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Piaget’s First Female CEO, Chabi Nouri On Reinventing The Possession Collection

By Caroline Suganda

From left: Chabi Nouri, Piaget's first-ever female CEO; Piaget's Possession bracelets.
 
Piaget
From left: Chabi Nouri, Piaget's first-ever female CEO; Piaget's Possession bracelets.

I’ve met and spoken to a fair number of CEOs and department heads in the watch and jewellery industry to realise that our conversations would almost always conclude with the business side of things; more on growth prospects and numbers, and less on creativity and design. But that’s not a bad thing. After all, they are the driving force propelling the business forward, and not a designer with overflowing creative juices or the marketing guru with promotional campaigns etched into the brain.

When I had the opportunity to speak to Piaget’s relatively new CEO, Chabi Nouri, I was pleased with the outcome of our 30-minute conversation that perfectly captured her overall vision for the brand, beyond growth and numbers.

Nouri’s appointment as CEO in February 2017 is more than just a new designation. It is a significant step for the Richemont group, Piaget’s parent company, and the industry, as women in high-level management positions in the luxury watch industry remain a relative rarity. In fact, Nouri is the first female CEO in Piaget and the group’s watch and jewellery department. While many things may have orchestrated the appointment, the growing acknowledgement of the increasingly important female market may just be its most significant reason — and that is clearly communicated in Piaget’s new pieces.

While Nouri was appointed CEO, the 40-year-old has
 been with the brand since 2014. Her responsibility as the director 
of marketing, communications and heritage was to deploy communication strategies around the maison’s jewellery and the 140-
year heritage that defines Piaget. Two years ago, she took on the 
role of international managing director of sales and marketing,
 and was tasked to raise the profile of the jewellery side of the business. She did just that with high jewellery collections — the Sunlight Journey and the iconic Possession collection, relaunched with a new open bracelet design. The Possession is perhaps, one of the house’s jewellery pieces that, in a mere two years, became inseparable from the brand’s identity today. Each of the open ends of the new bangle bracelet is set with hard stones — a Piaget signature from the ’60s — and turning rings made of gold. Nouri herself is a fan, and an expert at playing with this concept jewellery. She wore two full pavé-set Possession rings next to each other, moving one of them to stack on the other using just a finger; she was almost constantly turning the ring on the Possession Sky pendant — a long delicate necklace featuring a hard stone ball with a rotating ring running through its centre, almost like a fidget spinner — during our short tête-à-tête.

While her mission is to balance the business side of the brand while accelerating the development of its jewellery segment, she wants to achieve the latter by pushing watches and jewellery together. That comes as no surprise as throughout its history, Piaget has always had a keen eye for the fusion of watches and jewellery, and that piqued Nouri’s interest. During the maison’s peak creation period in the ’60s to ’80s, there were a lot of jewellery watches, including a cuff watch that inspired a 2015 high jewellery piece.

PiagetDoutzen Kroes in the Sunny Side of Life’s campaign, wearing the new Possession watch and bracelet. The Possession open bracelet is made of lightweight and supple gold that easily slips on to one’s wrist.
Doutzen Kroes in the Sunny Side of Life’s campaign, wearing the new Possession watch and bracelet. The Possession open bracelet is made of lightweight and supple gold that easily slips on to one’s wrist.

“We wanted to have a watch that was very much aligned to the jewellery. Like one family,” says Nouri of the Possession watch that was launched earlier this year at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève (SIHH). “So we decided to relaunch and focus on our jewellery icon [collection] Possession, and we are enjoying very successful results with that.”

Aside from the marriage of a jewellery icon and a watch, Nouri also puts a lot of emphasis on the brand’s DNA that straddles between elegant and audacious. Piaget’s signature vibrant hard stones play an important role to convey the “very positive energy, a shared joy” that has driven the brand, while contributing to the campaign’s expression of the Sunny Side of Life. Here, Nouri talks more about the idea behind the said campaign and the challenges of the digital age.

How important is the Possession collection for Piaget?

It’s an icon. It is one of the first, rare concept jewellery that exists in the market. The turning ring concept is a strong powerful element of Piaget. It expresses our key value of shared joy, a very lighthearted way of living, enjoying life to the fullest. This is what the Sunny Side of Life is about.

