„watchmaker-jeweller“ or „master watchmaker-jeweller“ – Part I

Feb 08, 2012,04:36 AM

In addition to the great report from our Piaget contest winner Chris (aka takman),
which can be found here: piaget.watchprosite.com /

I would like to add my own impressions from our visit at Piaget.

(It still looks like this – more or less)

La Cote-aux-Fées, Swiss Canton Jura, a one and a half hour drive by car. Somewhere up in one of the valley´s, a quiet place for watchmaking.

The house was founded back in 1874. A movement supplier specialized in extra-thin movements.

Only in the year 1943, they registered the trademark Piaget and started to offer their own watches.


When I think about Piaget, following watches come to my mind (first):

Some of their famous/well known movements:

Calibr 9P (1957): the thinnest manual winding movement at this time

(9P to 9P2 is + 0.15mm less thinness to increase stability)

Caliber 12P (1960): the thinnest self-winding movement (only 2.3 mm)

Caliber Beta 21 (1969): Piaget participated in the creation of that first quartz movement, from Switzerland

Caliber 7P (1976): the thinnest quartz movement at the time

Caliber 430P (1998): an ultra-thin movement created for the launch of the Altiplano watch collection

Caliber 600P (2003): an ultra-thin tourbillon movement (only 3.5 mm)


Note : If someone is interested in more info about the movements, I can recommend MTF´s former post´s on that forum. Just use the search function smile

1964 acquisition of Baume & Mercier and launch of their first watches with dials made from hard/semiprecious stones:

In the 60´s personalities like Jacky Kennedy, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida … have been seen with Piaget watches on their wrist. In those days they became a watchmaker-jeweller and until today it somehow is like this. When I asked my wife about Piaget, their famous rings came to her mind … ;-)


Nothing is wrong with jewellery, but personally I prefer serious watchmaking and therefore I would like to show you some insights about that (Part I).

(Left side: Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie in Geneva; right side: the watchmaker’s workshop)

Let´s go inside …

(A master watchmaker working on a perpetual calendar)

But let´s start from the beginning.

First of all tools are needed and those are made in-house.

Most of the tools and some very tricky parts are made by a very humble “hidden master”. One of those men, which are quite often forgotten when we talk about watches. For example he also prepares helpful tools for the watchmakers who work on a special tourbillon …

and sometimes he is the only one who is able to produce tiny parts like this:

I won´t show you a picture of that “shy/humble” man, but I will share a view in his “magical” workshop and his view out in the valley:

Preparation before assembling:

… cleaning …

… control …

… finishing …

(before and after)

… inspiration for finishing …

The finishing is an important point, because there are changes - currently. Piaget takes the next step and some of their (already) “finishing master´s” got extra lessons.
Even more employees do that special training now or in the near future.

The result can be seen here, for example:

To me it was always a “show stopper” (to be honest) when I looked at the finish of a movement, after enjoying the rest of their watches. Nothing was wrong, but something was missing – at least for me ;-)

So, I am very happy with the latest developments and it shows that we can expect even more from the master-watchmaker Piaget.

If you have the chance, you should have a detailed look on those watches:

It is a pleasure to look at the details smile


But there is more than just finishing: assembling, testing …

A watchmaker gets all the parts and has to assemble them – example caliber 880P; dual time zone, flyback chronograph, 5.6 mm thick.

Once it is done, there is “heavy” testing …

and not only once, twice - efficiency and smoothness of the pusher feeling. Don´t know about you, but to me the latter is very important, if we talk about high-class chronographs. Quite often it is disappointing.

“Volume production” can be seen here …


On the top-level of the building is the high-complication department (perpetual calendar, tourbillon …).

Some watches ready to deliver:

Can you still remember the custom made part from the “hidden master”?!
Look at the tourbillon/hand and think about the tool.

We started the visit with tools and I will finish with tools.

Each watchmaking apprentice has to make a box like this, including the box and the tools - in the first years:

Another hidden secret is a hammer in the high-complication department. It is stored in one of the watchmaker’s desk and belongs to him. Yes, even those masters need something like this – sometimes ;-)

What looks like a black plastic grip (to inexperienced people, only) is made out of ebony. Luxury tools for master watchmakers of Haute Horlogerie. I love that!

End of part I



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Beautiful pictures!

