Why not...? The smoking jacket and the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton 38mm
After a journey into the nostalgic and tender childish universe of the Polo Bear watches, our collector invites you today to explore a more adult and formal world.
Our times are becoming more and more informal. In our workplaces we see fewer ties and more denim. Three-piece suits cherished by our bankers are getting more casual and the waistcoat has lost its aura and its seriousness. We address each other in a more informal way and we simplify our grammar. Times may be difficult and the world no less violent, but it is nevertheless more accessible, has a less stilted style that is certainly more practical. Some might even say that good manners are being lost, but I think it is more that they are transforming and adapting.
Some might also say that it’s a natural evolution, or a cycle that will see formal style come back in a few years. They might have a point. And to convince ourselves we simply have to look at the bizarre history of an item of clothing that has become the very epitome of formalism, his majesty the smoking jacket.
This jacket was born in England in the clubs where men liked to smoke cigars. These places were informal and relaxed and people wanted to dress in a way that allowed them to take advantage of this lighter atmosphere (at least compared with the references of 19th century England). So this very special type of garment was born in London. But was it really destined to become the symbol of evenings with the ambassador? Certainly not!
At the start it was a jacket that was closer to a dressing gown, but much shorter, with a satin lining, crease-proof (thanks to a mixture of wool and mohair), designed to protect the fabric from cigar ash, but also to avoid the smell of smoke permeating one’s other clothes. It was looser fitting than classic jackets and thus had a much more casual style and function. Nothing could ever have suggested that this broad, supple and unconventional smoker’s jacket would ever become the global uniform of fashionable dinners and major events.
The rupture in style came, as is so often the case, from the USA. To show off his originality, a billionaire attended an evening organized by the New York Tuxedo Club wearing the famous indoor black jacket. This scandalous attitude – forsaking the traditional suit – was a big success and changed the destiny of our casual jacket. And it gave the dinner jacket its American name: the tuxedo.
Little by little, the simple jacket gained popularity and was matched with trousers of the same colour but decorated with a silk band on the seam. Over the years, the outfit has seen several evolutions, but nevertheless retained its main principles.
So that’s the history of the tuxedo. It started from a casual circle to become reserved for “black tie” events. As soon as the evening is finished, it is put back in the wardrobe or… returned to the hire shop.
Only the cinema has given it a little breath of fresh air and adventure.
Some might see here a reference to a Jackie Chan (a big watch collector) film The Tuxedo and others might think of Mr Bond, James Bond. It is our favourite spy who brought the tuxedo into popular culture and made it fashionable with his diving, explosions and seduction. This crease-proof, indestructible and stain-resistant (including blood) garmet has become the armour of our gallant knight James.
But you might well ask what the link with watches and watchmaking is? There are several. First of all, there is the tuxedo as a formal item of clothing. My initial remark on the disappearance of formality can also apply to watchmaking.
For a number of years, sporty and casual watches can be found everywhere. They seem to have relegated dress watches to annals of history. Chronographs, diver’s watches, pilot’s watches… all now top the sales charts and their predecessors top the auction lists. If your watch is small and discreet, it has little chance of doing well in society.
Another rule of etiquette gives the dress watch a further stab in the back, because it is, in fact, forbidden to wear a watch to evening functions. It is considered the height of impoliteness. Why? Because if you look at your watch during a cocktail party it’s to check the time. And if you have nothing better to do than that, then it means you’re bored. And if you’re bored and you show it, you are being impolite. So no watch!
This appears to be an insurmountable challenge. How can we talk about a watch in reference to an item of clothing, when the very context forbids wearing a watch? How can we continue to talk about style when we have just found out that wearing a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Seamaster makes you a bounder, Mr Bond?
But nothing is impossible for a willing heart, which is why I have decided today to talk about a magnificent watch, which – as you will soon see – is perfect for those who cannot attend a black-tie evening with nothing on their wrist.
Altiplano Skeleton 38mm © Piaget
So here is the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton 38mm.
Piaget is today a symbol of luxury and refinement, but its story starts in a farm in the Swiss Jura. A young watchmaker called Georges-Edouard Piaget started to produce components for the nascent Swiss watch industry there. His aim was to meet extreme quality standards, giving him access to the most prestigious brands. As was often the case, the production of components later migrated to that of complete watches.
In 1943 Piaget thus became a “genuine” brand and soon after opened up a factory that was commensurate with its ambitions. But to keep ahead of the competition, the brand needed a point of differentiation, which Piaget soon provided by deciding to focus its expertise on ultra-thin movements.
Piaget thus became a refined brand with in-house movements whose small size allowed for some original creations. At a time when many brands had dressy watches in their collections, Piaget made them its speciality and built up its credibility around its capacity to combine technology with refinement.
Continuing on the same path, Piaget launched its first jewellery collections in the 1960s and developed its expertise in the artistic crafts to enrich its watches and make them even more subtle. It was adored by Hollywood stars, but also respected for its incomparable expertise and continued to grow in watchmaking and jewellery. It even crossed over to sports, but not just any sport: Polo, the most elitist sport that there is!
