Ode to Joy: Piaget CEO Benjamin Comar on the driving emotion elevating the world of jewellery watches
The watchmaking guru sits down with Tempus to talk about Piaget's storied 148-year history, and its plans for the future
At this time of year, as watch fairs and showcases return once more to fill our calendars, the world of watches can seem like a who’s-who of horology as brands compete to release the most elaborate innovations and complications in their 2022 novelties.
And then there’s Piaget. For nearly 150 years, the Swiss watch brand has focused on fine watchmaking and jewellery, with each collection characterised by a visual savoir-faire that combines accuracy of movements (and ultra-thin technology) with out-of-this-world jewel-setting.
It’s safe to say that this Swiss brand has always pushed the boundaries of bling, making bright and brilliant gems the order of the day – and emphasising just how elaborate jewellery and crafted watches can be. This fusion of elegance and extravagance – “extraleganza”, according to CEO Benjamin Comar – is a defining feature of the brand’s contemporary approach.
Comar’s career has spanned big name high jewellery brands including Cartier, Chanel and Repossi, making him uniquely qualified to take the fine watch brand to new heights when he took the reins in June 2021. His predecessor, Chabi Nouri, had been the company’s first female CEO, and her achievements included launching the ultra-thin Altiplano Ultimate Concept in 2018 and refocusing the company’s storytelling on craftsmanship – two elements Comar is keen to continue as he celebrates the power of jewellery watches.
This year’s Watches & Wonders saw the brand release three sensational novelties: the Altiplano Ultimate Concept (right), an ultrathin 2mm in breadth; the Limelight Gala Precious, set with extraordinary diamonds and deep green tsavorites, and Limelight Gala High Jewellery, with its riotous fanfare of diamonds exploding from the bezel.
Most importantly of all, to Comar, is that Piaget’s fans – from craftspeople to collectors – experience the most important part of the brand’s DNA: joy.
Benjamin, what drew you to Piaget in 2021?
Piaget is a magical brand. For almost 150 years it has been synonymous with prestige, always trying to create the best possible products – whether that’s elegant jewellery or the thinnest watches – and this combination of creativity and prestige, performance and craftsmanship is incredible. We’re a very different maison than any other, with a unique identity based on our three values of sophistication, shared joy and ‘extraleganza’.
How does your experience in the jewellery world enhance your role at Piaget?
I’ve worked across different sizes and positioning of companies – including director of jewellery at Chanel and CEO of Repossi – so I think I understand what jewellery is about. Importantly, I’ve learnt that you must respect your customer as well as understand your brand. Then, of course, teamwork is always important – you can’t do great things by yourself.
Are there specific areas of the brand you plan to explore over the next few years?
[Former CEO] Chabi has done a great job developing Piaget’s jewellery and watches. We are selling a full universe of products for ladies and men. And that’s what we have to share with our customers, so they understand the Piaget way of life – it’s savoir-faire and savoir-vivre together. I think a lot of customers can understand that and will grow with us in our brand.
Our job here is to enhance the DNA of the brand for the future, so it’s a great adventure to be in such a big area of products and regions – we have the chance to be in the US (we will be opening a great store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills in March), as well as already being in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
You work with incredible craftspeople in the watch and jewellery fields in-house – could you tell us more?
In Piaget, we have know-how from watch movements to gemmology, bracelets to gold-smithing – all the technicalities of watch and jewellery making under one roof. It’s a very good expression of the brand – we can build all of the product with a level of creativity and technical problem-solving that allows us to develop fantastic new products.
It allows a wealth of collaboration between our creative team and jewellery designers. I think that’s rare in the luxury industry, to place as much importance on craftsmanship as creativity, and therefore serve the creative purpose. And I think that’s what people recognise in Piaget, and that’s why those products are transmittable for generation.
Are there any key trends or areas of focus that you’re seeing that excite you?
First of all, Piaget’s first jewellery watches with hard stones, launched back in the 1960s, were very creative and different from what anyone else was doing, and I like that. I think jewellery watches – watches worn as jewellery pieces – are becoming more and more important. The customer’s knowledge of watches has increased a lot, and so there’s been a lot of development in elegant jewellery watches – and, on the other side, the development of the casual-chic look, which we can see in the strength of our Polo collection.
Are there any areas of the Piaget collection that you are excited to develop further?
Recently, I think the Polo range has been a key statement for us – the Skeleton Polo is doing super well and is a very nice watch in a casual chic style. I also like what’s happening within our jewellery collections – especially our Possession line. It’s very joyful, very playful, and will be even stronger in the future.
You launched the Altiplano Ultimate Concept at Watches & Wonders this year. How do you plan to develop this ultra-thin collection?
We are very happy to have one of the thinnest watches on the market, and its high performance and unique quality represents the culture of the brand. Ultra-thin watches are not a new segment for us – we’ve been creating them for 148 years – but I can really see the fighting spirit of our team in how we all want to continue to push the boundaries and improve even further.
This is a long-term goal – after all, to create a thin watch is very complicated – but we’ll continue to develop spectacular watches that are also incredibly reliable. That’s why I love Piaget watches. They need to work 24/7 and are guaranteed for a minimum of eight years – our watches last forever, and we think just as long-term.
As digital innovations such as VR and NFTs rise in prominence, how important is it to embrace new technologies?
We have to live with our times, and the truth is that digital has entered the minds of everyone across the sector. We have to understand and accept that and find ways to do our own digital projects that don’t lose the prestige factor. And we do have projects in the works that I can’t talk about – yet!