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The Definitive Watch of the ’80s Is Back
The Piaget Polo’s return confirms the retro glam trend is real.
Over the past year, there’s been a shift in the world of high-end watches. 2023 finally saw the years-long blazing-hot market begin to dwindle for stainless steel luxury sports watches like the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, leaving some space at the top of the food chain for those of affluent means to set the next trend. And as the year progressed, it appeared that glitzy, glamtastic gold watches from the 1970s and ’80s would fill that void.
The resurrected trend arguably began the previous year, when Vacheron Constantin brought back its compact, all-gold 222 — the predecessor to the more modern Overseas sports watch. The watch received a lot of acclaim among vintage watch nerds, but its mainstream appeal was less certain. That is, until Brad Pitt was spotted wearing one (okay, two) last year. Following those sightings, the 222 became hotter than ever, and other brands have followed up on the trend.
I saw the trend first hand just last week at LVMH Watch Week in Miami. There, Bulgari unveiled its reborn Bulgari Bulgari — a brash and boldly-branded ’70s icon in gold that looks very of its time and which has already had its 2024 pop culture moment courtesy of current Hollywood “It boy” Jeremy Allen White, who wore one to the Critics Choice Awards. Even Zenith, a brand known more for innovative chronograph movements in sports watches than bling and glamour, unveiled an all-rose-gold, gem-set version of its bestselling Chronomaster Sport (which looks awesome, btw).
The Bulgari Bulgari, a ’70s icon reborn for 2024, exemplifies the neo-glam trend. Photo by Johnny Brayson
Make way for Piaget
But the biggest sign yet that the glitzy and glamourous watches of the late 1970s and ’80s are back in vogue comes to us courtesy of Piaget, which last night revealed the rebirth of the original Polo. We had already seen the Polo name reborn in recent years as a steel integrated sports watch in the Genta style to compete with the Royal Oaks and Nautili of the world, but the new version — appropriately dubbed the Polo 79 — is almost indistinguishable from its very ’80s-looking predecessor.
The original Piaget Polo was marketed as the world’s most expensive watch when it debuted in 1979, making it a perfect fit for the “Greed is good” decade that would follow. It also naturally found its way onto the wrists of some of the most glamours celebrities of the era, including Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Roger Moore, Ursula Andress and Miles Davis.
The striations in the Polo 79’s solid gold dial allow for the placement of even more gold in the form of polished gadroons.Piaget
The new watch is fully 18-carat yellow gold. Not only its case and integrated bracelet, but also its dial, hands and indices. It couldn’t be anymore gold. But there’s more to its distinctive look than its precious metal construction. Another defining symbol of the Polo that’s made its way back are its trademark “gadroons,” those polished cylinders that fit in between the satin-brushed gaps in the bracelet, case and dial, giving the watch its distinct, cohesive look.
But the Piaget Polo 79 is not a 1:1 recreation of the 45-year-old original. Its case has been upsized from the original 34mm to a still compact 38mm to better align with modern trends. Speaking of modern trends, the then-novel quartz movement of the original has naturally been swapped out for the in-house Piaget 1200P1 ultrathin automatic movement, with its ornate decoration and gold micro-rotor visible through a sapphire caseback.
The quartz movement of the original Polo has understandably been replaced with an ultrathin automatic.Piaget
The cost of reliving your ’80s glam dreams? $73K
Although the Piaget Polo 79 is not being marketed as the world’s most expensive watch — it’s not even close — it still won’t come cheap. The piece retails for $73,000, a massive chunk of change to be sure, but relatively affordable in the wild world of luxury watches. Of course, if the watch ends up being as hot as the original — which seems very likely at this point — then that five-figure price tag may seem like a bargain once the Polo hits the secondary market.
Piaget Polo 79
Piaget 1200P1 automatic
Perfectly aptures the ’80s glam trend of the moment
Excellent in-house ultrathin automatic movement
It’s going to be hard to get a hold of
Is there such a thing as too much gold?