Apart from new dials or lightweight, hi-tech case materials, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most watches look like facelifts of past collections. To experts though, it’s a different story. And while some brands might not be as bold as others, the industry’s insatiable drive to innovate and improve means that, hidden in plain sight, these miniature machines are forever being fine-tuned for better performance and accuracy. What makes us truly excited about mechanical watchmaking though are the designers and engineers who abandon convention and break the rules.
The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept is the perfect expression of this. Produced entirely in-house by pushing the boundaries of horological micro-engineering, the master of thin watches since 1957 has created a piece that’s just 2mm thick, making it the world’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound wristwatch. To achieve this, it features an integrated case and movement design, an integrated winding crown, an ultra-thin crystal (0.2mm) and new construction for the barrel and energy regulation.
There has been a growing appetite for elegant, slim watches in recent years, with more manufactures returning them to their lineups. The manufacture and assembly of ultra-thin movements requires just as much skill as any high complication so it’s been game on for the “world’s thinnest” titles mainly between high-end brands like Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Bulgari and Piaget. The exception is Rado with its minimalist 4.9mm-thick True Thinline Automatic offering us a friendlier value proposition in this category.
When it comes to record-breaking, Piaget and Bulgari have produced most of the show-stoppers over the past five years — the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate 910P at 4.3mm thick (World’s Thinnest Automatic Wristwatch, 2017) and the 6.9mm Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic (World’s Thinnest Automatic Chronograph, 2019) references among the biggest stars. The elegant Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Jubilee at 4.05mm thick held the title of Thinnest Mechanical Watch In The World for 2013 until it was usurped in December that year by the 3.65mm Altiplano 900P with its integrated case and movement on full view. The Altiplano 900P passed that baton to the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept in 2018 at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, where it was first revealed as an experimental piece.
The mainspring barrel, the source of power, is mounted on a single, ceramic ball-bearing within the frame of the watch and, when fully wound, the movement can run for up to 40 hours. The dial is set off-centre with its hour hand replaced by a revolving indicator disc to reduce height. Inside its 41mm cobalt-based alloy case, the Manufacture Piaget 900P-UC contains 167 individual microscopic parts, some of which are embellished to the highest Piaget standards. Because Piaget understands that creating unique features is key to a luxury watch, buyers also have around 10,000 permutations in the bridge and dial colours, the finish of the hands and the main plate, and the selection of straps.
• POR, visit Piaget's website or RLG Africa 011-317-2600
• From the June issue of Wanted 2020.