 By: dxboon : February 9th, 2012-02:01
Thanks, Oliver, for your report! Your pictures are really delightful, and I appreciate very much your insights about the finishing you've seen on some of the newer pieces. Really excellent commentary here in part 1 of your article detailing your visit wit... 

Daos, you are too kind.

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-15:51
Thanks! Oliver


 By: KIH : February 9th, 2012-04:13
... they are so my kinda poeple Particularly, this Piaget (thanks to my challenge for the quiz, which I failed one or maybe two questions) persistent to make thin watches and that DNA even today. Very impressive report, no this is Article, Oliver. I am lo... 

Ken, this time you saw watchmakers ...

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-15:55
and next time you will see artists & more. Leica - if there is quality needed ... One day, we both can do a visit like this - together. I trust in that! Oliver


 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : February 9th, 2012-04:54
post! It made my morning this snowy day in Zagreb How appropriate Best Damjan

Thanks a lot lot, Damjan!

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-15:56

Thank you Oliver

 By: Dje : February 9th, 2012-06:30
Hi Oliver! Gorgeous pictures of a very interesting visit. I love to discover real manufactures and I've not visited that one, yet. Thank you for the "pre" visit! Best Dje

"I love to discover real manufactures"

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-15:57
Dje, me too Thanks! Oliver

Great memories....

 By: DonCorson : February 9th, 2012-11:29
from the PuristS visit in 2008. Looked good then and looks good now! Thanks Oliver, Don

Don, great memories ...

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-15:58
are hard to beat Thanks! Oliver

Thank you very much, we have a great hobby... [nt]

 By: doubleup : February 9th, 2012-12:51
No message body

"we have a great hobby..."

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-16:00
Not only great - addictive, dangerous, time consuming ... Thanks! Oliver

First class report, Oliver.

 By: amanico : February 9th, 2012-13:44
It is not because Piaget watches are generally not my taste that it is not a very interesting brand. And I have to confess that I found a lot of interest to some of their skeleton, recently... Very interesting informations about their ultra thin movement.... 

Nicolas, even for you ...

 By: small-luxury-world : February 9th, 2012-16:02
is something to learn - every day Isn´t this a great part of our hobby/addiction? Thanks! Oliver

I should visit the Piaget Forum more often, for sure.

 By: amanico : February 9th, 2012-22:28
Going back to school is nice. Best, Vlad, a bad pupil.

"Going back to school ..."

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:15
Skeletons like the new one from Piaget should come with a warning: You have to be older than 21 years. You will see the naked truth. You could be seriously addicted. It could affect ... Nice, but dangerous! Oliver...  

Great flow Oliver, excellent all the way around

 By: timerider : February 9th, 2012-16:21
and quite eye opening. Thanks very much for the report and I look forward to the next part(s). Best to you, Tim

"I look forward to the next part(s)"

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:20
Tim, thanks a lot for your kind words. Is there some pressure? ... Oliver

Hi Oliver. Only the pressure of knowing my anticipation

 By: timerider : February 10th, 2012-10:47
of another great read. Not like sushi pressure! Take your time and enjoy the creation. Best, Tim

Another great Piaget Manufacture report. Great work on Part 1 Oliver

 By: AnthonyTsai : February 9th, 2012-19:45
and your photography is excellent too! Why does Piaget make their apprentices make their own tools and wood box? Is this to get them to learn how to use the machines to make parts? Or is it for other reasons? Cheers, Anthony

"Why does Piaget make their apprentices ..."

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:26
Respect for craft and mastery of essential skills, I would say. Watchmaking without proper tools is impossible! Greubel Forsey and Philippe Dufour go one (huge) step further, but that is another story Thanks, Anthony! Oliver

Could it be that the ebony handle . . .

 By: Dr No : February 9th, 2012-22:44
. . . isn't a luxury, Oliver? It's quite possible the density of ebony contributes to the functionality of the hammer. Pool players are sensitive to the feedback of a cue, which can vary tremendously by the type of wood used in its construction. I would h... 

"ebony handle . . . isn't a luxury"

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:30
I like that thought a lot and didn´t even think about, before. Maybe you are right. Would zitan be even better? Once more, luxury without knowledge is nonsense Oliver

That ebony handle is famous

 By: MTF : February 10th, 2012-04:09
It has appeared before and was demonstrated by the Manufacture manager to PuristS-on-Tour 2008. For report, click following link: piaget.watchprosite.com Of course, the shy watchmaker's face is not shown in photographs...... Mr Bornand illustrating the ra...  

