Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Piaget: Modern Classic

A few of the new Piaget Polo S models.

By Stephen Pulvirent

The Piaget Polo S breaks with tradition, but maintains the bold style that makes Piaget watches so iconic.

Close-up on the Polo S chronograph.

Some watch brands try to do a little bit of everything. One year it’s all about dive watches, the next it’s nothing but chronographs. The year after that, it’s tuxedo-level dress watches or bust. It might sound obvious, but this is not a great strategy. It produces neither the most interesting watches, nor the most dedicated collectors. A little focus goes a long way.

Piaget has, for the better part of a century, been extremely focused. Split between bustling Geneva and the quiet mountain village of La Côte-aux-Fées, Piaget’s manufactures have been turning out incredible ultra-thin watches of the very highest quality, and making them in precious metals with classic styling. These watches feature hand-worked, in-house movements (of which the brand currently makes 37 that qualify as ultra-thin) and carry the DNA articulated by Gérald and Valentin Piaget in 1957, when they declared that all Piaget watches must be precious inside and out.

The date window is nestled at 6 o'clock.

But, importantly, focus doesn’t mean stasis. Piaget pushed boundaries in 2014 with the 900P, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch, and even was a major player back in the 1970s in developing the famous Beta 21, the first luxury Swiss quartz movement. With the values of the past firmly cemented and a unique perspective in mind, Piaget is free to experiment while staying true to what makes it special.

Something Different
The new Piaget Polo S is the result of such an experiment. While those standards set by the Piaget brothers in the 1950s declared that Piaget would only make watches in precious metals, the Piaget Polo S is the quintessential steel sport watch. It’s something to be worn everyday by a new generation of watch collectors and something with a hint of nostalgia for those already-established connoisseurs.

If the name Piaget Polo sounds familiar, it’s with good reason. In 1979, Piaget created a gold watch with a fully integrated case and bracelet with that name. It quickly became an early-Eighties icon, with its geometric design, pared-back dial, and slightly rakish character. It was such a hit that in 1985, the Piaget polo team paraded down New York City’s Fifth Avenue in a show of celebration. This was far from just a sleeper hit known only to the watch–obsessed.

Made in-house, the 1110P movement.

The Piaget Polo S starts with a round 42mm stainless steel case and a cushion-shaped steel bezel. The bezel is polished around the outer edge, which slopes up to a brushed finish across the top, better setting off the cushion-shaped dial inside. That dial comes in three colors — blue, slate gray, and silvered — and features horizontal ridges that run from edge to edge, allowing the light to play off the colors differently at different angles.

As a sporty, easy-to-wear watch, the Piaget Polo S needed to be simple-to-read at a glance. The three-hand configuration is as basic as things get, with long sword-shaped hands, filled with bright Super-LumiNova, and a slim central seconds hand. Applied indexes, also filled with Super-LumiNova, match the hands, and a discrete date window is tucked down at 6 o’clock so as not to disrupt the balance of the dial.

The steel case is 42mm.

The bracelet feels fully integrated into the case, and the broad central links are brushed, while the slimmer H-shaped outer links are polished. The contrast is reminiscent of the bezel and furthers the all-in-one effect. As you’d expect from Piaget, the Piaget Polo S is slim at just 9.4mm top to bottom.

Inside ticks the 1110P, a new self-winding mechanical movement designed and manufactured in-house by Piaget. Would you have expected anything else? The movement is visible through the watch’s sapphire caseback, letting you admire the finishing and the slate gray oscillating weight that keeps it powered as you go about your day.

Additionally, the brand is offering a two-register chronograph version of the Piaget Polo S. It uses the same 42mm case size (though is a little thicker at 11.2mm) and retains most of the time-only version’s styling. The dial features the same ridges, in either blue or silvered colors, and the harmony between the hands and markers is exactly the same. There are just two oversized registers at 3 and 9 o’clock to measure elapsed minutes and hours, respectively, and the central seconds hand is for the chronograph (instead of the active timekeeping). All of this is powered by the 1160P, another in-house movement and visible through the watch’s sapphire caseback.

Limelight Gala Milanese

The Piaget Polo S is a study in how Piaget can leverage its focus and strengths to create something new. It looks like we might have another classic on our hands already.

Center of Attention
Piaget might be shaking things up, but it certainly hasn’t forgotten how to make a superlative jewelry watch. The Limelight Gala Milanese is a reminder of how Piaget became the king of the Mid-Century jewelry watch to begin with, and how many creative ideas remain unexplored in the category.

At first glance, the Limelight Gala Milanese is a relatively straightforward 32mm round-dialed watch. Look closer. The opaline dial is structured around the slim silver-toned or rose gold-colored Roman numerals and needle-thin hands that match the bracelet and cases, which are made in either rose gold or white gold. 

A white-gold version is also available. 

Around that dial are two rows of diamonds, each curved with one of the swirling asymmetrical lugs that seem to twirl right out of the dial. It’s all very reminiscent of our own Milky Way galaxy, adding a bit of cosmic poetry to the mix. The 62 brilliant-cut diamonds (totaling about 1.75 carats) are graded perfectly, so they seamlessly blend with the lugs’ undulating curves. Finishing things off is an integrated, gold-mesh bracelet with a signature sliding “P” clasp.

Seeing the Piaget Polo S and Limelight Gala Milanese side-by-side, it’s easy to get a sense of what makes Piaget a special manufacture. Whether working in precious rose gold or robust stainless steel, the watches’ cases are shaped to evoke timelessness and everything from gem-setting to movement construction is considered with the same attention and precision. When choosing what to focus on, incredible thoughtfulness is never a bad choice.

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