The thick (or tick) of the ultra-thin.
It was in 1957 when Piaget first introduced the world’s thinnest mechanical movement at that time – the Calibre 9P – in the Altiplano.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
With 1 key objective of continued innovation and miniaturisation of ultra-thin mechanical movements, Piaget presented the Altiplano Ultimate Concept mechanical watch measuring 2mm thin, developed by 3 engineers with their team of watchmakers, designers, case and movement constructors over 4 years, and filed 5 new patents. All that, launched officially alongside the stunning Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P , measuring a mere 4.3mm, last year.
We take a closer look at the Ultimate Concept watch over breakfast, with Marc Menant, project marketing leader of Watch Making.
…of the case, movement and bezel is the premise of the 2 layer, Ultimate Concept.
This 283 component Ultimate Concept mechanical hand-wound watch is the world’s thinnest. At just 2mm thick, the watch is the same size as the historical 1957 movement – Calibre 9P – to which it pays tribute to.
In keeping with the “2 in 1” distinction or otherwise known as the “ultimate fusion” concept – 2 layers (instead of the usual 4 layers in a classic watch) – of the Altiplano Ultimate collection, the case is to serve as both an exterior component and the movement baseplate.
Considering the thinness of the 2mm case, it is crucial that the choice of metal applied is strong and durable enough, and not buckle under tension or pressure. The team used a new cobalt-based high-tech alloy for its ultra-rigid, hard and robust properties, as they also redeveloped the elements of the calibre. In the same ‘thin’ vein, some wheels measure just 0.12mm thick (compared with 0.20mm on a traditional movement).
5 technological innovative patents:
- Ultra-thin barrel – the innovatively designed barrel has no cover and no drum. The barrel drum is machined into the case back, and the ball-bearing-mounted mainspring is directly integrated within the frame. Guided on the outside by the ball-bearing mechanism, it transmits its energy via the latter’s inner ring. The ratchet-wheel and core of the barrel arbour are all of a piece and close off the top of the barrel. Despite all these technical challenges, this timepiece packs in a cool 44-hour power reserve.
- Ultra-thin regulation – all the elements of the calibre and case have been developed to be extremely thin, while retaining the integrity of precision. The construction of this regulating organ is redesigned: the balance wheel bridge is eliminated and instead, the ball bearing and the balance wheel are integrated, and pinned up to the collet, in an inverted position.
- Ultra-think winding device – the traditional construction requires the clutch wheel (that slides along the winding system and, according to its position, controls the winding and hand-setting) and the crown wheel (that controls the winding), this concept watch only utilizes the infinite screw/wheel or also known as the “worm screw” that can drive a toothed wheel and pinion on the same plane as the rotation axis (instead of being superimposed).
- Flat crown – adapted to the watch thickness at 2mm, the profile of the flat crown provides for easier user manipulation compared to a tiny pin (crown). It also integrates seamlessly into the case, well protected.
- Glass fixing – the thickness of the watch crystal has also been reduced to just 0.2mm, from the 1 mm for a standard watch, while still meeting the modern criteria of 3 atmospheres shock and water resistance. There is no bezel and the controlled gluing process requires great technical expertise. (For technical repair purposes, within the crown region, it has a small air escape tunnel, for the watch maker to introduce air into the watch and cautiously remove the ultra-thin glass).
An ultra thin watch calls for a fittingly slim strap to finish. The answer is an ultra-thin 1.1 mm alligator leather strap with a Kevlar core and calfskin lining, to be secured with an ultra-thin pin buckle.
While I anticipate the novelties that Piaget will present following all the learnings the team acquired during the development of the Ultimate Concept watch, donning the world’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound timepiece, firsthand, is a momentus one; for the watch enthusiast, it is surely a “soul” fulfilling experience.
Images courtesy of Curatedition.