Party Like It's 1979: Piaget Celebrate Their 150th Birthday Reviving The Polo

To celebrate their 150th birthday, Piaget have revived and refined their classic emblem of late-20th-century glamour: the Polo.

Party Like It's 1979: Piaget Celebrate Their 150th Birthday Reviving The Polo

Sometimes things just work out. They align, often looking and feeling effortless. No, I’m not talking about me on the dancefloor aged 16; rather, Piaget as a global brand and watchmaker in 2024. No maker has enjoyed such incredible momentum, which, in Piaget’s case, has been driven primarily by the collectors’ market shifting down in size, searching for value as well as elegant shapes and dials. Piaget have these in abundance, often in their back catalogue but increasingly in their new models, too. I think most people aren’t aware of the incredible history of ultra-thin watchmaking and the wild personal stories behind the fusion of pop culture, high society and friendships.

Piaget turn 150 this year, and they have some big launches to come. The piece ripe for an update, and the one collectors have been angling for, is the seventies classic — the Polo. 

Before we get into the new version of the watch (which, by the way, is much more than a copy-and-paste re-issue), let’s understand the backstory of the Polo. It was launched in 1979, when Piaget were pioneering ultra-thin movements. Don’t forget that this was just after Audemars Piguet had launched their Royal Oak and Patek Philippe their Nautilus, both in steel. So the Polo was later to the game than most of its sports-watch competitors in the 1970s, but what I love is the fact that Piaget came out with something almost entirely different, a solid-gold integrated sports watch that was not mechanical but quartz. You will no doubt be aware that between the currency conditions of the seventies and the rise of the Japanese quartz, the mechanical watch was very nearly wiped out. In many ways, therefore, Piaget’s decision to go for quartz suggested to me that they believed it represented the future — despite their making the best ultra-thin movements in the world and seeing the momentum build for sports-chic models. 

The Piaget Polo 79 18ct in yellow-gold.

The other kicker was this: the Polo looked like nothing else, with standout lateral gadroons on the wildly beautiful bracelet and dial. It genuinely looked like nothing else — and still does, for that matter. That is a bloody hard thing to achieve in the watch world. Every maker and designer wants to design a watch you can spot across the room, and when it comes to the Polo, you certainly can. 

It was also a statement of success for an owner like no other. It was eye-wateringly pricey (as Piaget have always been, while backing it up with top-notch quality). The watch was the preserve of the wealthy and the stylish. It was, and is, the sort of choice that says a lot about you, which I love. The watches were pure glamour, and a hit with Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and Sophia Loren. It also helped Piaget forge several long- lasting friendships, notably starting with Salvador Dalí in 1967.

Yves Piaget, the great-grandson of founder Georges-Édouard, is the modern name within the brand, synonymous with elegance, splendour and ‘beautiful people’. It was his influence that led to the creation of the ‘Piaget Society’, spectacular events hosting Piaget’s wealthiest, most famous and most influential patrons. Having moved to Los Angeles to study gemology, Yves Piaget became acutely aware of the power and influence of Hollywood. He understood the benefits of having some of the most celebrated people in the world wearing his brand (because they wanted to — not because they were paid), and he leveraged this into tremendous success. 

Piaget Polo 79 craftsmanship.
A Polo 79 campaign.

The launch of the Polo 79 comes at the perfect time for Piaget, and just after the Vacheron 222 and IWC Ingenieur, which are products of Piaget’s sister companies. They are very different and not to be compared, but it is interesting to note that each of the brands had their year to shine with an updated icon. 

The Polo 79 is really a new watch. It has been redesigned and reconsidered from the ground up, with its case now 38mm, larger than its initial sizes of 27mm and 34mm. It has a new movement — no longer a quartz but the ultra-thin in-house calibre 1200P1, a variant of the workhorse calibre found in a variety of Piaget watches. While the case of the original was cast as a single piece, the Polo 79 is composed of multiple parts, with each polished gadroon being an individual piece that slides into place. Understanding how difficult that is to construct allows for more precise finishing of the case, which is a joy to handle and wear. The watch is sublime on the wrist, and in time and in its various formats, I have no doubt it will be the hottest ticket in town across the Piaget global retail network. This year is Piaget’s moment to shine, and I believe the brand will again be the go-to for the discerning and elegant. 

A souvenir from the Piaget World Cup at Palm Beach Polo & Country Club in 1985.
Vintage Piaget Polo 79s.
Yves Piaget, captured by Christian Coigny.
An advert from the Piaget archives.
A large-model Piaget Polo 79.
A vintage Polo 79.
A polo match in Palm Beach in 1983.