Aurélie Picaud has transformed Fabergé’s watchmaking department in just four years and this year she has been named the Eve’s Watch Awards in association with Urb-it’s Woman of the Year. We meet this modern-day power house
For a while the world of watches was by and large a boy’s club. There were a few women, but mostly this was an environment run by men and for men.
Things are slowly changing but there is still a predominance of testosterone. Just take a look at the winners’ photo from last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), all men bar two women. One is Delphine Favier, managing director of Montblanc Suisse, and the other is Fabergé’s recently hired timepieces director and this year’s Eve’s Watch Awards in association with Urb-it’s Woman of the Year Aurélie Picaud.
“It all started because I was approached by a recruiter in London,” says Picaud with a smile. “I wasn’t looking for a new challenge because I was very happy at Audemars Piguet [where she was product manager], but after meeting CEO Sean Gilbertson, I got really excited about the possibility of working at Fabergé.”
When Picaud was finally installed at Fabergé HQ as its new timepieces director, she was told she had just 18 months to create enough of a collection to make an impact at Baselworld 2015. Picaud responded by doing what Fabergé have done for centuries – finding the best people to realise her separate visions.
The first person to receive the full force of Picaud’s charm offensive was Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, the brains behind Agenhor and some of the most incredible and romantic complications around.
“When I finally did get to meet him, for the first 45 minutes, it felt like a job interview,” she says. “I think things changed when I explained that I didn’t want a module, I wanted a fully integrated movement that truly express Fabergé’s DNA. That got him thinking.”
Fabergé Lady Compliquée (L-R Peacock Black Sapphire and Winter Time)
The resulting mechanism, which was used in both the Lady Compliquée Peacock and Winter Time featured a retrograde minute counter in the form of the peacock’s wings or a decorated fan. The peacock tail or the fan unfurls as the hour passes, only to retract when the final feather, or outside edge of the fan, reaches 60. This would have been impressive on its own but this was just one of four projects that Picaud chose to launch simultaneously.
The Fabergé Flirt, made using a movement supplied by Vaucher, the manufacturing arm of Parmigiani Fleurier, is about as close as these four projects got to simple. The other, the Visionnaire I, was a new take on the flying tourbillon as realised by Giulo Papi of the legendary Renaud et Papi.
Fabergé Flirt 36mm 18 Karat (L-R Rose Gold Blue Dial, White Gold Orange Dial and White Gold Yellow Dial)
This new Fabergé certainly impressed the industry. At the GPHG 2015, the Lady Compliquee Peacock took home the Ladies High-Mech Prize, and Picaud was back again a year later to pick up a trophy for the Visionnaire DTZ – a second-time zone watch that features a jumping hour at the centre that can only be seen by the wearer when the watch is at certain angles.
In the four years she’s been timepieces director, Picaud has continued the tradition of working with the best in the business – recently bringing Fiona Krüger and Anita Porchet together to work on a new version of the Lady Libertine – something which has ensured the quality and creativity of every launch that comes out of Fabergé’s doors.
And with women like her leading the charge, we can imagine it will only be a matter of time before that GPHG winners’ photo features a few fewer penguin suits than it does now.