Before, during and after this year’s Watches & Wonders event, watch enthusiasts around the world were treated to a stream of incredible releases. On highlight were some of the maison’s signature strengths, including ultra-thin timepieces, skeletonized architecture and, of course, plenty of jewelry watches resplendent in rich colors. To learn more about Piaget’s timely innovations and timeless charm, we talked with the brand’s Head of Watch Marketing, Antoine Martin.
DAMAN: Can you share with us your thoughts on this year’s Watches & Wonders, particularly the feedback or responses you’ve noticed about Piaget’s newest releases?
Antoine Martin: This edition once again demonstrated the value of such an event for our industry. It is an occasion to put the spotlight on fine watchmaking, to connect with watchmaking fans around the world and to showcase what we are capable of in terms of creativity and craftsmanship. When it comes to Piaget specifically, both final clients and industry professionals have enjoyed discovering or rediscovering what lies behind the Piaget workshops; the gem-setting and gold crafting expertise with the Limelight Gala creations and the movement expertise with the Piaget Polo Skeleton and the Altiplano Ultimate Concept. Piaget is both a watchmaker and a jeweler, and this year’s creations have demonstrated it more than ever.
DAMAN: Even before Watches & Wonders 2021, however, Piaget already drew attention with the launch of the Piaget Polo Skeleton. Can you tell us a bit about the journey of developing, producing and introducing this timepiece?
Antoine Martin: The Piaget Polo collection was a very successful collection at Piaget with the time-and-date and chronograph models, and we wanted to complete it,
but in a particular way: With models that would sit on Piaget’s savoir-faire and would bring a strong new face to Piaget Polo. And this is how we came on the idea of
a new Piaget Polo that would be ultra-thin—this is the kind of savoir-faire on which Piaget built its watchmaking reputation and success on—and that would leverage Piaget’s historical skeleton savoir-faire. The first drawings only confirmed our initial intuition: This piece is very Piaget and tells a lot about Piaget’s daring creativity. Then the development teams worked tirelessly on the movement to make sure its technical performance would be adapted to the daily wear of a casual watch, notably with a higher resistance to magnetism, and that its finishes would fit with the contemporary identity of the Piaget Polo.
DAMAN: All in all, what does the Piaget Polo Skeleton say about the brand? Or, perhaps, how significant is the Polo Skeleton as a milestone for Piaget?
Antoine Martin: This piece perfectly encapsulates what Piaget is about: A maison with a strong watchmaking expertise which is at the service of design. And not just any design, but a bold and sophisticated one.
DAMAN: And then at Watches & Wonders 2021, Piaget introduced quite a few amazing watches, from the four Polo Skeleton Gold models and Limelight Gala watches to the Altiplano Origin and a new rendition of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept. Do you have a personal favorite among this year’s new releases?
Antoine Martin: Not an easy question but I would go for the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, because this shows technical prowess—imagine a watch that is 2mm thick—and because this is the result of six years of hard work; because this is a tribute to the Piaget family and previous generations of watchmakers who made Piaget the undisputed reference in fine watchmaking, and also because, again, the ultra-thinness is at the service of a stunning design.
DAMAN: Speaking of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept in green, we’ve noticed that green seems to be a major trend this year, with many highlights from major brands featuring this color. What do you think about this trend?
Antoine Martin: I was also very interested to see this year how green has become a very trendy color. This leads me to one thought: Clients are more and more looking for creativity and audacity when buying a watch today. Which is very good news for Piaget as Piaget is an audacious watchmaker through excellence and the use of colors is inherent in Piaget’s DNA. Whether it is dials in hard stones or pieces set with emeralds and sapphires of all colors, Piaget has been, and still is, all about colors.
DAMAN: On a broader scale, what would you say are the most important trends or changes in watchmaking this year?
Antoine Martin: As mentioned before, colors is one. I would add shapes. Again, this very good news for Piaget which has always developed watches of all shapes—the asymmetric lugs of the Limelight Gala and the shape-in-the-shape design of the Piaget Polo being two remarkable examples. And last but not least, we are taking more and more into account the desire for versatility of our clients, notably through interchangeable systems for bracelets. Enabling, for instance, to have the Piaget Polo Skeleton on a metal bracelet for more casual occasions and on an alligator strap for dressier ones.
