Under the Radar: Piaget

Under the Radar: Piaget

| 03.14.24

While it would be unfair to characterize Piaget as anything other than a stellar, historically important watchmaker, it’s simultaneously true that many collectors overlook the brand’s compelling wares in favor of pieces more visible in the zeitgeist. In this sense — and certainly with respect to their ultra-thin watches, which positively disappear beneath a cuff — the maison truly does fly under the radar. 

George-Édouard Paiget Family in 1915 - (Image by SwissWatches Magazine)

Piaget was founded as a movement maker in 1874 by 19-year-old George-Édouard Piaget in La Côte-aux-Fées, Switzerland. Setting up shop on his family’s farm, young Piaget crafted pocket watch and clock movements of excellent quality. Upon taking the reins from his father, Timothée Piaget expanded the firm’s remit to include wristwatches — a focus that would become further entrenched as the 20th century wore on and the pocket watch receded slowly into the past. By 1943, Piaget became a registered trademark, opening a new manufacture in La Côte-aux-Fées shortly thereafter.

Paiget Manufacture La Côte-Aux-Fees - (Image by SwissWatches Magazine)

It was the third generation of the Piaget family, brothers Gérald and Valentin, who brought the maison to the fore of Swiss watchmaking in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1957, the brand issued the ultra-thin, hand-wound Calibre 9P, following it up in 1960 with the micro rotor-equipped Calibre 12P — then the thinnest automatic movement in the world. The timepieces that resulted from the development of such calibres were dazzling — as much works of art as wristwatches. 

Jackie Kennedy Onassis in 1967 and her stone-dial Piaget watch with its 'Palace' bracelet - (Image by SwissWatches Magazine)

But Piaget didn’t limit its focus to ultra-thin watchmaking, or even to watchmaking more generally. In 1959, it established Salon Piaget in Geneva, where it focused on luxury jewelry and metiers such as gem-setting and goldsmithing. It was this focus that led, beginning in 1963, to some of the brand’s most stunning creations — ultra-thin watches with integrated, finely woven, precious metal bracelets and semi-precious stone dials — that we carry here at Analog:Shift. The color and glamor of these pieces likewise attracted some of the biggest celebrities in the world to wear Piaget, including Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie Kennedy. Coin watches, ring watches, and brooch watches likewise became trademarks of the brand. 

Piaget Caliber 7P & Piaget Polo Ref. 7661 - (Image by SwissWatches Magazine)

In 1976, Piaget launched the Calibre 7P quartz movement, allowing it to remain relevant in the midst of the Quartz Crisis. Three years later in 1979, the maison debuted the Polo watch — constructed from solid gold and featuring an integrated-bracelet design, this distinctive timepiece became part of the stable of “luxury sports watches” conceived earlier that decade by Gérald Genta for Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. By 1980, the fourth generation of the Piaget family, Yves, took over directorship of the business; eight years later, in 1988, the Vendôme Group, now Richemont, acquired the company. 

The 21st century saw a flurry of activity that has since led to one of the watch world’s most compelling designs: In 2001, Piaget established a new manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates outside Geneva, debuting the world’s thinnest tourbillon movement, the Calibre 600P, in 2002. Several more world records follow, culminating in the debut of the stunning Altiplano Ultimate Concept, then the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at 2mm, in 2018. Though this model has since been dethroned from its ultra-thin seat, the Altiplano product family — a compelling mixture of elegance and futurism — continues to find eager buyers. 

Piaget Polo 79 - (Image by PIAGET)

Today, the Polo continues to charm with its sporty elegance and wealth of available permutations, from solid-gold versions to stainless steel executions perfect for everyday wear. A relaunch of the original gold watch from 1979, the Piaget Polo 79, was released in 2024 in celebration of the maison’s 150th anniversary. Meanwhile, the vintage market abounds with countless interesting and beautiful pieces from the mid-20th century; as dressier pieces once again become popular, these watches provide interest and value with their colorful dials, smart integration of precious metals and high-end finishing techniques, and ultra-thin movements. 

Below is but a small selection of the vintage and pre-owned Piaget watches on offer at the moment at Analog:Shift. Once you’ve experienced some of these pieces in person, there’s no doubt that you’ll understand their distinctive appeal.

Piaget Hi-Beat Tonneau Dress Watch ($4,800)

Piaget Hi-Beat Tonneau Dress Watch - IN THE SHOP

Dating to the 1970s, this tonneau-cased dress watch is a lovely alternative to something like the Cartier Tank. Housed in a yellow gold case measuring 24mm in diameter, it features a black enamel cabochon crown and a smooth bezel, within which sits a gloss-black dial with gold ‘dot’ indices and a gold ‘dauphine’ handset. Minimalist and handsome, it’s powered by the brand’s own Calibre 9P ultra-thin, hand-wound movement, and comes paired to a signed black alligator leather strap with a signed, yellow gold pin buckle. Relatively subtle for a solid-gold piece, it would make an excellent watch to pair with formalwear. 

Piaget Carrée 'Lapis Lazuli' ($6,750)

Piaget Carrée 'Lapis Lazuli' - IN THE SHOP

Piaget specialized in timepieces with exquisite stone dials in the 1960s and 1970s. This Carée, with its namesake, square shape and deep blue color, has to be one of the most beautiful such watches. Housed in a 25mm white gold case with an engine-turned bezel and an acrylic crystal, it features a unique lapis lazuli dial with a white gold ‘dauphine’ handset. Without indices to obscure the design, the stone’s imperfections are allowed to shine through, making for a mesmerizing piece of art drawn from the depths of the earth. Powered by a slim hand-wound movement, it comes paired to a signed, black alligator leather strap. 

