Categorized | Featured, Historical Horology

Historical Horology: A Little Bit about Frédéric Piguet

Posted on 30 March 2014 by Patrick Kansa

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Frédéric Piguet has as their claim to fame (well, at least one of their claims) for having produced what was, at the time, the thinnest hand-wound chronograph movement in their Calibre 1180. First introduced in 1987, the 1180 measured in at only 3.95 mm. This was a risky move at the time, as quartz watches were still all the rage at this point.
The move, as it turns out, was quite a prescient one. Not only have mechanical watches had a comeback, the 1180 has become the basis for many other brands’ chronographs, especially once the automatic version (the calibre 1185) was introduced.

If you dive back into their history, you’ll see that this collaboration with other brands is practically in it’s DNA. When Louis Elisee Piguet returned to Le Brassus in 1859, he began working alongside his brother Henri, creating drawings for Louis Audemars (yes, the Audemars of Audemars Piguet). Later on, they teamed up with Ami LeCoultre (that one familiar to anyone?) to produce finished watches, before parting ways in 1877.

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Jump forward 11 years, and we see the introduction of ‘La Merveilleuse’, which was the most complicated pocket watch in the world. Boasting 12 complications and 491 parts, this watch was truly a marvel of it’s time.  Further on in the time frame, a natural disaster caused some hardship, and saw Piaget move into a new facility, once that was conveniently located near water. This meant that his new workshop could utilize hydro-electric power, and further mechanize their production.

From this point forward, numbers (in terms of staffing and annual production) remained smaller, but steady, until the global economic crisis in the 1930s. The company persevered, however, and remained in the hands of the family until 1992, when the Swatch Group purchased them. They marched on, though, and the brand persevered until 2010, when it was folded into Blancpain, and the Frédéric Piguet name disappeared.  All in all, it’s an interesting bit of history. If you’d like some more details, as well as a deeper dive into the Caliber 1180, check out this article from Raul Horology.

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All images courtesy of Raul Horology



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