Everyone wants to be Ryan Reynolds or Scarlett Johansson; we all have a yearning to become someone else. Brands are following the trend and are making stars their ambassadors. But let us not forget that in the 1960s, stars were friends above all else.
Maybe I should express myself more clearly. When I say that Maurice Chevalier is at the Gstaad Palace, what I mean is that I invited him. He is ordering caviar and magnums of champagne. How am I going to justify these extravagant expenses? What direction will the evening take? It’s making my head spin.
I grew up on a farm, where I lived until the age of 14. I had no idea that I would be the international ambassador of the brand whose name I share. I gained the majority of my watchmaking knowledge at the workbenches of my electronic and mechanical engineering school, and I supplemented this ultra-technical training with a course in gemmology. Over my first few months at Piaget I wore many different hats: I was in charge of technical development, design, creation, and sales. This accumulation of roles led me to become more interested in the brand’s clientele, their tastes and their inclinations. Of the innumerable projects that excited me, “going out and meeting clients” was the one that attracted me the most, because of the notions of altruism and curiosity associated with it. At the time, simply opening a magazine and gazing at the pages filled with extravagant parties and incredible events drew you into the wonderful world of the Roaring Twenties. And if you took the time to immerse yourself in it, you would discover that Piaget was in harmony with this hedonism. There was an opportunity here. The timing was perfect: my case was packed.
Traveling the world was something of a natural progression for me. I went off to meet our clients and I established dialogues in the manner of those painters and sculptors who present their works directly to collectors. In the late 1960s, I made the acquaintance of Maurice Chevalier and found myself in a sort of spiral, a bubble. One thing led to another and I rubbed shoulders with other celebrities from the arts world. That was how I broke into the watchmaking circle. The personalities became my friends and our clientele identified with them.
At the time, the stars weren’t paid; they bought their own Piaget watches. Nowadays, every partnership is negotiated—you just have to pay the right price. Instead of standing out by merit of their ability, charisma, or in the case of women, their elegance, ordinary mortals need to identify with someone. Brands respond to this with muses, ambassadors, and faces. Stars have become the variables in a magnificent economic equation.
Fifty years ago in Gstaad, I asked myself just one question: was I right to follow my instinct? Praise be to you, Maurice Chevalier—that evening in 1967 would mark the start of the Piaget Society.