The Best Watches From Scorching-Hot Piaget, According to the Watch Illuminati


“I love the stepped cushion cases from Piaget, whether modern or vintage. That TV-shaped case design, either vertical or horizontal, has been my favorite since my gemstone-dealing days. In my personal collection, I have [the above] Beta 21 with a tiger’s eye dial and stepped vertical cushion as well as the modern Andy Warhol malachite dial.”

“There are so many outstanding models in the vintage Piaget portfolio. Opulent cuff watches or the ladies classics wrapped around the small caliber 9P: small, thin, and feminine. But there is one watch that stands for Piaget and its beginning dominance in the ‘70s and ‘80s like no other: the Beta 21 reference 14101, the first Swiss quartz watch, presented to the public in April 1970.

“It is not only the smallest watchcase for the rectangular Beta 21 movement—remember: all participants (Rolex, Patek, Omega, IWC, and Piaget to name the biggest) used the same movement that was developed in a joint venture. But only Piaget basically wrapped its solid gold case around the movement and made it appear even smaller by clever finishing and angles. Compare it to a Patek ref. 3587, a Rolex ref. 5100, or an Omega Pupitre. The Piaget Beta 21 is also the thinnest of its peer group: by simply getting rid of the second hand, Piaget saved some millimeters, all working to make a giant movement look like a typical watch for the times.

“The concept of the rectangular case inspired the likes of Patek for its Beta 22 (ref. 3603) from 1973 followed by Omega for its Beta 22, which also came without a second hand in 1973.

“But there was more that made the Piaget stand out: it was the only Beta 21 with a stone-dial, as the competitors simply were not able to replicate those at the time. What else, you ask? Well, besides the movement, all components were made in-house at Piaget while others received theirs from third-party suppliers. Piaget had a unique and superior way of watch manufacturing that was copied by its competitors in the following decades.

“Plus, Piaget made it in higher quality than most competitors, demonstrating its commitment to quartz as an important technology in horology: while Patek used two small aluminum pins to “fix” the movement in its oversized case and Omega used plastic bars, Piaget was the only brand putting the important movement into a heavy solid gold cage with all components fitting to the micrometer.

“With this watch, Piaget mastered the task and served as a model for others. In some aspects, they even beat the top dogs of horology. The reference 14101 tells all this in just one watch.”

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