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The New Gold Standard

Piaget dazzles with the release of the Polo 79

It was a symbol of its time, the decade of excess, the 1980s, when financial markets were uncoupled from national dictates, the world was simply not enough, and Wall Street was symbolic of everything the new finance world could offer. Gordon Gecko’s war cry of “Greed is good” was seen as the justification for unshackled market capitalism, sharp suits with large shoulder pads, and the necessary puffed-up coiffured hair to match. Initially released in 1979, just as Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were to unleash their neoliberalist policies on the world, it was instantly recognizable both for its design and the opulence and heft of the gold required to manufacture the case and bracelet. It was the Piaget Polo.

A 1979 U.S. original advertisement for the Piaget Polo, extolling the unique design features of hand crafted 18kt gold case and bracelet, and its thin profile, making it a watch that “you’ll never want to take off”.

It was also the era of the integrated bracelet sports watch, and with other luminaries of the Swiss watch industry already successful with their own versions, Piaget quickly needed a new model to join the swathe. The design represented a bold move in a new, sports-chic direction for Piaget, more famous at the time for their ultra-thin and stone-dialled watches. When the time came to name the new watch, the persistence of their U.S. agent prevailed, and the name “Polo” was bestowed as Piaget sponsored the Polo World Cup in Palm Beach.

There were a number of variants over the years, from round and square cases to different shades and finishes of gold. The Polo quickly became an icon of its era, suitably cast on Robert DeNiro’s wrist in Casino, and gracing the wrists of Ursula Andress, Andy Warhol, Brooke Shields, and Björn Borg among many other members of the global jet set.

Having languished in relative collectors and auction house obscurity for the past decades since removed from production in the early 1990s, there has been a resurgent interest in the Polo driven by enthusiasts with an appreciation for Piaget’s impact on culture and watchmaking.

Sylvester Stallone as Dwight Manfredi, in Tulsa King, and Robert DeNiro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein in Casino, both owners of a Piaget Polo [Left © Brian Douglas/Paramount+. Right © AJ Pics / Alamy]

With the recent return in fashion circles to the mobster style of the 1980s, along with Sylvester Stallone wearing a Polo in Tulsa King and celebrities such as Michael B. Jordan spied wearing a vintage model, Piaget’s introduction of a contemporary interpretation of the archetypal integrated bracelet watch could not be better timed. It is also an auspicious year for Piaget, since 2024 marks the 150th anniversary since the Maison was founded by Georges-Edouard Piaget, and the 45th from the release of the Polo by fourth generation owner, Yves Piaget.

Actor and watch enthusiast Roger Moore admires the Polo collection with Yves Piaget (1988).

The revamped Polo 79 kicks off the celebrations. Paying homage to the original with its round sculptured form and integrated bracelet, case, and dial in the same aesthetic, this new iteration is cleverly and sympathetically updated for modern watch collectors. It retains the same profile, the alternating polished gadroon and brushed block links that continue seamlessly from bracelet to case and through the dial; but, while the original Polo was powered by the inhouse 7P ultra-thin quartz movement, the new version has Piaget’s 1200-P1 automatic movement, with an engraved micro rotor. There has also been a significant increase in the mass of gold, from around 135 grams to 200, which contributes to the hefty personality of the Polo 79.

The new Piaget Polo 79 with the integrated bracelet, case and dial, and the 1200-P1 movement.

The original watch was issued at a time when its presence on your wrist would grant you access to the most desirable nightclubs, from Studio 54 to the Hippodrome. The only list you need to be concerned with for the Polo 79 is the one at your local Piaget boutique. With a very limited number of them to be made for worldwide distribution, you will be more than lucky to acquire one.

www.piaget.com

Words: Dr Andrew Hildreth

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