A gold, jade and lapis lazuli integrated bracelet watch (1970) recently sold for over double the high estimate © Phillips

Piaget is having a moment, says Eric Wind. There is “a tonne more interest” in the brand’s vintage watches compared with a couple of years ago, says the US-based dealer, with prices rising as a result.

Increased demand is evident across the secondary market, with auction houses reporting strong sales. In May, Phillips achieved SFr53,340 ($61,000), more than double the high estimate, for a gold, jade and lapis lazuli integrated bracelet piece (1970).

The upturn coincides with a renewed focus on heritage by Piaget itself ahead of the brand’s 150th anniversary next year, an event that “should only further ignite interest”, says Wind, owner of Wind Vintage.

Georges-Édouard Piaget set up his first workshop in the Swiss village of La Côte-aux-Fées in 1874. The company became synonymous with ultra-thin watches, launching its 2mm-thick mechanical 9P calibre in 1957 and 2.3mm automatic 12P movement in 1960.

Daniel Somlo, director of vintage watch store Somlo London, says people have “started gravitating towards Piaget” in the past year, the “sweet spot” being 1960s and 1970s designs that incorporate these movements. He says collectors are becoming “disenfranchised”, with some brands restricting access to sought-after steel sports watches, and so are seeking something new. There are unusual 1970s pieces because the quartz crisis meant Swiss mechanical watchmakers had “to really push the boat out with their designs and specifications to compete”, he says.

Daniel Somlo has seen customers attracted to Piaget designs from the 1960s and 70s © Charlie Bibby/FT

Pieces with ornamental stone dials, of which Somlo says Piaget was the “master”, are particularly popular. Introduced in 1963, they came to the fore in the brand’s 21st Century Collection of 1969 that included flamboyant gold sautoirs and cuff watches. Piaget paid homage to this colourful collection when unveiling two high jewellery sautoirs and three cuff watches at the Watches and Wonders fair in March, displaying new and vintage pieces together to show continuity of design.

The vintage cuffs attract high prices. In May, Sotheby’s sold a version with turquoise dial (c1970) for SFr48,260. However, “undervalued and forgotten” simpler stone pieces are “roaring back”, says Wind. The increased interest is due partly to high prices for vintage Rolexes with stone dials, which can “stretch to six figures” in dollars, he notes. “Piaget models that are in some cases 1/20th of the cost for the same dial seem like a tremendous bargain.”

Piaget started taking orders this year for its Black Tie Special Commission watch — a contemporary version of a model worn by Andy Warhol — with customisable stone dial. It also launched a Polo Perpetual Calendar with obsidian dial. Piaget chief executive Benjamin Comar is tight-lipped on whether the brand might re-release the original 1979 Polo design but says “it’s something that we have been thinking of, obviously”.

A contemporary version of a model worn by Andy Warhol © Piaget
A Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar with obsidian dial © Piaget

Doing so would be a “slam dunk”, says Wind, thanks to growing nostalgia for that “iconic” watch. He says prices for 1980s gold Polos with a quartz movement have doubled over the past 18 months because of demand, from being sold for scrap gold value to more than $10,000 for mint pieces.

Comar hopes to use next year’s anniversary to showcase Piaget’s in-house motto of “when past and present collide into flamboyance”. Plans include exhibitions, new products including a “very strong” high jewellery collection, and events.

The company — which fell victim to an armed robbery in one of its Paris boutiques in August — introduced vintage designs from its 1,200-piece archive at six boutiques last year and will have pieces displayed in 16 stores by the end of October. Comar says this enables staff to “show the knowhow of Piaget” to customers, including its expertise in gold chains and ultra-thin movements.

He says demand has been rising for Piaget’s jewellery watches, a trend that is reflected at auction. Jonathan Darracott, global head of watches at Bonhams, says price increases the auction house first noticed for hard stone-dial pieces have translated to Piaget diamond watches in the past few years. “One of the reasons is that the diamond watches on the secondary market seem very reasonable in comparison to the primary market, so the resurgence has been quite dramatic,” he says.

A luxury watch encrusted with diamonds on the bezel and strap
A 1970s lapis lazuli, sapphire and diamond watch will be offered by Sotheby’s in October

Darracott says 1980s pieces are popular: a simpler diamond-set watch (c1980) achieved £5,120 in July, more than three times the low estimate. Meanwhile, Magali Teisseire, head of Sotheby’s jewellery and watch department in France, has noticed interest in 1970s designs, tapping into the recent interest in jewellery from that era. Sotheby’s is offering a lapis lazuli, sapphire and diamond example (estimate €7,000-€10,000) in Paris on October 3.

Diamond designs from the past 10 years are “very saleable at auction . . . at the right price”, says Darracott. Bonhams sold a unique white gold Piaget Sunlight Journey cuff watch (2017) set with opal, emerald and diamonds for HK$639,000 in May. The last known retail price was approximately HK$3.98mn.

“[Piaget’s watches] are as much an item of jewellery as they are a watch, and I think that’s what [has] played into their favour,” says Darracott.

The brand’s watches were “some of the most rare and expensive” on their release, says Somlo, but are worth less today. He is asking £95,000 for a white gold and diamond edge piece with pavé diamond dial that cost SFr250,000 in 1988. While prices on the secondary market are rising, “they’ve got a way to go”, he says.

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