Hubert Burda Media

Ring the Gong

Piaget welcomes GONG LI as its first global ambassador, one of China’s most well-known assets — except she’s Singaporean.

It was a double celebration for Piaget in June as it unveiled Couture Précieuse, its largest high jewellery collection yet, in Beijing. The Swiss luxury watch and jewellery maker also took this opportunity to introduce its latest muse and first official global ambassador Gong Li. She joins another two brand ambassadors, Grammy-nominated American singer, writer and musician Melody Gardot and Arab singer Yara, but is the only one who can represent Piaget across all collections and internationally (Gardot only endorses the Piaget Rose collection, while Yara is the brand’s ambassador only in the Middle East).
Gong’s stature in the movie industry is unmistakable. The 48-year-old Shandong native catapulted to fame in 1987 after her debut in the film Red Sorghum by director Zhang Yimou, who coincidentally also made his directorial debut. The tragic tale was well received by critics and won a string of awards, most notably the coveted Golden Bear at the 1988 Berlin International Film Festival. Since then, Gong has been nominated and accorded many international accolades: She won Best Actress at the 1992 Venice Film Festival for her role in The Story of Qiu Ju, became a recipient of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in June 1998, and in 2000 was invited by the Berlin Film Festival to be the president of its international jury at the festival’s 50th anniversary. She was the first Chinese celebrity to be featured in Time and remains the only Chinese actress that won individual awards in all three of the world’s most famous film festivals.
“Gong Li has always chosen roles that are ambitious and at this stage, we were looking for someone mature, beautiful and motivated. She has the right combination of elegance, timelessness and class, and it was important that we chose someone like her who espouses our brand values,” says Philippe Leopold-Metzger, CEO of Piaget. “The question was not ‘why her’; it was always ‘are we positioning the brand too Asian?’” he adds.
Metzger has been instrumental in Piaget’s growth in the Asia, previously managing Cartier Asia from 1996 to 1999. Piaget was historically more known for its expertise in gem-set watches so his first course of action to win over the Chinese was to legitimise the brand’s watch heritage — and that he did, by slowly introducing a strong collection of the world’s thinnest proprietary complications and movements. Let’s not forget that in the beginning, founder Édouard Piaget devoted himself to making high-precision movements for some of the most prestigious brands. Today, after 13 years of aggressive courtship, it is no surprise that China is Piaget’s most valued customer.
So the question remains: Is Piaget positioning the brand too Asian? “She (Gong) is an intelligent and beautiful woman. Whether or not she is Asian is secondary,” says Metzger.
Gong received Singapore citizenship in 2008 and was once married to Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Seong (the couple divorced some time in 2009). She has since been romantically linked to Hollywood actor John Cusack, her co-star in Mikael Håfström’s Shanghai, and is rumoured to have been pregnant with the baby of a mysterious French photographer. Gong was also supposedly involved with Hollywood heart throb Colin Farrell.
At the press conference held to announce this official partnership, Gong, dressed in Singaporean designer Andrew Gn’s creation, was gracious and affable, revealing that this was like a dream come true for her. As the official ambassador for the brand, Gong is committed to attend Piaget events, such as the Spirit Awards, and partake in publicity activities, such as press interviews, photo shoots and cover stories.
On this occasion, held at Beijing’s 798 Art Zone, she was there to lend her face, poise and confidence to the latest Couture Précieuse collection. While not exactly a brand new collection (it was first revealed at the Biennale des Antiquaires last year), it has since been refreshed to include new additions that made their official debut in Beijing. The collection is comprised of stylised sets of jewellery inspired by the world of haute couture and is decorated with diamonds, rubellites, and red and black spinels.