A visit to Piaget’s HQ in Geneva revealed a gem of a museum showcasing the house’s creative genius from the 1960’s and 70’s when colored stone dials rocked and big gold “Esclave’ cuffs were cool.
The swinging Sixties and groovy Seventies are remembered for their audacious excess and Piaget certainly didn’t hold back when it came to creating way-out jewellery watches. Semi-precious stone dials were introduced in 1964 unleashing a torrent of creativity from wide woven-gold cuffs – some complete with fringes – and oozing, writhing shapes that capture the vibe of the era.
These “Esclave” style cuffs are increasingly being recognized at auction as design icons. The man who designed these watches, Jean-Paul Gueit, is still at Piaget and I was lucky enough to see him in the design studio, paint brush in hand, working on gouaches of new jewelry watches. While on the one hand Piaget was embracing the arrival of quartz at the end of the 1960’s and produced the thinnest quartz calibre, Piaget’s ultra-thin 9P and 12P mechanical movements were key to the house’s development.
These wafer thin mechanisms minimized the space taken up by the movement and gave designers a free rein. Since 1957 the house had committed to only working with precious metals, an unusual decision that led to perfecting metalworking techniques as seen in the elaborate chain bracelets and textured links of the watches. Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Ursula Andress were all fans of the Piaget look that was so in tune with the attitude of the newly arrived pool-side jet-set who didn’t want old-style luxury. Unfortunately Piaget did not keep examples of all of their greatest designs and the house is slowly building up its collection by buying significant pieces at auction.
A selection of these are put on show in Piaget ‘Time Galleries’ in the Geneva, Hong Kong and Shanghai boutiques, alongside their other notable achievements including the ultra-slim Calibre 9P and 12P movements and the iconic Polo watch. For those who can’t make it to one of these locations, loose yourself in these way-out designs that make me yearn for shag carpets underfoot while grooving in the light of a hundred lava lamps.
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