When you drive from Geneva to La Côte-aux-Fées you have the idea that you are driving off the map. No wonder that one of the stories how this small village got its name, involves fairies. That not a single fairy could have been spotted during our visit has probably something to do with the fact that the people in this lovely town make enough magic of their own. La Côte-aux-Fées is the home-town of the Piaget family and houses Piaget’s movement manufacture, birthplace of the magnificent movements that power for example the Altiplano.
Inside the Manufacture is it almost as tranquil as the impressive nature outside. Many craftsmen and –women work patiently and dedicated on their task. They are a mix of young and a little less young, and many of them where actually born and raised in La Côte-aux-Fées or one of the surrounding villages. Apart from the traditional watch making a lot of time and effort is being invested in the decoration of the movements.
All of these decorations are mostly done by hand. A stable hand and years of experience ensure that the finish on these movements is about as good as it gets. That doesn’t mean however that the manufacture doesn’t house any large machines, although those can mainly be found in the toolmakers workshop. This man is responsible for creating many of the specific tools used in the manufacture. Often from scratch, with nothing but a request from a watchmaker, this man has to create magic. Take for example the holder below, specifically designed so that the top part of the minute hand of the Tourbillon Relatif can be finished in three different positions!
Of course does is the Manufacture also home to many watchmakers. As a rule a single watchmaker completes an entire movement. This also means that when you own a Piaget you can actually meet the watchmaker that made your movement! Personally we think they should engrave this person’s name on the movement, just as Aston Martin does with a little nameplate on its engines!
Since in La Côte-aux-Fées only the movements are made, the watchmakers use a white dial with black hands to check the functionality of the movement once they have completed it. Although this heavy contrast dial was mainly designed for optimum functionality in the Manufacture, its striking looks might make a nice addition to Piaget’s line-up.
Although the Manufacture of Piaget is an impressive place in general, there are rooms that simply rise to the level of mind-blowing! Take for example the high complications atelier where some of Piaget’s finest watchmakers work on toubillons and perpetual calendars. Because of the high complexity of the movement are these movements the only that are actually also being completely finished in La Côte-aux-Fées with the exception of straps and bracelets.
But before you can even think about one day making it to this premier league of watch making you must first obtain the necessary skills and at Piaget that starts with building a wooden box that will house some of the basic tools you will need as a watchmaker. And to immediately emerge the watch making student into a life-long tradition at Piaget; everything has to be made by hand from scratch.
Dont forget to also read our recent interview with Piaget’s CEO Philippe Leopold-Metzger, and join us soon for the report about our visit to Piaget’s Geneva Manufacture!