved between the exotic woods. This gives the dial a little bit more shine.

Both marquetry models have 38 mm white gold cases set with diamonds. Each is limited to 18 pieces, with a price of S$103,000, equivalent to US$74,000.

The most technically unusual timepiece from Piaget is the Emperador Coussin XL 700P. It is equipped with a movement that has conventional mechanic winding and power transmission, that is to say a mainspring and gear train, but a regulator that is hybrid mechanical and quartz.

A micro-rotor winds the mainspring, which supplies energy to a tiny generator. The electrical energy produced by this generator powered a quartz circuit that keeps time like a quartz watch. The mechanical bits of the movement explain why its part count is high, at over 300 components; it has more mechanical parts inside than electronic.

The idea is not entirely new, having been worked on in Switzerland and Japan since the quartz movement was invented in the 1960s, and is similar to the Spring Drive movement that Seiko introduced in 2005. In high-end Swiss watchmaker it is extremely novel, however, and its longevity will depend on whether buyers of pricey watches can accept the hybrid nature of the movement.

Despite the unusual movement, the aesthetics of the watch are fairly conventional and similar to other Piaget Emperador watches. The 46.5 mm cushion-shaped case is white gold, with a white gold bezel that has been coated with diamond-like carbon (DLC), leaving it a glossy dark grey. Visible on the front is the micro-rotor at nine o'clock, as well as the hybrid oscillator at one o'clock. 

The 700P is a limited edition of 118 pieces, priced at €78,000 or S$105,000.

Stayed tuned for more personal perspectives on the other brands at SIHH 2016 to come over the following days. Links to the rest of our SIHH reports below.

A. Lange & Söhne
Audemars Piguet
Baume & Mercier
Greubel Forsey
Richard Mille
Roger Dubuis
Vacheron Constantin
Van Cleef & Arpels