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Wednesday, January 18, 2006 

Omega

Piaget watchesPiaget & Co. was founded in 1874 by Georges Piaget, a farmer turned watchmaker in the village of La-Cote-aux-Fees, who began assembling watches to earn extra money during the meager winters. Not much is known about the company’s early years, except the fact that his sons eventually took over the business and guided their father’s company through two world wars and the Great Depression.

Prior to World War II, Piaget watches were marketed through other companies, who engraved their own names on the dials. Following World War II, however, the founder’s grandsons Gerald and Valentin Piaget took over and embarked on an ambitious plan to give their grandfather’s company a stronger identity in the marketplace. A new collection of wristwatches was premiered and caused quite a sensation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Foreign markets such as the United States opened up during the 1950s and this led to the establishment of branch offices in New York, Geneva and Germany. It helped that the company introduced a number of innovative movements during this period, such as the ultra-thin nine ligne “9P” movement. This allowed Piaget to create a popular series of elegant, ultra-thin wristwatches for both men and women. Another commercially successful movement was the “12P”, which was the world’s thinnest automatic watch movement until 1967.

During the 1960s, the company bought up several case and bracelet manufacturers. This allowed for strict quality control. Over the next few years, Piaget’s market focus changed. The watches themselves took on the appearance of fine jewelry. Dials were available in a number of styles and the materials used became increasingly exotic. Most tellingly of all, there were more jewelers than watchmakers employed by the House.

Nevertheless, though Piaget did not shy away from embracing the new quartz technology, it continued manufacturing mechanical wristwatches. As other companies, such as Rolex and Omega, began to dominate the “sports watch” area, Piaget made a sensible marketing decision and decided to specialize in the dress and jewelry watches.

Thanks to such successful models as the popular Polo watch, which features an extremely appealing solid gold bracelet, Piaget emerged from the 1970s as one of the world’s most successful watch companies. In fact, the Polo watch was such a desirable status symbol that it spawned a number of counterfeit watches. Piaget successfully brought the counterfeiters in Hong Kong and Italy to court, putting an end to the problem.

Today, Piaget is known for its bejeweled ladies watches and solid gold dress watches. Although complicated watches continue to be assembled in limited quantities, most Piaget watches are more or less jewelry-oriented. To wit, it should come as no surprise that in a single year, Piaget purchases several thousand carats of the highest quality gemstones, as well as five tons of gold. It should also be mentioned that every component in a Piaget watch, aside from the movement, is made of solid gold — even the dials!

In closing, despite the obvious intrinsic value of Piaget watches, they are also amazingly beautiful timepieces — refined, rare, meticulously hand-finished using the finest materials and unique in design. Perhaps the president of Piaget put it best when he remarked: “You don’t read the time from a Piaget, you admire it.”

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