SIHH 2016: Piaget Art & Excellence - An Anthem for the Rose

SIHH 2016: Piaget Art & Excellence - An Anthem for the Rose

The ultimate ultra-thin icon, Altiplano 38mm, is for the fifth consecutive year highlighting the artistic crafts. Their mission is to magnify the captivating beauty of the Yves Piaget rose portrayed on the dial. Setting a perfect stage for all manner of possibilities, but also and above all for apparent impossibilities, it epitomises the encounter between two worlds that share a wealth of similarities. A passion for the exceptional, the quest for absolute precision, patience and meticulous care dedicated to excellence.

For the SIHH 2016, the Piaget rose garden proudly welcomes two new techniques – wood/mother-of-pearl & wood marquetry and gold engraving – serving to grace three new Altiplano models. A contemporary yet timeless anthem to femininity, these three new creations splendidly embody the Piaget vision of allurement and elegance.

I’ve always been in love with roses”, reminisces Yves Piaget, a passionate devotee of this flower to the point of having inspired the Meilland rose-growing company to name one of its most beautiful varieties after him: the very one that had just won the Geneva International New Rose Competition. The Yves Piaget rose was born. Graced with splendid, powerfully scented blooms composed of 80 serrated blush-pink petals and combining the charm of vintage roses with the exuberance of modern floral tastes, it has become the jeweller’s muse. Perpetually reinvented with unique sensitivity in successive collections, this instantly recognisable almost peony-looking rose has proven to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the Maison. It is the emblem of Piaget’s absolute love for women. Whether it be for la Femme of la Fleur, nothing is ever too beautiful.

In 2012, to celebrate the 30th birthday of this rose, Piaget the jeweller chose to exalt it through a series of Jewellery and High Jewellery creations. Yves Piaget’s cherished flower also heightened the creativity of Piaget the watchmaker. The Manufacture ‘tamed’ it in an Altiplano, the chic ultra-thin icon, and highlighted the artistic crafts whose purpose here is to magnify its captivating beauty on the dial. It represents the encounter between two worlds that share a wealth of similarities: a passion for the exceptional, the quest for absolute precision, along with patience and meticulous care dedicated to excellence. Enamel, a material that only a few rare artists are capable of handling to perfection, is subtly mastered in these models. The Yves Piaget rose reigns supreme on the dial in all its voluptuous splendour. The following year, the Piaget rose garden welcomed new creations that were enamel miniature-painted by Anita Porchet or champlevé and adorned with “paillons” (spangles) and gemsetting. Eager to go even further in proclaiming its love for its muse, the Manufacture has continued to distinguish itself in unprecedented and unexpected registers that are ever more extraordinary and exclusive. They have put to severe test the talent of artistic masters that are rarely called upon in the field of watchmaking. The rose thus bloomed on a silk dial with gold thread embroidery using a gold work wire technique known as jaseron, a first for Piaget; or on a glass micro-mosaic dial featuring vertically laid tesserae that create a trompe l’oeil effect. 

In 2014, ten watchmaking masterpieces blossomed in the workshops of the Manufacture. Through both miniature painting and cloisonné techniques, Piaget once again demonstrated that there are no limits to creativity whether in terms of designs of colours. Continuing to explore the art of embroidery, the Maison brought into the watchmaking world its first ever example of needle-painting embroidery using colourful silk threads. The hand becomes the brush and the thread becomes the paint in this feat of artistry that is both fascinating and dreamily beautiful. 

In 2015, three equally exceptional new techniques were highlighted. The delicate beauty of the Yves Piaget rose is exquisitely enhanced by Grand Feu enamelling on an engraved and guilloché base; embroidery using the micro-pointillism technique enhanced by a silver ‘filet’ thread; and for the first time in the rarefied spheres of Haute Horlogerie, hard stone marquetry. The latter skill is mastered by only a very few artisans, particularly when applied to such a tiny space as a watch dial.

This year, at the SIHH 2016, Piaget is presenting two new techniques: wood/mother-of-pearl & wood marquetry and gold engraving.

Altiplano 38mm dial in wood marquetry & Altiplano 38mm dial in white mother-of-pearl & wood marquetry - Crafted by the artisan Rose Saneuil

“The Piaget rose is the epitome of beauty, elegance and refinement”

A technique used since the dawn of ancient times in decorating wooden objects, marquetry consisted in carving out wood so as to inlay it with various materials. It reached its heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries during the Louis XIV and Louis XV style periods, and notably under the influence of the cabinetmaker André-Charles Boulle. It was indeed at the famous Boulle School where she took the cabinetmaking course with a major in marquetry that Rose Saneuil – who has been drawn since her youth to art and artistic craftsmanship – experienced a light-bulb moment. “I knew right from the very first marquetry classes that I had found my path!” says this passionate artisan whose “craft is limited only by the boundaries of imagination”. As she breathed in the enchanting fragrance of the rose and contemplated its perfection, the artist made a line drawing to prepare the cutting-out of wood fragments using the complex “element by element” technique mastered by only a very few artisans – especially when applied to such a small space as a watch dial. Then came the choice of materials. Pale pink bird’s-eye maple, light red and pink sycamore, together with white mother-of-pearl featured in the Altiplano 38mm mother-pearl & wood marquetry model. Taming the delicate material, selecting it to achieve the desired colour shades, “labelling” it so that each of the 96 elements can – after sawing– be assembled and inlaid within a 32 mm diameter. Petal by petal, moving from the outside towards the inside, working with hundredth of a millimetre precision and consistently associating each colour with a particular material or species (pale pink bird’s-eye maple, pink and light red sycamore), the rose springs to life. 

A celebration of colour and aesthetic enchantment, the dial of each of these two Altiplano models took around 25 hours to craft. 

Altiplano 38mm engraved gold dial - Crafted by the artisan Dick Steenman

 “Romantic and contemporary by nature, the Yves Piaget rose embodies feminine serenity”

“I see creating an instinctive connection with the golden section as the foundation of communicating with matter. It’s not a mere mathematical formula, but instead a profound relationship between forms that is found in nature and which defines the natural and sometimes imperceptible or unconscious beauty of objects.” Such is the approach adopted by Dick Steenman, an artisan gifted with multiple talents and beneath whose nimble fingers the pink gold of the dial becomes the Piaget rose. The artist uses a scriber to outline the petals. Then comes a crucial stage in the engraver’s work due to the extreme thinness of the dial: namely “sculpting” each petal. The goal is to create a depth effect, given that the dial thickness has been reduced to the very limits of feasibility in keeping with the ultra-thin nature of this model. The surgically accurate gesture required to avoid piercing the precious metal is patiently repeated as the work begins to take shape. Each petal is now worked in conjunction with those around it to as to respect the hierarchy running from interior to exterior in order to draw and hold the gaze. “I no longer need to look at what I’m doing because the movements become instinctive”, says Dick Steenman, for whom Yves Piaget’s beloved flower holds no secrets. Then comes the stage when the engraver sands and smoothens the surfaces. Finally, the supremely perilous and capital phase consists of setting the final touch by accentuating the angles, reinforcing the folds to perfect the sense of depth and thickness. The result is a masterpiece of delicacy and sensuality that takes more than 30 hours of craftsmanship to achieve.