Finally! Right . . .

 By: Dr No : February 10th, 2012-07:41
. . . for once ;-) . . .

I'm currently having a cue stick made . . .

 By: Dr No : February 10th, 2012-08:04
. . . of purpleheart . . . [photo: Denali Pool Cues] . . . which reputedly exhibits vibrant resonance characteristics. Kiseki produces a moving coil phono cartridge aptly named the "Purpleheart", using this wood for the body; it's said to be exceptionally...  

Great post, Oliver

 By: takman : February 9th, 2012-23:25
Nice to see it through someone else's eyes. Looking forward to your further posts, the photos are wonderful. Chris

"through someone else's eyes"

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:31
For the same reasons I liked yours a lot, Chris. Thanks! Oliver

Very interesting inside report ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : February 10th, 2012-01:08
No message body

Thanks a lot, Jeff!

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-01:31

Thank you Oliver for adding to our knowledge but what camera?

 By: MTF : February 10th, 2012-04:19
Piaget is starting to tell their stories and with takman's visit report as well as your photo essay, we will learn more. My next camera is going to be a 'slow model'. ....people portraits, watches and food don't run away so I don't need a Nikon D4. I've s... 

Melvyn ...

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-11:16
you can do it with your DSLR - everything you want. What is your reason to change the system? You mentioned Leica X1 or Fuji X100, both are good cameras - in general. Not for food, not perfect for portraits and definetly not for watches/macros. Panasonic ... 

A bit off-topic

 By: MTF : February 10th, 2012-11:47
Oliver, A bit off topic from Piaget but sort of related to taking pictures of watch people, watches and food when I travel to see watches... I was thinking of a smaller pocket camera when a DSLR is too big to hide. But of course, not just a point and shoo... 

Melvyn ...

 By: small-luxury-world : February 16th, 2012-20:40
you should have a look on Panasonic´s G Micro System. Smaller than DSLR, superior to point and shoot and there are lenses from Leica available If you still think about Leica M, Leica X1 .... you should have a look at their app "LFI - Leica Fotografie Inte... 

Thanks (nt)

 By: MTF : February 17th, 2012-09:04

As Oliver suggested

 By: RJW : February 18th, 2012-16:55
MTF, consider a micro 4/3 camera. With the appropriate adapter, any lens will fit on it. I have an Olympus EP2 and use Olympus, Panasonic, Zeiss and Leica lenses (crop factor 2). Also have an array of tiny C mount cine lenses and a pinwide (basically a bo...  

Really enjoy the inside look at Piaget.

 By: MichaelC : February 10th, 2012-08:31
I am also intrigued as to why and how the apprentices make their own tool set box. I guess they build a foundation this way, and probably appreciate their tools much more. If I were in this line of work I would have to have my things well organized. Thank... 

Thanks a lot, Michael.

 By: small-luxury-world : February 10th, 2012-11:16

Thanks a lot Oliver for this great report !

 By: foversta : February 10th, 2012-14:46
And of course I can't wait to discover next part! I was very happy to know that you were able to accompany Chris in this fantastic journey inside High Horology. Fx

FX, thanks a lot for your kind words.

 By: small-luxury-world : February 16th, 2012-20:41

The insiders view ...

 By: AndrewD : February 10th, 2012-14:49
Thanks so much for this glimpse inside the Piaget Manufacture, Oliver. It really adds so much to my appreciation of watches to know what goes on behind the scenes; the work involved in bringing these creations to life. I too have been impressed with the P... 

"It's the sum of the parts to make a beautiful whole. And it takes enormous attention ..."

 By: small-luxury-world : February 16th, 2012-20:45
Andrew, I agree and there will be some more nice details and passion in the next part. If only I find the time to work on all that pictures ... ;-) Thanks! Oliver

Fantastic report.

 By: VMM : February 13th, 2012-10:55
It's always nice to see how the magic happens in a manufacture, and this was no exception. Thanks for sharing with us. Best. Vte

Vincente, indeed it is all about magic ....

 By: small-luxury-world : February 16th, 2012-20:48
Magic people, magic tools ... knowledge about magic ... plus lots of passion and attention to the details Thanks! Oliver

Many many thanks for this report

 By: RJW : February 18th, 2012-14:00
Very much looking forward to Part 2. Regards, Richard.