The Sunny Side of Life has become an ongoing theme across a few categories of Piaget’s offerings, starting with a high jewellery collection presented about two years ago. Has this become the brand’s signature, perhaps in terms of the vibrant colours presented?

Definitely. The mission is to make sure we are close to Piaget’s DNA and bring that [in]to the future. That’s what made the brand what it has been for the past 140 years and what it will be in the next 500 years. I’m sure you heard of Altiplano — we’re known to have revolutionised the watchmaking industry with its ultra thin movement and a big dial. The latter allowed the artisan to have a bigger surface to play with. We set the dial with hard stones and diamonds, a pioneering move from Piaget. We looked through our archive and find those few colours we’ve constantly revisited. Now you can see that in the Possession’s Sunny Side of Life collection and it has become Piaget’s signature.

Your new direction is to move Piaget’swatches and jewellery hand in hand. I
 think it is obvious in the new Possession
 watch. Can you tell us more about that?

We wanted to have a watch that was very
much aligned with the jewellery. And I
think it is interesting to have that turning elements of Possession 
in the watch. We wanted to have a watch that has the same sensual feeling — very rounded, very feminine. We wanted to have a
 watch that can be worn everyday; during day and night, with the
 ability to easily change the mood of the watch with interchangeable bracelets. You can play with the rotating bezel and this is an 
element that women, that I, personally really like. Sometimes, it
 brings confidence to the wearer. You build a natural, playful, dynamic relationship with it. It plays a role that we didn’t have in
 our offerings. We have very exclusive and prestigious pieces with the Gala collection (another feminine watch collection from the house). Gala is a beautiful watch but it is more suitable for the evening. We needed to have another watch that was more feminine and easier to wear from day to day, so the Possession is the answer to that.

Tell us more about Piaget’s collaboration with Doutzen Kroes for the Sunny Side of Life’s campaign?

It’s important that we unveil and unleash the potential of Piaget with the new campaign, not only in pictures but everything around the brand is moving in the same direction, including the new boutique concept that we are launching. Throughout Piaget’s 140 years, the brand always sees the future in the positive way, and makes bold decisions, even during unstable times.

This encapsulates the pioneering and innovative spirit of Piaget, which we deliver in the new campaign featuring Doutzen Kroes. She’s very authentic. She’s solar and charismatic and this is exactly what we represent.

What is the current trend in the market of jewellery for females?

Jewellery is becoming more and more like an accessory, not just celebrating moments anymore. But still, it depends on the type of offerings. Some [designs] are easier to get and understand its timelessness; some are more ‘accessorisable’. Previously, buying [jewellery] was more for gifting. Today, we see that more and more women are buying for themselves.

What do you think of online shopping in the watch and jewellery industry?

That is also one of the trends that I feel is very interesting. I feel that, where you buy from also becomes an important element of the experience. It’s no longer just about what you buy and which brand you buy; it is also about where you buy it. If you buy it from a boutique, you get a different experience and sense than buying it from say, Net-a-Porter. Where we buy from is also becoming a part of our expression of what we buy and the reason why. We have a very powerful relationship with Net-a-Porter. We have been the first to really go there and it has been very much a great journey with a lot of success.

Do you see a place for traditional watches and jewellery in this modern, digital age?

I definitely believe so. It depends on what kind of watches. The phone, to me is a device. A watch is something else — it is a full experience. It is a timeless piece, a creation that takes its craftsmanship from the history of watchmaking. So, it is a different experience and you would probably acquire a Piaget watch for different reasons [other] than only looking at the time. That’s what you’re looking for so I don’t see a big overlap. They both have a reason to be. For Piaget, it is definitely something that we will continue to handle in the way that we have. In the digital age, honestly, it is completely integrated in our lives. We all go from the digital world to a non-digital world very easily. It becomes almost subconscious. You do not wake up one day and say okay, I’m going to live in the non-digital world. It doesn’t exist like that. For me, I have this discussion very often but my world is completely integrated. I don’t see a split in the world, it has been a fantastic revolution in a way.

Describe the next generation of women who will one day become your customers.

I think they don’t see digital as the “other world”. Of course, they were born into that — technologically savvy at the get go. I see the kids today, including my kids; they watch television and cannot believe that you cannot enter into the world in the television. I think the younger generation would not know anything different than this digitalised world, which then brings a lot of opportunities. In a way, I don’t feel the separation.