The Lunar New Year is rapidly approaching, and to celebrate this occasion, Piaget is presenting its annual Zodiac Animal limited edition. This started in 2012 with the Year of the Dragon, and it has become a yearly tradition.
The Piaget Altiplano Zodiac series features an enamel dial produced by Anita Porchet, using grand feu and cloisonné techniques to depict the zodiac animal of each year. The dial is usually white with a hint of texture, reflecting the wintry landscape during this time of the year. The Piaget Altiplano Zodiac animal is first outlined using gold wire, then the partitions (or cloisons) are painted with enamel pigments, and the dial is then fired in the kiln multiple times to melt the substrate and harden it.
The painting technique executed by Porchet is what is most intriguing about the series. It alludes to the chiaroscuro style of artistic painting, using shadowing to add depth to the drawing. On an enamel dial, this is achieved by using an incredibly fine brush to blend the enamel colours together. The coming Zodiac sign is that of the Rabbit, and Porchet has painted a pair of Vienna rabbits on a snowy background. The dial is housed in a 38mm 18K white gold case set with 78 brilliant-cut diamonds. The watch is powered by the ultra-thin, manually wound 430P movement, measuring just 2.1mm thick with a power reserve of 36 hours. The watch is limited to just 38 pieces, like its past Zodiac series models, and priced at S$103,000 each. It will be available at Piaget boutiques.
An unmistakable child of the late-1970s, the Piaget Polo was born in a time of horological upheaval and adventure. Conceived against the background of the quartz revolution that offered diminishing returns for luxury mechanical watches, the Polo exemplified the adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ as watchmaking houses cracked their collective craniums to haul themselves out of the spectre of debt and irrelevance. Amongst their few solutions was the concept of ‘casual luxury’, a notion that an expensive watch need not be uppity and dressy, but also sportive and versatile to offer its owner more mileage in both style and performance.
It was fortuitous that these companies had a pathway of sorts in place. Several years earlier, brands like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe had proven, with the success of the Royal Oak and the Nautilus, respectively, that it was possible – lucrative, even – for brands to venture into the then-fledgling category of luxury sports watches. In fact, it was rumoured that, a mere few years after its launch, the Piaget Polo was so successful that it made up almost one-third of the company’s watch sales. The brainchild of Yves G. Piaget, the fourth-generation scion of the then-family owned marque, the Polo collection was created to answer a specific demand from the U.S. market for luxury sport watches. Yves, who studied both watchmaking and gemmology, designed the Polo as a bracelet watch – an inspired move that fit into the horological zeitgeist of that time with the timepiece’s uniquely shaped profile, whimsical blend of glamorous and relaxed styles and, most of all, effortless versatility. Even the name, Polo, was a calculated decision. “We soon (gravitated) around the world of polo, and we were exactly on target, in a world combining luxury and sport,” he said in an earlier interview.
A quick scroll through the Polo’s history shows that, as much as the collection has adapted to the tastes and demands of the times, the watches’ spirit remains very much unchanged. Whether as all-out sports chronographs, refined tourbillons or simple time-only models, the Polo expresses breezy sophistication that borders on sportive styles. Even as the watch’s signature design elements evolve – earlier models were distinguished by horizontal lines that run across the cases, bracelets and dials, while later models feature cushion-shaped dials within round cases – there is no mistaking a Piaget Polo.
The Piaget Altiplano Zodiac Timepiece for the year of the Tiger unites Haute Horlogerie with exquisite cloisonné grand feu enamel. Moreover, the dial of this limited-edition (just 38 pieces) draws on the talents of Anita Porchet, widely considered the world’s finest enamelist. Angus Davies provides an insight into the remarkable world of enamelling.