The mo(ve)ment that lovers of ultra-thin timepieces have been waiting for.
Just two years ago, Piaget unveiled the prototype of an impressively sleek concept watch: the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch measuring a mere 2mm thin.
This April, the Swiss luxury watchmaker shows the world that it’s possible to make that complex and technically advanced watch commercially – and sturdy enough for daily wear. Yes, you can now own that dream watch we all saw on the pedestal.
A great horological tradition
When it comes to thin watches, Piaget has a wealth of experience. Since the creation of the hand-wound 2mm thin Calibre 9P in 1957, Piaget went on to create the world’s thinnest self-winding movement in 1960, followed by numerous other record-breaking timepieces, such as the skeleton and diamond-set skeleton watches – and of course, the Calibre 670P ultra-thin tourbillon in 2017.
In 2014 and 2018, Piaget released the record-breaking ultra-thin mechanical 900P and 910P, which measured 3.65mm and 4.3mm thin respectively. In creating the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, however, Piaget had to challenge everything the Maison already knew about miniaturisation. The constant drive to innovate and push boundaries in the development of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept has since led to the filing of five patents.
Mini but mighty
While Piaget’s 900P and 910P are made from gold, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is crafted from a novel material: an ultra-rigid and ultra robust high-tech cobalt-based alloy which is 2.3 times tougher than gold.
Other parts that were miniaturised include: the wheels, which went from 0.2mm thick to 0.12mm thin, and the sapphire crystal, which was reduced from 1mm thick to an amazing 0.2mm.
Key components that saw reinvention include: the mainspring barrel (the power source of the movement), crown, and even the dial.
The mainspring barrel has neither cover nor drum, but is instead mounted on a single, ceramic ball bearing within the watch frame. It powers the fully-wound movement for up to 40 hours.
The crown, traditionally cylindrical, is now a flat, rectangular-shaped telescopic system that comes with its unique winding tool. Recessed into the case band, its conventional sliding pinion clutch and crown wheel have been substitute for a single “infinite screw”.
With the calibre and watch exterior merged into one ultra-thin package, the dial also had to be reconceptualised: Positioned off-centre, the dial has a revolving indicator disc in place of the traditional hour hand. Its minute hand works the conventional way.
To achieve the goal of ultimate thinness, Piaget not only rethought the conventional design of a watch, but also produced significantly more small parts. Housed within the 2mm thin, 21.7g light Altiplano are 167 individual pieces – many microscopically tiny – that were put together with utmost precision, to the Maison’s exacting standards accuracy, reliability, and robustness.
Working with multiple minuscule and delicate parts was indeed a feat for the most skilful artisans of Piaget who decorate the movements by hand. Their handiwork include sunburst and satin-brushed finishes, chamfered and polished bridges, and PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) treatment of the case/baseplate. Completing the look is an ultra-thin alligator skin strap with an ultra-strong Kevlar core, a velvety calfskin lining, and ultra-thin cobalt pin buckle.
Perhaps the best news for collectors is the fact that the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is also extensively customisable: Buyers may choose their preferred colours for the bridge and dial, customise the finish of the hands and the main plate, as well as select contrasting or matching straps. With the range of personalisable options available, up to 10,000 possible permutations of the timepiece can be created. Now, who wouldn’t desire the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept that is uniquely one’s own?
Collection images courtesy of Piaget. Additional images of Concept watch prototype and parts courtesy of author. Artwork by Curatedition, all rights reserved.