Piaget replica watches introduction of a hybrid quartz-mechanical movement takes the replica watches world by surprise.
QP’s editorial crew are still reeling from the explosion of a bombshell lobbed our way by the good people at Piaget a week or two ago. Over the last decade and more, we’ve been used to Piaget presenting movements of mechanical interest, ranging from a record-breaking, ultra-thin chronograph to wilder adventures in horology such as the “carrousel” tourbillon, the 608P, not to mention the fabulous goldsmithing that comes out of the company’s Geneva manufacture.
The 700P replica watches movement, presented in the guise of an Emperador Coussin XL case, didn’t seem at all out of the way at first glance, all black-coated, cut away plates, and top-mounted micro-rotor, though the mysterious aperture, engraved “High Precision / La Cote-Aux-Fees” at top-right obviously meant something. That something turned out to be a hybrid mechanical-quartz movement, a pairing that Switzerland hasn’t attempted for years – the Jaeger-LeCoultre/IWC Mecaquartz is ancient history, ETA’s Autoquartz movement, which uses a rotor to generate charge for an otherwise standard quartz movement, seems to have finally disappeared from its catalogue, while Ventura’s Micro-Generating System is still in production if in tiny numbers.
Piaget’s approach is different to anything Switzerland has produced previously though, the only electronic element being a regulator that uses energy generated from the mainspring. In this, the movement is much closer to Seiko’s Spring Drive (a technology that the Japanese company deployed to great effect with the Credor Sonnerie) than anything else. And there, almost instantly, a minor controversy raged, as Piaget refer to an original 1972 concept as the starting point for the 700P.
Origins aside, the 700P is interesting both technically and as a potential future direction, but above those concerns, the watch looks great. There’s nothing in the look of the watch that seems out of place in luxury Piaget replica watches and everything to like – this is a super smart combination of DLC-coated bridges, white gold case and various different finishes, my only caveat being the overly fussy Piaget coat-of-arms on the rotor. The watch is also definitely on the large side, at 46.5mm, for a dress watch, something that the cushion style case with its black gold bezel ameliorates but doesn’t quite cure.
Taking the watch as easily up to scratch in terms of design, can you fault it for having electronics where the escapement and balance should be? If you look at the watch, you can see a matte, black disc in place of the traditional “assortment”, a sort of anti-tourbillon if you like. Housed within is a generator, quartz regulator chip and brake assembly: as energy comes into the assembly from the gear train, the generator produces a charge, sufficient to power the electronics, which then controls the rate at which the gear train runs. Strangely, there’s no second hand, so there’s no visible reflection of the 5.33 revolutions per second that the regulator delivers. The difference then, is the absence of a visible balance and an improved level of precision, neither of which should make much difference in a rational world (the watch has a power reserve of 42 hours, so marginal gains in accuracy don’t really make a great difference), though the eventual service needs of the 700P should be less than that of an equivalent lever escapement watch. This all adds up to an answer of not really. This is fair enough to my mind, the vast bulk of work put into a watch like this goes on everything but the regulator, so switching from a traditional escapement to a this new system changes very little – it having only marginally less human intervention in its manufacture.
For many people though, that will be beside the point – a dear replica watches without a visible, breathing balance is simply not of interest. This highlights the most intriguing aspect of the 700P. Why did Piaget put sufficient R&D effort into a movement that has generated ten patents and counting? One can only assume that Piaget believes this is something the market will appreciate and they have more extensive plans for the technology. For now though, there will a limited edition of 118 for 700P powered Emperador Coussin XL in white gold, with prices expected to be c. £50,000.