Recently we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the world of Piaget, by visiting their facilities in Switzerland. Piaget is not your average watch brand, nor do they have the desire to be so. When we sat down with Piaget’s CEO Philippe Léopold-Metzger he explained that Piaget is very much its own brand, focusing on its own strengths and utilizing them to meet customer demands.
Piaget is a company with two hearts. This not only refers to their two main facilities, which both have their own atmosphere, but also to Piaget’s identify. Just as most Swiss, Piaget has a tendency for understatement. In their collection this can be seen in, for example, the Altiplano. They are deceivingly straightforward watches that house record-breaking movements, but that is only for you as the owner to know. On the other hand Piaget is also known for amazingly complicated tourbillions and, of course, extravagant jewelry watches. They form the other side of the coin, and show Piaget’s overstated side. Yes, the Swiss can let their hair down once in awhile.
The power of Piaget is that they are able to seamlessly integrate both of these extremes into their company. Their secret ingredient? Passion! No matter where you go or who you talk to at Piaget, all employees have one thing in common; a deep passion for not only the product they make, but also how they make it. Léopold-Metzger mentioned that it is indeed the people that form the Swiss watchmaking heritage and they are very important for Piaget.
The challenge in some cases is also to find the people who have the right skills. Although Léopold-Metzger pointed out that finding good watchmakers isn’t as much a problem anymore as it was in the recent past, people who can set gemstones, make gold bracelets or polish a watch to perfection are increasingly difficult to find. Piaget therefore works with several schools to ensure that these crafts are continued to be taught and that the future of manual craftsmanship is secured.
Craftsmanship is indeed something that Piaget value’s highly. Of course it is also a necessity for the brand since the production is still very artisanal, which is also deeply incorporated in the brand DNA. Everything that can be done by hand, is done by hand. That this limits production capacity is something that Piaget accepts, but at the same time it also ensures creativity for the customer. Even from the most popular references only about 600 pieces are made every year…
When we asked Léopold-Metzger more about the brand’s DNA, he pointed out the importance of keeping the DNA pure. For Piaget this is not only the combination of over- and understated watches and artisanal production, but also ultra-slim movements. Ironically, in the past and even now, Piaget never had the desire to simply create another entry in the world-record books for thinnest movements. They are more a way of life in which the movement always serves the design.
Although Piaget only uses its own movements in its watches, it does sell (yes, they have to pay for them!) some movements to other Richemont brands. For Léopold-Metzger this is not a problem; any ultra-slim watch sold will promote the category. Besides the competition, even within the Richemont-group, will only inspire Piaget to stay on to top of their toes and provide a never ending inspiration to do better.
With regard to the brand’s DNA, Léopold-Metzger also believes that diversification is diluting, and that a brand needs to know its boundaries and not step over them just to sell more watches. For that reason Piaget also doesn’t use the ever so popular brand-ambassadors, but rather have their watches speak for themselves since they are the true stars!
Curious how these stars are made? Please join us soon for Part II where we will tour Piaget’s movement Manufacture in la Côte aux Fées!