Piaget 'Turquoise' Dress Watch ($7,300) 

Piaget 'Turquoise' Dress Watch - IN THE SHOP

Though it was likely designed as a ladies’ watch, the unbelievable pop of color coming from this dressy piece will no doubt prove just as compelling to a discerning male collector. Housed in a 23mm yellow gold hexagonal case with a turquoise-filled bezel, it features a turquoise (the stone, not the color!) dial with a yellow gold dauphine handset set beneath a mineral crystal. Dating to the 1970s and powered by a thin, manually-wound movement, it comes paired to a black Analog:Shift Laika Black II Cervo leather strap with a signed, yellow gold pin buckle. Who could possibly deny the beauty and “cool” factor of such a special watch!

Piaget White Gold 'Mother Of Pearl & Lapis Lazuli' Dress Watch ($8,950)

Piaget White Gold 'Mother Of Pearl & Lapis Lazuli' Dress Watch - IN THE SHOP

This watch is both so undeniably futuristic — and also, so undeniably 1970s — that it’s difficult to fully classify. Housed in a white gold, 27mm ovular case with a matching, integrated white gold bracelet in a wonderful ‘bark’ finish, it's also got an incredible dial: Composed of a mother-of-pearl background with a blue lapis lazuli center section, it features a white gold ‘dauphine’ handset and a subtle Piaget wordmark in black. Manually wound, this is a watch that will steal the show — any show — and the love of watch collectors everywhere. 

Piaget Polo Day Date 18k ($9,990)

Piaget Polo Day Date 18k - IN THE SHOP

The Polo, launched in 1979, is Piaget’s answer to the Genta-designed Royal Oak and Naultius. This version, crafted from 18K yellow gold and featuring the collection’s signature integrated bracelet, is unique, however: Measuring 32mm, it’s a ladies’ model with an unusual day-date window arrangement — date at 12 o’clock and day at 6 o’clock — plus a special ‘ridged’ design throughout the case and dial. Meanwhile, the piece is quartz-powered, making for an atypical combination of complication, high-end material, and power source. Dating to the 1980s, it’s a distinctive piece that’s sure to make collectors’ heads turn!

Piaget 'Obsidian' Dial Dress Watch ($10,650)

Piaget 'Obsidian' Dial Dress Watch - IN THE SHOP

 A ‘TV’ case. A dial crafted from obsidian. Gold construction in a shimmering ‘Florentine’ pattern. A hand-wound movement. This 32mm watch is so thin, so mesmerizing, so unique, so cool that it’s downright impossible to ignore. Definitively ‘70s without being campy, it features an obsidian dial with a gold ‘dauphine’ handset accented with an onyx cabochon crown. Devoid of numerals, it almost takes on the aspect of a prop rather than a conventional timepiece — or a piece of jewelry — but its mechanical movement has kept faithful time for over half a century, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Piaget 1877 Twenty Dollar Coin Watch ($12,450)

Piaget 1877 Twenty Dollar Coin Watch - IN THE SHOP

Piaget specializes not only in ultra-thin watches, but, for a time, also concentrated in coin watches. This handsome example, dating to the 1960s, is housed in a $20 U.S. gold piece, which opens with a hinge to reveal a small dial. Using a pull tab at 12 o’clock, this dial can be lifted outward from the case for winding using a winding crown at its 1 o’clock position. Its salmon dial, painted black indices, and black ‘stick’ handset are in lovely condition, while the modernist Piaget wordmark gives it a distinctly contemporary feel. Paired to a signed, black crocodile leather strap, this handsome dress watch will put a welcome spin on your next black-tie outfit!

Piaget Hexagonal 'Tiger's Eye' ($16,950)

Piaget Hexagonal 'Tiger's Eye' - IN THE SHOP

Another day, another stunning, ultra-thin creation from Piaget. This incredible, hexagonal-cased piece features a 29mm, yellow gold watch head paired to a matching, multi-link bracelet with a hidden, signed locking clasp. The dial — tiger’s eye with a ‘dauphine’ handset — is to die for, and the Piaget Calibre P91 manually-wound movement makes for a slim profile that disappears beneath a cuff. Watches like this, produced from beautiful materials in small production runs, are much less commonplace today, where stone dials are a relative rarity. Slip on this beautiful timepiece with an elegant piece of formalwear, and you’ll be the belle (or beau) of the ball.  

Piaget Polo Pavé Diamond Dial ($18,990)

Piaget Polo Pave Diamond Dial - IN THE SHOP

Measuring 24mm in diameter, this shimmering, hand-wound creation seamlessly integrates top-shelf watchmaking; beautiful 18K yellow gold; and pavé diamonds into a stunning creation that’s sure to set collectors’ hearts a-flutter. Within the perfectly symmetrical, diamond-studded dial, nothing disrupts the symmetry besides a pair of gold ‘dauphine’ hands; meanwhile, a hidden, signed locking clasp positively disappears into the gold ‘basketweave’ bracelet. Though Tank-like in shape and design, it’s the bracelet that elevates this watch to a different level, effectively turning a pedestrian and utilitarian object into a piece of wearable art.