The CEO of Piaget, Chabi Nouri, is breathing new life into the iconic 145-year-old brand by injecting vivacious modernity into timeless designs and integrating the Swiss watch and jewelry brand into the arts. The spirited creative met with Sorbet at this year’s SIHH to discuss why Piaget is now shining brighter than ever. 
Q: The light on the Piaget booth, giving the effect of weather conditions that are forever warm and sunny with eternal blue skies, sets a very bold statement differentiating Piaget from the rest of the Richemont family this year at SIHH. When did this brilliant idea come to life?

A: We are very product focused. We wanted to show what Piaget is really about. We know, after having done nine months of in-depth research on the brand that the positive energy and positive outlook of the brand has been a driving motto for 145 years. We looked at what the founding family members had done over the years, we took their values of audacity and hard work and we saw that they had put a lot of fun into the brand’s umbrellas, which we call the “sunnies of our life”. But at the end it is really to express the fact that Piaget is here to create joy, to share joy and to help live your life to the fullest. Piaget says yes to life and I think this booth, and what we are doing here, is to express this aspect.

Q: “Piaget says yes to life”. That’s beautiful, I like that. If we look at your typical working day, which part is the most fun for you? I’m assuming it is not the time spent in the accounting department.

A: You’re assuming right, although sometimes it can be fun! It’s really when I spend time on the creations for sure, but also when I’m with clients, the press and our partners. I love that.

Q: In your opening speech the other night, you spoke passionately about the importance of art for Piaget. Is it the intellect in art that Piaget is interested in, or is it the art collectors’ elitist network and the crowd?

A: No, it’s the approach to art. In our company we have always said that our people, the ones working on the creations, our craftsmen themselves, are artists. They create art. We have people working on gold bracelets for 40 years in the company, and every time when they have a new project, it is a new artistic vision. We have also asked some very amazing craftsmen from around the world to work on a small dial. We asked them to reinvent their own art into a very small size.

Q: Really? Can you tell me more?

A: This is a very strong artistic view. We’ve had, in our past and very early on, some very strong partnerships with artists. That was also a very bold move from Piaget at the time. We have done creations together with Salvador Dali, we have had a fantastic relationship with Andy Warhol who was in love with the brand and who acquired a lot of Piaget pieces himself. He didn’t ask to have special editions made for him, he bought ones that were available. So the understanding of what Piaget was and is doing in terms of art has always been there.

Q: It’s in your DNA.

A: Also I think that the people looking at Piaget, and who Piaget appeals to, are people who have a certain personality and a certain charisma because they don’t follow. They have their own personality and they go for a Piaget piece. It is also a part of our differentiating element because otherwise, if you’re a follower, you will not buy Piaget. I think this also shows that there is a certain elevation in what we do.

Q: Is Art Dubai the only platform Piaget has adopted or do you intend to collaborate with art on a worldwide level?

A: Art Dubai is one but we also have other platforms in other countries and in other places. We collaborate a lot with movies for instance. We have been supporting the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which supports independent movies, for the past 11 years. We have also worked in the photography industry too. It’s all about ‘les arts’.

Q: I saw the Ballet Béjart Lausanne, the Swiss ballet company, which was also a form of art.

A: Which was something done with Piaget.

Q: You also stressed in your speech the art of creating desire, with regard to innovation and quality. We all know how challenging it is today to maintain consumer desire. I’d love to hear what is your secret recipe to maintain this desire for the clientele?

A: I think it is not an easy one. But, in my view, as long as you are true to what Piaget expresses and the perception of Piaget, and what we know Piaget is best for; as long as you stay true to that, as long as you come with differentiating, unique elements and that you stand out, you are creating a desire. The innovation that we launched last year at SIHH, shows the know-how of the movement, the know-how on the gold crafting and the unique gem setting, which are all very Piaget. But at the same time, I think that it’s the experience that we give to our clients and the world of Piaget filled with love, creativity, joy and innovation.

Q: Speaking of innovation, with respect to that along with quality, how involved are you in the sourcing of precious stones and in the art direction of your creative team?

A: A lot. We are a family company. We are a very big company, part of the top ten or 15 companies in the world [Piaget is owned by Swiss luxury group Richement], but at the same time we are still a very family spirited company. For someone like me, it takes a lot of time to work on the creativity and the creations. I am completely involved in the process.

Q: Did Monsieur Piaget personally go to the Middle East?

A: Of course. A lot. And he had personal relationships with a lot of the partners we have in the region. The Middle East in general is a huge focus for Piaget and always has been. The Piaget family came to the region a long time ago, so there is a special relationship and that is what we celebrated the first time we came with Art Dubai; we celebrated this emotional connection. But we know that we still have a long way to go because we have so many more Piaget creations and stories to tell.

Q: It was such a great honor to shake Monsieur Yves Piaget’s [the president of Piaget] hand at dinner the other evening and to exchange a few words with him. What lessons have you personally learned from him?

A: When I showed him the direction of Piaget and some recent projects that we have done lately, he literally had tears in his eyes. He said to me: “This is exactly Piaget”. And it was probably the warmest moment I could have, because having someone who knows all the values and driving forces declare that “This is Piaget” is so touching.

Q: And I would imagine so rewarding...

A: Yes, it’s rewarding for the entire company. Every time we have something that is really Piaget, tha leads him to say “This is Piaget”, it really is the best reward we could have.

Q: How do you maintain equilibrium between the ever-evolving taste of today’s jewelry buyers and Piaget’s heritage?

A: We always keep the cues of Piaget’s heritage. Just look at the Limelight Gala, the Gala watch – it is a beautiful piece of art. It started in the 1970s and is still evolving, yet it is still very much loved today. This year we produced watch novelties with bigger stones. We made one with a 4.8-carat diamond. You could remove the discrete branding on the dial, but still see that it is very much a Piaget watch. This creation started a long time ago and today, you wouldn’t say that it is not a vintage piece, yet it is also extremely modern. That is the beauty of Piaget.

Q: What is the difference between a Gala watch that existed 50 years ago and this new one, for 2019?

A: Firstly, the watch has evolved for sure. The quality has evolved, the performance of the watch and everything that we, of course, improve every year. But this is a typical expression of a watch that is typically Piaget. Every year, we reinvent the design of the craftsmanship when it comes to hand engraving. Last year we presented elements of wood and fur. This year, we introduced a snakeskin effect, and this watch has a full integration, yet you can see that the dial and the bracelets are still the same. It really is a piece of art.

Q: Maybe one day, I could go to the ateliers and see the manufacturing process. It would be incredibly interesting. If I’m invited, of course.

A: Of course. You’re my favorite.

Q: What is your favorite sorbet?

A: You.