Piaget Polo, a legend part2

Piaget and the legendary Piaget Polo timepiece

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Published by 557 on July 4 2009, 18:44.
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In La Côte-aux-Fées, a small village in the Swiss Jura where the Piaget family had been making its movements for over a century, the launch of this new model was a revolution that raised a burning issue: should it be duly christened? The very idea ran contrary not only to brand tradition, but also to the legendary discretion of the Piaget family. Created in 1874 by Georges-Edouard Piaget, the Manufacture had indeed waited until 1943 before even marketing movements under its own company name. Valentin, the technical director and the younger of the two brothers heading the firm in 1979, was opposed to this innovation.
His brother Gérald was open to persuasion, providing the name appealed to him.
“Since my childhood days, I have always been fascinated by horses”, says Yves G. Piaget. On the family farm in La Côte-aux-Fées, all we had was a draught horse, but it was already my favourite animal. We soon began gravitating around the world of polo, the sport of kings, a luxury hobby and a highly precise discipline. Its name carried prestigious connotations, since it involved an elite. We were exactly on target, in a world combining luxury and sport. What’s more, polo also matched our identity in technical terms. It’s a high-precision sport that calls for anticipating the next move, mastering time and displaying consistent elegance whether on the field or in the grandstands. This highly sophisticated world was definitely that of our clientele.”

First invented in Persepolis at the court of Darius the First, circa 500 BC, polo is the world’s most prestigious sport. All the Persian sovereigns, and possibly even Alexander the Great, along with Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and Tamerlan, are believed to have practised it. In the 14th century AD, the greatest of the Mughal emperors, Akbar, introduced it in India, where it became the favourite sport of the maharajahs. It was there that the English discovered it in the 19th century, and polo is now an integral part of the traditions of the British royal family. Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was an avid player, and has been followed by his son the Prince of Wales, and now by his grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry.

“The identity of this watch became so powerful that we received requests for Polos from people who didn’t even know it was a Piaget watch…”
Yves G. Piaget

After lengthy debate, the new watch was indeed christened, albeit very discreetly and for advertising purposes only, without placing this name on the watches themselves. Keenly aware that he had an enormous potential success on his hands, Yves G. Piaget was determined to go an innovative step further by letting the whole world know about it.

Since joining the firm in the early 1960s, Mr. Gérald’s son had become the brand ambassador among celebrities. “My first encounter with the world of show business came in 1964 when I met Maurice Chevalier. I hailed from the tiny village of La Côte-aux-Fées and was rather shy, but nonetheless already fascinated by human relations. Chevalier was a revered figure for the generation represented by my father and my uncle. Things rapidly snowballed from there on. In 1964, I personally introduced Mireille Mathieu when she made her debut on the stage of the Palace Hotel in Gstaad. Later, I took Petula Clark along with me to the royal court of Iran. Around that period, all kinds of rumours were flying around regarding my supposed romantic ties with famous women such as Gina Lollobrigida and even Princess Soraya – whom I had only met twice.”
At the 1980 World Polo Cup in Palm Beach, the Piaget Polo made its grand entrance onto the international jet-set scene. The celebrity press did not yet exist and nobody had yet had the idea of associating stars with the world of luxury. The watch starred in a succession of elegant evenings at Régine’s in New York and gala dinners at the Breakers, the finest hotel in Palm Beach. And to crown it all came an impromptu visit to the stables in the company of one of the world’s most beautiful women, Ursula Andress. The most famous James Bond Girl of all agreed to be the spokesperson for the new watch.
“She was a longtime friend and a great girl”, as Yves G. Piaget reminisces. “She allowed us to take pictures of her with the horses all morning. She also officially presented the Cup, and the pictures were soon circulating around the world.” Each of them featured a gold watch on the star’s wrist that was simply impossible to miss. The Piaget Polo had become an icon.

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