Piaget is therefore the ideal brand to match with a dinner jacket and evening cocktail parties. So let’s take a closer look at this discreet Altiplano, which has all that’s needed to seduce fans of princely balls.
The Piaget Altiplano Skeleton: what time isn’t it?
As mentioned, it is of course impolite to wear a watch with a dinner jacket. Because the very idea of a watch is to show the time. But to avoid annoying our hosts, yet continue to show off our love for beautiful objects, why not wear a watch that goes far beyond a simple “time indicator”?
Altiplano Skeleton 38mm in white gold © Piaget
In fact, why not wear a watch that pushes its main function into the background?
The Piaget Altiplano is the perfect watch for red carpets and high-society events: it is discreet, ultra-thin, skeletonized, with hands that make it hard to read the time.
Let’s not beat about the bush: the Piaget Altiplano is a work of art.
1200S movement © Piaget
Its open-worked movement is the thinnest in the world (2.4mm), it is self-winding and uses all the brand’s expertise. It is not only technically exceptional, it is also beautiful. Movements often appear a little lost inside the case, but this 38mm diameter watch is an exception. The movement fills the entire space and its architecture is fantastic. Since all its components are visible, they have to meet the ultimate standards of both quality and aesthetics. The Piaget Altiplano is a an objet d’art that makes you forget its usefulness in favour of its beauty.
Of course, with such a movement the watch can only be thin. Very thin.
At just 5.34mm in thickness, it is one of the thinnest watches currently on the market. So it can easily slip under a shirt cuff and is by no means showy. My preferred model is the one in white gold, but the watch is also available in rose gold or set with diamonds. But be careful! Too much is the enemy of the good and you need to keep in mind the rule “black tie no watch”. So let’s be discreet!
Altiplano Skeleton 38mm set with diamonds © Piaget
The discreet black alligator leather strap and slender pin buckle are the perfect match for the somber dinner jacket. Water resistance is limited to 3 ATM, which is more than enough to cope with champagne fountains.
The Piaget Altiplano Skeleton has what it takes to get attention. It shows itself but remains guarded. It deserves the attention of its wearer and should not just be reserved for high-society events. By switching the strap for gold leather you could even give it a more casual look, which might even match with denim!
Altiplano Skeleton 38mm in rose gold © Piaget
Just as art should not remain imprisoned in museums, the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton should be allowed to escape from cocktail parties and discover the big wide world.
What does the devil’s advocate think?
The devil does not like evening parties where people have fun. So you can imagine what he thinks about the Altiplano!
On a more serious note, the main complaint you could make about the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton is its elitist side. And I’m not just talking about its price.
A skeletonized watch is a special kind of watch that needs to be understood and respected for what it is – and what it isn’t. If you are looking for an everyday watch that is simple and practical, then this Piaget is probably not ideal.
Many people might turn to more simple models in white or rose gold. The choice might be for a two-hand model or the small seconds with date.
Another thing that bothers me – a little – is the size and position of the Piaget logo. The Altiplano is a watch that speaks for itself. It has little competition, if any, and Piaget should be confident enough in the strength of its design to make the logo more discreet.
How to wear the Piaget Altiplano Skeleton in evening attire?
Of course, this mini style guide for the Piaget Altiplano is going to take us into dinner jacket territory. You can find all shapes and sizes and wearing a tuxedo can sometimes be a risky affair. One piece of advice: keep it simple!
The black dinner jacket is the reference, either in single or double-breasted design. But the devil is in the details, so it should always be worn with a white shirt with double cuffs and cufflinks, always with a black bowtie and always with black shoes.
I prefer a shawl collar, which gives the jacket a more original look (even if this is the style of the original smoking jacket). For the shirt, the turndown collar is – in my opinion – the best choice. The cufflinks should be either classic (Cartier or Louis Vuitton) or in phase with our horological theme (for example with the Milus watch movement cufflinks).
The trousers are probably the most difficult item, because they have no belt loops. So watch out for your paunch or any bunching. It’s this type of thing that can make renting difficult. It’s also the trousers that can mean a dinner jacket does not survive well over the years.
You can afford to be a little more creative with the shoes.
I love the models by Matthew Cookson. They have velours cotton slippers with stitching that can be personalized. But such is the choice offered by Matthew Cookson that you will no doubt find something you like without resorting to customization.
Pirates, barbed wire, skeletons, or even a little devil that would delight our devil’s advocate. The brand that mixes derision and sophistication stops at nothing. So go for it! It’s the only touch of originality allowed with your tuxedo!
Then you just need to add a flower in your buttonhole and you’re ready to play Gatsby.
Enjoy your evening!
One hundred and forty years’ worth of uninterrupted history have allowed Piaget to forge its unique jewellery and watchmaking expertise. The Brand is a genuine Fine Watchmaking manufacture that brings together the art of ultraflat technology and the finest jewel-setting, characterised by its undyingly elegant and refined aesthetics.Find out more >
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