Piaget has created the world's thinnest watch
Like motor shows or gadget expos, watch fairs are industry events where new launches are announced, orders are placed with retailers and media get ‘hands on’ with product so they may sit in annual judgement on the hits and misses.
In any normal year there are thousands of new watches released. They tend to fall into distinct categories: usually additions to existing product lines or re-editions of previously existing product lines. Just occasionally there’s a watch so unusual it becomes the talking point of the fair. This happened in 2018 at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Switzerland. That watch was by Piaget, the Swiss brand best known for its Polo range of luxury sports watches. Everyone made the pilgrimage over to Piaget’s stand to check it out, although there wasn’t much chance of getting ‘hands on’ with the model in question.
The watch was presented on a rotating plinth behind glass, the better to study it. The Altiplano Ultimate Concept measured 2mm thick, about the same as a 50p piece. It was the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. It had taken six years to create – four to come up with ideas like incorporating the case into the movement, two more to engineer it. It was ridiculous – a complicated hand wound wristwatch you could lose between two sheets of paper. Except you couldn’t. Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Concept was just that – a concept. In answer to the question ‘When is this being released?’ the likely answer seemed to be ‘never’.
Except now it is. Piaget already has form with thin timepieces, having developed an ultra thin movement for its 3.6mm Altiplano 900P in 2014. Then it got locked into a tiny arms race with the Italian watchmaker Bulgari. In 2017 the latter company launched the Octo Finissimo Automatic (5.15mm thick). A year later, Piaget announced two world records, the thinnest automatic watch, the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P (3.65mm) and the thinnest mechanical watch, the aforementioned Altiplano Ultimate Concept (at 2mm). Months later Bulgari set two new records in a single watch: the world’s thinnest tourbillon watch and the world’s thinnest automatic watch. Its Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic was 3.95mm thick.
That might as well have been a diving watch compared to today's new launch.
To achieve this Piaget has had to engineer a number of breakthroughs. The 41mm case is made from a new, cobalt-based alloy that is 2.3 times stronger than gold (gold being too thick to use). The crown has been ‘reinvented’ and takes the form of a flat, telescopic system that comes with its own winding tool. Almost everything else has been reengineered and resized, including barrel, springs, wheels and glass. The hour hand has been replaced with revolving indicator disk, a watch’s traditional winding system being too bulky.
It’s amazing. But it does beg the question: do you want a really, really thin watch? Thin watches are certainly associated with luxury – there’s something decadent about a svelte, barely perceptible case on your wrist, alongside the knowledge it houses a fully mechanical functioning watch. Piaget has also doubled down on the one-upmanship stakes. Buyers are able to specify the colour of the bridge and the dial, the finish of the hands and the main plate and select straps to match or contrast. Piaget says that gives you 10,000 permutations, meaning the chances of running into someone with the same Altiplano Ultimate Concept as you are, much like the watch itself, slim.
Altiplano Ultimate Concept will be available in June; £POA. piaget.com