It’s an uncanny thing about every new Piaget creation, how they all instantly seem to just belong. Even when it comes to the most novel of novelties from the brand, look away for a scant minute and once you turn your attention back to them, it’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t a part of the brand — weren’t they always there, all along? Such is the case with Piaget’s latest collection, christened the Gouverneur. So closely does it adhere to and embody what Piaget stands for that it’s almost inconceivable that the collection didn’t actually exist before this year.
Something that the Gouverneur — and Piaget, in general — does very well is to incorporate a very subtle asymmetry within its design, such that a wide-angle impression of quiet elegance is supplemented by unexpected detailing and geometric flair. What you must realize about this collection is that although most will describe the Gouverneur as an oval watch, that’s not entirely accurate. It is and it isn’t an oval watch, just as the Emperador Coussin simultaneously is and is not a cushion-shaped watch. The case itself is round, with organically tapering lugs. The outer rim of the bezel describes a circle while the inner rim forms an ellipse, such that the bezel’s narrowest sections fall along the vertical axis of the dial and the widest sections are at three and nine o’clock, like a well-proportioned “o” in the neoclassical style of Transitional typefaces. Incidentally, the designers behind the Gouverneur, the father-and-son team of Jean-Claude and Emmanuel Gueit, are also the ones behind last year’s outstanding Piaget novelty and winner of REVOLUTION’s 2011 Best Complicated Watch award: the Emperador Coussin Tourbillon Automatic Ultra-Thin. Piaget’s plans for the collection involve high complications, as with the rest of the Black Tie collections, and among the first Gouverneur models announced in Geneva this January was a hand-wound flying tourbillon with moonphase, driven by the new caliber 642P. Like other flying tourbillon timepieces from Piaget, the Gouverneur Tourbillon uses a carousel tourbillon, distinct in its configuration from the more standard variety by the position of the balance wheel. The most frequently seen type of tourbillon has the balance wheel co-axial with the tourbillon carriage, which allows for a larger balance wheel — the advantage being a higher potential for consistent chronometric performance. The flying tourbillon implemented in the Gouverneur model has the axis of its balance wheel offset from that of the tourbillon carriage, allowing for a flatter tourbillon overall, which is entirely in keeping with Piaget’s stellar reputation for thin watches. The maison’s strength in high watchmaking more than makes up for the restriction placed on the size of the balance wheel by the layout of the carousel tourbillon, and the result is a flying tourbillon that is as beautiful and slim as it is precise.
The moonphase indication is also atypical within the genre. It eschews the commonly seen format of a crescent-shaped dial aperture with a rotating disc beneath, which depicts the various lunar phases by obscuring different sections of the disc. The moonphase indication on the Piaget Gouverneur comprises a subdial with appliqués of a new moon, full moon, and waxing and waning moons, with a faceted dauphine hand pointing to the correct stage of the lunar cycle. Piaget’s other moonphase timepiece of note is the exceptional Emperador Coussin Large Moon, which boasts a large, round aperture at the six o’clock position showing the progression of the lunar cycle by the position of a black disc which sweeps across the aperture. The similar thread to be found in both timepieces is their classically styled, yet non-traditional implementation of a traditional complication — a thread that enthusiasts of the brand have come to recognize in so many other timepieces from Piaget.
The dial design, which falls to the credit of the younger Gueit, emphasizes the interplay of round and elliptical forms seen in the case, and evokes another set of aesthetic affinities with its design progenitor — the Piaget Emperador Coussin. The undisputed star of the round-cased, cushion-dialed collection is last year’s Tourbillon Automatic Ultra-Thin, with its sunray-etched dial plate and double aperture for its flying tourbillon and micro-rotor. The Piaget Gouverneur Flying Tourbillon presents, for your viewing pleasure, etched lines radiating from the axis of its hands and a double circle — the larger formed by the flying tourbillon and the smaller by the moonphase display. A fluted halo, delineated by a circle nested within an oval, rings the dial, inverting the play of shapes put forth by the bezel. Like the serene movement of a swan heading upstream (feet paddling furiously unseen below the surface), the consummate grace of the Gouverneur’s design is only fully appreciated with an understanding of the thought and effort that must have taken place before we were even aware of the very first pieces.
It’s clear that by any set of definitions, Piaget wields considerable mastery in the horological realm — over both the artistic and technical domains. And if the new Gouverneur collection is set to usher us into the next generation of Piaget’s watchmaking excellence, then by all means, lead on!