Piaget Art & Excellence Altiplano stone marquetry tourbillon

Press Release – SIHH 2018

Piaget Art & Excellence Altiplano stone marquetry tourbillon

For this new edition of the SIHH, Piaget reinterprets the hard stone dials epitomising its style within its Altiplano line, ultra-thin icon and Art & Excellence ambassador.

Deftly combining Fine Watchmaking mastery with the virtuoso skills of stone marquetry, the Altiplano welcomes a tourbillon and invites malachite and lapis lazuli to adorn its dial. For these two new creations embodying the pinnacle of luxury, the dial has been entrusted to the expert hands of Hervé Obligi, Maître d’Art (Master of Arts). The Altiplano malachite marquetry tourbillon and Altiplano High Jewellery lapis lazuli tourbillon models offer a masterful demonstration of the synergies between the various crafts exercised between the Piaget workshops in La Côte-aux-Fées and Plan-les-Ouates.

First presented at the Basel Fair in 1957, the 9P calibre measuring just 2mm thick opened up whole new vistas of visual expression. Its slenderness left more room for the dial, enabling Piaget to reverse its creative approach by no longer working around the watch face, but instead taking the latter as its starting point. Its purpose being to catch and hold the gaze and the use of coloured stones was a natural choice. Hard stones provide an exceptional palette of colours that designers explored in an extraordinarily fruitful manner, making light of any technical constraints. The Maison called upon the finest specialists and cooperated with them in developing unique expertise, and as of 1963, more than 30 different stones were to find their place in Piaget’s collection. Time could now be read in lapis lazuli, turquoise, coral, jade, tiger’s eye, malachite, opal… with or without diamonds, since Piaget overturned the existing hierarchy of materials and thereby heralded one of the greatest trends of contemporary jewellery. What could be more legitimate than for the Maison to present a new interpretation of stone marquetry in the setting of the Altiplano, its eminent ambassador of Art & Excellence timepieces?

Hervé Obligi transcends stone marquetry

Officially named Maître d’Art in 2015, Hervé Obligi is a multi-talented artist. While wood was his first passion, he was soon drawn to minerals, and hard stone marquetry in turn led him into the world of the Decorative Arts. “I love all stones; their hardness, their fragility, their resistance; their extraordinary relationship with the colour and the idea of lasting continuity that wood cannot satisfy. Stone tolerates no mistakes and is more likely to make others bend than break itself. The high demands it imposes naturally inspire humility.” Working with these stones, sometimes referred to as “fine stones” and which became a speciality in the city of Florence during the time of the Medicis, Hervé Obligi has adopted this amazing art calling for extreme skills that have all but vanished. For 30 years, he has been taming lapis lazuli, jade, jasper, cornelian and agate. Both artisan and artist, he nurtures a passion combining all expressions of his art, from restoring antique furniture to design. It was the mastery of this art that earned his atelier the French title of “Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant” (living Heritage Company). In 2015, Piaget began a remarkable collaboration with this exceptional marquetry specialist, who devoted his expertise and virtuosity to the Altiplano, the elegant ultra-thin icon, in order to exalt the captivating beauty of the Yves Piaget Rose on the dial. For the second time, the Maison has invited the Maître d’Art to apply his creative and contemporary vision to the Altiplano dial.

Technical refinement

The miniature stone marquetry technique represents a real challenge and calls for great mastery. Crafting such a dial comprises four crucial stages and requires between 2 and 3 weeks of work, during which the slightest inaccurate or clumsy move could irremediably damage the artisan’s work. Everything begins with a rough stone from which blocks are cut into extremely fine slices barely 1mm thick, compared with 3 to 4mm for traditional marquetry. Once cut, the stones are polished so as to precisely determine the tone and colour of the stone, given that reducing thickness also reduces the intensity of the colour. The choice of stones is thus essential. This year, Piaget has opted for malachite and lapis lazuli, two emblematic hard stones that the Maison has been using in its creations since the 1960s. As the artist explains: “One of the hardest challenges is to make the colour of the stone truly vibrant by creating graphic effects on such a small surface.” The contour of each element is precisely traced on the stone using a pointed brass tool. The plate is cut into extremely thin strips using a tiny bow saw composed of a hazel tree branch and an abrasive-coated steel wire. Once cut out, the elements are adjusted and assembled with neighbouring components. The facing thus composed is affixed to a smooth red or white gold surface before heat gluing the joints by filing the empty space between the bevelled edges with pine resin. The smooth polished stone works a unique magic, as fascinating combinations of shapes and colours give rise to an objet d’art issued in an edition of 8 truly one-of-a-kind models. The inclusions, nuances and interaction with light indeed ensure that no two are alike.

The Altiplano welcomes a tourbillon complication

In 2017, for the first time in the history of the iconic Altiplano collection, one of these models welcomes a tourbillon, one of the finest horological complications and which naturally also complies with the Piaget codes of infinite thinness. Elegance and aesthetics have always guided the technical choices made by the Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget. Developed to ensure a perfect fit with the Altiplano 41mm case, the ultra-thin mechanical hand-wound tourbillon Calibre 670P, measuring just 4.6mm thick, features a patented arbor winding system with setting wheel. It is also equipped with a new barrel ensuring a larger power reserve that now spans a comfortable 48 hours. The decision to opt for a flying tourbillon and an off-centred hour indication, both classic Piaget style signatures, contributes to the beauty of the model. This distinctive tourbillon construction provides an opportunity to admire the ethereal delicacy of the titanium carriage, which, despite its 42 components, weighs just 0.2g. The volute stone marquetry dial motif is off-centred so as to create a “Sunny Side of Life” effect that also epitomises the Piaget style.

Altiplano malachite marquetry tourbillon (G0A43030)

Framed by a pink gold case, the splendid malachite swirls in magnificent shades of green: emerald, pine, dark and light, criss-crossed by an accurate and meticulous set of dark layers, arranged in such a way as to give the mesmerising dial a very “Sunny Side of Life” look. On the movement side, the Fine Watchmaking finishing features circular Côtes de Genève, manual circular graining on the mainplate and bridges, as well as hand-drawn and bevelled bridges and carriage. The Altiplano malachite marquetry tourbillon reference G0A43030 bears the historical Piaget logo in the hour counter.

Altiplano High Jewellery lapis lazuli marquetry tourbillon (G0A43031)

With its splendid shades of blue ranging from ultramarine to azure speckled with white and gold, lapis lazuli deploys its incomparable intensity on a dial graced with a whirling pattern highlighted by the work of the master-gem setters. While ultra-thinness is a hallmark of the Piaget identity, the equally demanding art of gem setting is equally emblematic. White gold lights up with the sparkle of diamonds. Baguette- and brilliant-cut gems totalling 5.07 carats thus adorn the bezel, case band, lugs, crown, clasp and case back, through which one can admire the Fine Watchmaking finishes featuring circular Côtes de Genève, manual circular-grained main plate and bridges, as well as the hand-drawn and bevelled bridges and carriage. The historical Piaget logo adorns the hour counter of this Altiplano High Jewellery tourbillon (G0A43031).

With these two Altiplano stone marquetry tourbillon models, Piaget pursues its endeavours undertaken in recent years with regard to preserving exceptional crafts and skills. Resolutely cultivating its differences and its exclusive nature, the Swiss Manufacture once again displays its ability to distinguish itself in ever more extraordinary realms of accomplishment.