Audemars Piguet has its Gerald Genta designed Royal Oak. A steel watch/steel bracelet model with automatic caliber which is highly praised by the watch incrowd. Patek Philippe has its counterpart, the Nautilus, also designed by Gerald Genta and sharing that same concept of a steel case / steel bracelet and automatic movement. Similarly, since 1978, Cartier has the automatic Santos with steel case and bracelet, a different league but quite a breakthrough since it was the brand’s first steel watch and, to this day, remains in the collection. All are icons with a similar concept and have remained extremely popular throughout the years.
There is however another watch that deserves to be mentioned in this small, exclusive line up of high end brands, automatic movement and steel case & bracelet watches. It fits the exact characteristics, however… it has been withdrawn from the collection; the Piaget Upstream.
Piaget as a niche producer of high end mechanical watches and movements, actually works just with gold and platinum. The brand produces around 20000 watches a year, just in precious metals. Till today, Piaget’s machinery is not equipped to handle steel, since the brand remains true to its philosophy, to just produce timepieces in precious metals. The Upstream was however an exception. Around the year 2000, Piaget’s goal was to have just one and excellent steel sports watch in the collection. So their designers designed the watch, and Piaget worked for the first time with an outside supplier, for the production of the case and bracelet.
The very costly to produce sophisticated bracelet, fits like a glove and is a piece of art. Not only from a visual point of view, but also because of the complex construction and the flexibility.
Assembling the watch was done however in their own manufacturer in Plan-les-Ouates. The case and bracelet were entirely hand-finished, also at their own manufacturer. The Upstream was equiped with the Caliber 504P, (La Côte-aux-Fées Manufacture), an 11-ligne, self-winding movement with 40 hours of power reserve, that was newly developed. The launch of the Upstream was in 2001. There was however also a chronograph with a quartz movement. Quite an interesting and good looking watch, that shared the same case dimensions.
Most successful was the time only model in steel. The watches have nice case dimensions of 33x40mm and were produced with a white or slate grey dial. Piaget also spoiled their hard core collectors with a limited edition; an Upstream with a salmon coloured dial and automatic caliber 551p, an amazing attractive watch that seldom comes by at an auction. While I am not sure, I believe it was an LE of 100 pieces.
The manufacturing of the various golden Upstream models was done by Piaget themselves. And the yellow gold on leather strap or on gold bracelet and the white gold version set with diamonds were pieces to die for.
The Upstream is quite a unique concept and at first sight it may look a bit like a fetched design. To strap the watch around the wrist, one needs to pull the bezel off the watch case, so it opens or widens the bracelet.
On the side of the case, the name UPSTREAM was engraved and only visible, when the bezel was lifted. The feel is completely different from any other steel bracelet I have experienced . It is very comfortable, mainly due to the fact that there is nothing on the inside of the bracelet, that bothers the wrist.
Unfortunately in 2007 the Upstream collection retired. A pity since the watch deserved to be in the line up of the most popular steel sports watches.
The Polo FortyFive Chronograph in titanium and steel is now the one and only non precious metal watch in the Piaget collection.