Artcurial is continuing its theme-based horology auctions with a sale, at the Monaco Yacht Club on 18th January 2018, dedicated exclusively to timepieces for women. Entitled Le Temps est féminin, this sale, which is the first of its kind in the world, will trace 70 years of watchmaking history. Among the lots on offer will be major pieces from Cartier, Patek Philippe, Mauboussin, Vacheron Constantin and, of course, Rolex.
Of particular note is the presence of Piaget, a past master in the art of uniting watch-making expertise and jewellery know-how. Whether cuff-watches or finely jewelled bracelet wristwatches from the sixties and seventies, the remarkable use of gemstones such as lapis lazuli and malachite, together with the fine engraving work on the bracelets make them outstanding examples of ingenuity and creativity.
A golden opportunity then, for us to invite Piaget to a conference to discuss ‘what is the Piaget style’ through some of the wonderful pieces offered at the auction.
See extracts from the conference in this short film.
Alexandra Golovanoff : There is a particularly nice selection of Piaget watches in this auction, Béatrice, what do you think of this initiative?
Béatrice Vuille-Willemetz – Piaget Brand Equity and Patrimony Director: I am delighted by this project. It is a way to highlight the importance of feminine horology. It is on the feminine side that our profession developed in terms of the aesthetics of watches, more creatively. At Piaget, women’s watches have always been important. Women have always held an important place for us.
AG: The Piaget timepieces up for auction at Artcurial’s sale cover a relatively short period - a dozen years or so, but where we can see a real transformation in women’s watches.
BVW: These creations highlight Piaget’s influence on the development of women’s watches. It was one of the great strengths of Gérald and Valentin Piaget to be able to anticipate what women customers would want in the post-war period. They established Piaget through their unconventional choices and through the audacity of their approach - on both the business and the creation fronts. In this way they contributed to changing how women’s watches look. It is so evident in the examples here. We can see a flowing aesthetic, with the idea of a continuous ribbon. And then there is the way the gold is worked - a veritable Piaget signature - with engraved, articulated bracelets decorated to emphasise the gold, neither too shiny nor too matt.
AG: With these two watches with jade dials, we are seeing something quite different. What happened exactly?
BVW: A revolution! Or rather two revolutions, one stemming from the other.
First, the launch, in 1957, of an extra-flat movement with a larger diameter than had previously been commonly used in women’s watches, which allowed the use of a bigger dial, better legibility and, because of its thinness, more freedom in the decoration. The very design of women’s watches changed. Up to then, watches were designed around or on top of the dial. The dial itself became an element of decoration. And from there, the dial was the starting point, with the design radiating out from it.
The second revolution was colour. The infinite variety of shades of gemstones and the way they gleam. In 1963 Piaget launched the first watches with dials made from gemstones. This was a real first! Jade, lapis lazuli, malachite, tiger’s eye, opal, etc., all gave a completely new appearance to wristwatches.
AG: The auction will include several Piaget cuff watches, is this a speciality of the firm ?
BVW: Piaget’s audacity develops like a crescendo. We’ve already spoken about colour, with the introduction of gemstones in 1963. In 1967, Piaget began offering a new aesthetic with watches whose gold bracelets grew wider, becoming a cuff. These were forerunners to a collection launched in 1969, where Piaget offered a new way to wear a timepiece - with cuff watches and pendant watches. Piaget named this range ‘the 21st century collection’. Another world first! Here then was a range of exceptional designs, produced in very limited numbers, even sometimes with just a single example, and where creativity was pushed to the extreme. Gold and semi-precious and precious stones were worked and shaped with a total freedom of expression and in a style ‘so Piaget’. The cuff-watch became emblematic our company.
To show you an example, the first of the cuff-watches offered by Artcurial predates the so-called ‘21st century collection’. This model dates from 1967 and became one of the key designs of our collections. Incidentally, this model didn’t just seduce women! Among the many Piaget watches owned by Andy Warhol he had a narrower version of this model, with a dial in tiger’s eye. A watch which today is in our private collection.
AG: I am struck by the finesse of the gold work, the range of colours and the alliance of gemstones and precious stones. All this must require extremely sophisticated know-how.
BVW: Before being a brand, Piaget was a manufacturer. Driven by Gérald and Valentin Piaget, the company bought up small workshops specialised in working with gold and precious stones, in order to become completely independent. Today, Piaget continues to foster this spirit of independence. [...] Technique is there to support the aesthetic; a carefully codified aesthetic which represents Piaget’s DNA. Piaget has made gold work and the use of gemstones its signature and the company continues to explore the possibilities they offer with a rare sophistication - for its watches and also for its fine jewellery, by the way.
Pre-sale viewing: 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th January 2018 – Yacht Club de Monaco, Monaco
Auction: Thursday 18th January 2018 – 3:00pm.
View the auction catalogue