DAMAN: Specifically in terms of consumer habits or changes in taste and preference, have you noticed any particularly major shifts that has happened recently?
Antoine Martin: In addition to the search for creative design we have the feeling that clients are more and more knowledgeable about watchmaking. And because they are more knowledgeable, because they have supports like yours to read about brands and products, they are paying greater attention to the history of the maison and its savoir-faire. It is what makes our clients look for products with strong storytelling and background. It confirms our desire of telling our story: The story of a maison born in 1874, in La-Côte-aux-Fées; of an integrated Maison having today two Manufactures, one in La-Côte-aux-Fées with a watchmaking expertise and one near Geneva with a gem- setting and gold-crafting expertise; the story of a maison known for the creativity of its pieces.
DAMAN: Even without the current pandemic, online shopping has become an increasingly important part of the watch industry, and Piaget has certainly introduced some interesting developments such as the brand’s virtual boutique. How are Piaget’s online ventures doing right now and what are your plans for the foreseeable future?
Antoine Martin: It is very natural for new clients to buy online. Which does not mean they have not visited a boutique before, but closing the transaction online is natural. There is no doubt that e-commerce will continue to develop strongly over the next few years. In order to support this momentum, we will offer online services in a wider range of countries, we will work closely with our partners such as Tmall, Net-à-porter and MR PORTER. More generally, we will push the boundaries between online and offline because today both are in the same ecosystem.
DAMAN: And speaking of the future, do you feel that any of the changes that has happened in response to current global situations – from virtual keynote addresses to online trade fairs – that are beneficial enough to be maintained in a post-pandemic world?
Antoine Martin: You are very right. We had to change the way we work and the way we connect with our clients and there are many things to keep in a post-pandemic world. Tomorrow will not be about online or offline; it will be about combining them in the best possible way. Meeting the need for quick answers, for “buying something without even moving from my home,” but also for relationships— direct relationships, I should say—for seeing things for real, touching and feeling them. Because we need more than social experiences, we also need sensorial experiences.
DAMAN: If we can move on to a couple of lighter questions, can you tell us what it was that first sparked your interest in watchmaking? And also, perhaps a bit about your journey in the industry that brought you to where you are today?
Antoine Martin: I started working for Richemont in 2007 in Paris. As a research executive for the group’s watchmaking maisons, I had the opportunity to discover a lot of maisons with different heritages, savoir-faire and cultures. And it is at this very moment that watchmaking became a passion: When visiting the manufactures, when talking to watchmakers, engravers and designers, when feeling the inner fire of these people who sometimes had inherited the passion from their fathers. After a wonderful time at Jaeger-LeCoultre and a few years back at Richemont, I had the opportunity to go to Piaget. Having the chance to work for a maison with a dual expertise, watchmaking and jewelry, and with a strong design signature such as Piaget was a true chance for me. Watchmaking is about quality, about savoir-faire and creativity; it is about taking the time to make the perfect product for the perfect occasion of our clients, and the challenge for us is to perpetuate all of the above.
DAMAN: What would you say were some of the most important industry milestones that you witnessed throughout your career?
Antoine Martin: I have the feeling to have witnessed three industry milestones recently. The first one being the unconditional fight of our maisons to keep our savoir-faire during this pandemic. Everybody is still on-board and this is a great source of pride for us. Luxury is about savoir-faire and there shall not be any compromise on this. The second milestone is the capacity of the industry to gather a greater number of maisons under one roof: Watches & Wonders 2021. It is important to have one big moment during the year to provide maximum visibility to our maisons. And the third one being digitalization which makes it possible to connect with a greater number of clients and take their expectations more and more into account. It will also enable us to connect with clients who are sometimes 1,000 kilometers away from a boutique.
DAMAN: Last year, we had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Quentin Hebert, who described Piaget as “a small company with a familial spirit.” What are your thoughts on being part of this maison?
Antoine Martin: I am 100-percent aligned with Quentin. Our maison has been created by a family—and by families. By families of watchmakers, craftsmen, who transmitted their passion from father and mother to son and daughter. And it was created at the exact same place where you find today the Manufacture in la Côte-aux-Fées.
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