Not everyone has a rose named after them. Yves Piaget does. He also has the surname of one of the world’s top luxury watch and jewelry brands.
Yves Piaget made a rare appearance in New York Thursday to promote the book about his family and company, Piaget, and for the New York unveiling of the Piaget’s new Mediterranean Garden high jewelry collection.
The 327-page coffee table book is the first definitive record of the brand in its 140-year history, in which Yves oversaw 50 of those years. He currently serves as chairman of Piaget, a brand now owned by the Richemont luxury holding company. The book was a two-year undertaking and the difficulty of putting such a book together was compounded because of the difficulty of finding early company records.
The business was founded in 1874 in the village of La Côte-aux-Fées by Georges Piaget, a farmer who built pocket watches during the winter for extra money, according to Wikipedia. In 1911, Timothée Piaget, the son of Georges, took over the family firm and made the timepiece business a full-time endeavor. Its watches were built for other companies who placed their name on the timepiece. The founder’s grandsons, Gérald and Valentin Piaget, registered the Piaget brand as a trademark in 1943. Since then, the manufacture at La Côte-aux-Fées has produced its own creations and the family name became an international brand.
“We had to go back to the archives that we didn’t find so easily, because my family was very, very modest, very simple, very authentic,” Yves says on the second floor of the Piaget’s New York boutique on Fifth Avenue. “Also my great-grandfather never signed one of his watches. The logo Piaget came in the late ’40s beginning of the ’50s for the first time. Up until that time they manufactured very sophisticated movements of watches of high quality but they didn’t put their name on a watch. So we had almost no archive.”
Yves had two stipulations for the book. He wanted the world to be aware that Piaget was a family name. In addition, he wanted the company’s craftspeople and mechanics to receive proper acknowledgment. Piaget currently employs more than 1,000 people worldwide, including approximately 400 artisans at its locations in La Côte-aux-Fées and Geneva, Yves says.
|Piaget Mediterranean Garden ring in 18K pink gold set with 1 oval-cut bluish-green tourmaline (approx. 18.74 cts), 382 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 6.49 cts) and 7 pear-shaped green tourmalines (approx. 1.96 cts)|
“I was so pleased by this book because it is the link between the past and the present but through human beings. I insisted on that and wanted the book to talk first about the human beings behind that brand until my generation. Piaget was the name of a family,” he says. “It means there are people behind it.”
He adds, “Behind the name of Piaget there are people and still today the most important people in the company are our workers: artisans, jewelers, watchmakers, designers, engineers … thanks to them we are able to present our watches and jewelry collections. The book illustrates very much that spirit, basically about human beings and then about the collections so the 140 years are really described by both human terms and the evolution of the collections. This is very important for me because it’s a proof a legitimacy that Piaget can show (to others) that lasted for four generations in watchmaking and jewelry.”
|Piaget Mediterranean Garden necklace in 18K white gold set with 1 pear-shaped blue sapphire (approx. 21.71 cts), 357 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 20.86 cts) and 4 pear-shaped blue sapphires (approx. 15.23 cts)|
In the late 1950s, the company began making watches known for being thin. In fact, over the years, including this year, the company has created some of the thinnest watches in the world, particularly with its Altiplano line. Yves says the thin watches were first borne out of solving a common problem with timepieces then later became a fashion statement.
“In the ’40s, watches were very small and it was very difficult to see the time so we developed a larger face and larger movement and also made it thinner in able to make it more fashionable,” he says. “It really crated the fashion of that time, beginning in the early ’50s. It was very ingenious to make this movement very thin and this movement was part of our identity and became our icon.”
Despite creating all of their watches and movements in house, Yves sees Piaget as first a fashion brand.
|Piaget Mediterranean Garden ring in 18K white gold set with 1 cushion-cut rubellite (approx. 25.09 cts) and 345 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 3.56 cts)|
“Piaget was always known for having a wide collection with many designs. We created the fashion of watches and we lead the fashion of watches having the ultra-thin movements in the ’50s and ’60s, having been the first to decorate our watches in semi-precious stones lapis lazuli, opal tiger’s eye, jade,” he says. “We were the first to use the thinnest quartz electronic movement. That’s really our identity. Our marketing is also influenced by this fashion of watches and I would say that we promoted our watches in a more flashy way than our colleagues … The last 15 years we (created) a number of new thin calibers and Piaget today can say it has a great and long-live legitimacy in mechanical watches.”
The company began creating jewelry in the 1960s to complement its watches. Yves led this effort saying jewelry was a natural progression for the company because it already had the skills in house to produce jewels. The company dramatically increased its jewelry business in the past 15 to 20 years. Today, he says, high jewelry and other jewelry collections now account for more than a third of total sales for the company.
“It was a natural link as we are in high-end luxury watches. All of our watches are in gold and platinum. Most of our ladies watches are set with diamonds and precious stones. So my forbearers and my generation always considered a watch not as timepiece but as a piece of jewelry,” he says. “In the 1960s we started to develop the jewelry business because our company is vertically integrated. It means a Piaget watch always had been manufactured A to Z in our workshops. We have on one side, engineers, technical watchmakers who manufactur the movements and on the other side we had the jewelers who design the watch and the cases and bracelets and all the settings. We have lapidaries, gem cutters, gem setters all under the same roof. I think it was quite natural asking our designers not to design exclusively watches but to let their imagination go and design jewelry. It’s the same world, the same work to design jewelry. Now we can say that we are watchmakers and jewelers.”
The Mediterranean Garden high jewelry collection is very much in the Piaget tradition focusing on watches and jewelry in roses and petals done in gold and platinum and set with a mix of diamonds and colored gems.
Yves says the collection is meant to replicate the carefree, casual lifestyle of the sun-drenched Mediterranean beaches.
|Piaget Mediterranean Garden ring in 18K white gold set with 1 pear-shaped blue sapphire (approx. 8.48 cts) and 116 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 2.96 cts)|
“Mediterranean Garden is a lifestyle,” he says. “It expresses joy and sunshine. It’s another spirit we can really express compared to the spirit of our (Swiss) mountains where we are more strict and discreet because of our nature. It expresses joy, pleasure, style and luck.”
The fact that the jewelry collection interprets roses, as many of the company’s collections do, is no coincidence. The namesake of Piaget also has an award winning rose named after him: Yves Piaget Rose. Yves has had a lifelong passion for roses and has been long-time advocate for the flowers.
“Yves Piaget rose was dedicated to me personally in 1982 because I have done for roses and for the rose world and because I am very close to the rose breeders and chaired a lot of international rose competitions,” he says. “In the Geneva competition the breeder of this particular rose spontaneously decided to name it Yves Piaget. It was a very emotional moment for me.”
While the company did venture into jewelry, Yves says it will never place its brand on other products and accessories it does not make. Even the Yves Piaget Rose will never become a perfume.
|Piaget Mediterranean Garden earrings in 18K white gold set with 2 pear-shaped emeralds (approx. 8.56 cts), 2 cushion-cut emeralds (approx. 5.69 cts) and 150 brilliant-cut diamonds (approx. 1.37 cts).|
“We have this expertise and this legitimacy of 140 years in watchmaking and nothing else. Piaget never will produce luggage or handbags or fragrances. We do what we know how to do,” he says. “Even with Piaget rose. I never had the idea to use the Piaget rose to make a fragrance out of it…. I think it’s another field.”