Take a Peek at Piaget’s New Emperador Coussin XL 700P
A pioneer in quartz timekeeping back in the 1960s, Piaget has emerged as this year’s firebrand watchmaker willing to accord electronic technology its place in the world of mechanical watchmaking. We discover how and why, with the new Emperador Coussin XL 700P.
“Founded 150 years ago…”
“The 10th anniversary of a collection…”
“75 years since a groundbreaking innovation…”
The reasons to celebrate a milestone are countless, and that’s exactly what Piaget is doing this year with the launch of its new Emperador Coussin XL 700P timepiece. In the eyes of purists, however, the celebration is a contentious one, commemorating not a milestone in mechanical watchmaking but the brand’s 40-year legacy of creating quartz movements.
The impact of quartz on the Swiss watchmaking industry has been transformative, for good and for bad. In the time following the quartz revolution of the 1970s, many watchmakers were shuttered as the market was flooded with cheap and highly accurate watches. In fact, even though both the Swiss and the Japanese were developing their own quartz movements simultaneously, it was the Asians that succeeded in arriving on the market first, a blow to the Europeans.
Still, Swiss brands like Piaget and Girard-Perregaux were at the forefront of quartz innovation. Girard-Perregaux would set the industry standard of quartz with the calibre 350 that operated with the frequency of 32,768Hz, boasting an accuracy of 0.164sec a day — a frequency that is now used by all quartz watches. Piaget further pushed the boundaries of design and continued on its quest for the thinnest movements, albeit in the quartz watch category, and developed the ultra-slim Piaget 7P calibre in 1976.
As time went by, mechanical watches made a return, signalling status and wealth that the $20 quartz watches by brands like Texas Instruments could not. Sure, quartz-operated movements offered more accuracy in timekeeping, but what collectors came to miss was the same meticulous attention to handcraftsmanship that mechanical watches traditionally vaunted, and the emotional bond of winding a watch daily. Moreover, the advent of quartz pushed watchmakers to set up the COSC certification (Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute) in 1973, to test watches and movements according to certain parameters that ensure rate precision and stability.
Despite being something of a dirty word in the world of mechanical horology, quartz watches are still regarded in high terms purely for the sake of utmost accuracy. Hence, it makes sense that Piaget exploits its expertise in both mechanical and electronic watchmaking to offer a timepiece that combines the best of both worlds. The result is the Emperador Coussin XL 700P, a mechanical watch with a quartz regulator that replaces the escapement.
The watchmaker’s international watch marketing and creation director Franck Touzeau explains, “The main objective of this project was to improve the accuracy of the mechanical watch. This is the next step in the development of Piaget, as we can capitalise on both areas of expertise. With all the smartwatches on the market, this is the best answer from the Swiss watchmaking industry to tell the world that we are continuing to innovate. It is the perfect proof that Piaget is really audacious.”
It’s not a new invention, as Seiko released a similar concept with the Spring Drive in 2005. Eric Klein, head of movements at Richemont Group, which owns Piaget, explains that the idea was actually born in 1972, but the lack of technological intelligence then relegated the project to the back-burner. It was three years ago that Piaget picked it up again, and the result is one of the most fascinating launches of 2016.
“With all the smartwatches on the market, this is the best answer from the Swiss watchmaking industry to tell the world that we are continuing to innovate. It is the perfect proof that Piaget is really audacious.”
Using the Emperador collection as the canvas for this movement allows the construction to be inverted; from the dial side, one can view the off-centred micro oscillating weight and the quartz regulator at 1 o’clock. The regulator oscillates at 32,768Hz (compared to a typical mechanical escapement that beats at 4Hz), and offers chronometric precision with a rate variable of 1sec a day. (As a comparison, COSC-certified watches are precise to -4/+6sec per day.) The watch is not battery-operated, and the user will have to wind it at the end of the 42 hours.
Klein explains, “This is a smart mechanical watch. During the past 10 years at Piaget, we have made a lot of mechanical movements and complications. We were thinking that it would be much stronger to think about the product and the person who wears the watch. It is truly a luxury to bring high precision into a mechanical watch.”
Even the aesthetics duly reflect this contemporary interpretation of timekeeping, with black ADLC coating on the bezel and the movement, paired with traditional finishes like guilloche, satin brushing, engraving and bevelling. The white gold timepiece is available in a limited edition of 118 pieces.