DEBBIE HATHWAY CHATS TO PIAGET’S LEADING LADY ABOUT INNOVATION AND DIVERSITY IN WATCHMAKING — AND HOW THAT BLENDS WITH THE BRAND’S TRADITIONS
Published in Business Day Wanted
Under the Richemont umbrella, you have worked for Cartier and now Piaget, which both have fascinating histories in Swiss watchmaking. Is heritage an important motivator for buyers?
Chabi Nouri: Heritage is crucial as it defines our DNA. Indeed, I am very lucky to have worked for these two fabulous maisons, which have a very rich heritage and unique creativity. Piaget has strong values that are essential today: authenticity, craftsmanship, and creativity. We have worked even more on expressing our unique crafts and know-how — the heritage of Piaget. They are rare skills that have been preserved, enriched, and perpetuated by the maison for more than 140 years.
When it comes to heritage, what do watch aficionados not know about Piaget? What surprises them?
CN: Our craftsmen and -women, who work in our workshops (“Les Ateliers de l’Extraordinaire”) in Geneva and in the Swiss Jura mountains, specialise in goldsmithing, gem-setting and the unique know-how required for our ultra-thin movement. These are the founding traditions infused in each and every creation by the maison.
When our clients visit our manufacture in Geneva and/or La Côte-aux-Fées (where we create the movements), they are always very impressed by how everything is done in-house, from the rough gold bars to the 1mm screws we produce and polish ourselves at the gold foundry, the hand-engraving, the gem-setting… When they discover Piaget’s craftsmanship behind our creations, they are always speechless and enchanted. Visiting our ateliers is a totally different experience.
Is the physical presence of a boutique still important or is the demand for e-commerce becoming a bigger factor?
CN: I believe physical presence is very important to live the full Piaget experience — to touch, to try, to wear the creations. Nevertheless, today we are providing a fully integrated experience that includes the digital world. We recently launched our online Tmall Luxury Pavilion Piaget flagship in China and we are also present on the Net-à-Porter online platform, our own e-commerce platform, Instagram, and WeChat.
I imagine that the purchase of a Piaget piece must be experiential to really have value. If you are creating experiences around education and investment in the brand to attract clients, how do you link that to the heritage of Piaget?
CN: Our community today is definitely evolving within a multi-dimensional ecosystem, with online information and purchase, digital engagement, social interactions, store visits, contact with our sales ambassadors, and much more. And this is not really a matter of age group. The key is to best integrate these different channels to deliver the most exciting and differentiated Piaget experience. Our mission is to continue building awareness and desirability for Piaget by expressing our unique positioning and know-how.
What about the new releases is most appealing for the different Piaget markets, and why?
CN: In 2020, Piaget celebrates the extraordinary. Our new releases perfectly embody our four pillars: the art of movement, gold, colour, and light, and it also honours our passion for craftsmanship.
For women, we unveil the new exciting Limelight Gala watches with blue sapphire gradient on the case, aventurine glass dial, and hand-engraved bracelet with Piaget’s signature Palace décor (it takes eight to 10 hours for our artisan to engrave the bracelet). These watches demonstrate our craftsmanship first-hand and embody femininity like no other creations.
Watch lovers and watch collectors will only have eyes for our Altiplano Ultimate Concept (AUC), the thinnest mechanical watch in the world. It is not just a bold experiment anymore, but a tried-and-tested watch that you can own and wear! It is so complex that we only produce three pieces a year. It is only 2mm thick (equal to two credit cards stacked together), and yet it can be personalised by choosing the colours of the case, the hands, the screws, and bridges. You can even engrave your initials in a dedicated space — you know a watchmaker’s prowess when they can achieve that in an area where some parts are thinner than a hair!
Of course, we will unveil many other watch and jewellery novelties for men and women during the year, so stay tuned!
With heritage in mind, how do you choose which collections to innovate?
CN: Innovation has always been at the heart of Piaget. We are constantly trying to go further and “do better than necessary”, which has been the maison’s motto from the very beginning. We innovate to build our own traditions and heritage and to project Piaget into the future. What is important to mention is that Piaget’s main reason to innovate is to liberate its creativity.
Take the AUC, for example. It started as a crazy idea that would pay tribute to the 2mm-thick movement created 60 years previously. We turned that dream into reality! We had to think out of the box and review the entire classical conception of a watch. We had to break watchmaking rules to create new ones, so we could achieve the 2mm thickness we wanted. We also developed five different patents. In fact, four years to reach that stage wasn’t really long and we took the last two years to fine tune its development into an everyday watch.
Relaxed luxury — that’s how the more recent positioning of Piaget has been described. Has it been successful?
CN: We like our creations to live and be enjoyed. They can be worn to celebrate special moments as well as for everyday use. We even create timepieces and jewellery that one can transform at home to adapt for different occasions.
If you had to describe yourself or your personality in terms of a timepiece in the Piaget collection, which one would you be?
CN: I would rather say that I wish I could be as timeless, as unique, as the Limelight Gala watch. It is definitely a very feminine design that expresses audacity and determination at the same time. It is also a unique design — unconventional because of its asymmetry — which I like for its innovation and extravagance.
Touching on diversity — which is so topical now — and your status as one of very few women in senior positions in this field, how are you able to make a difference towards the ambitions of businesswomen keen on pursuing a career in luxury watchmaking and jewellery?
CN: I believe in diversity; diversity in gender, background, cultural, generational. I believe that a multicultural environment fosters creativity and strengthens organisations. What I have learnt is that passion drives me and gives me the energy to always strive for more, for better, and that you need to grasp the opportunities out there.