Meet the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which holds the current record of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at 2mm.
The race for ultra-thin watches has been picking up with the likes of the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate 910P (4.3mm), Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph (3.95mm) and Chopard L.U.C XPS (3.5mm) spearheading the category.
But Piaget outdid the rest, including itself, by an inconceivable margin when it introduced a new concept watch last year. Meet the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which holds the current record of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at 2mm thick.
Mind you, that measurement includes both the movement and the case, which makes the whole watch thinner than a Malaysian 50 cent coin. Though just a concept, we can testify after a look upclose and personal that the prototype is indeed functional and astounding at that.
Read on to discover how the Swiss luxury jeweller and watchmaker remarkably set new heights in ultra-thin watchmaking.
In order to conceive a watch that would equal the thickness (or thinness) of Piaget’s historical Calibre 9P – one of the world’s thinnest mechanical movements since 1957 – the R&D team had to reimagine the entire configuration of the watch.
Picking up from the Altiplano Ultimate design where the dial and movement is sandwiched by the bezel and glass on top and the case back and main plate at the bottom, they developed a new composition that merged the case (top and bottom layers) and movement (middle layer) into one.
The innovative two-in-one design allowed for unprecedented miniaturisation without compromising reliability and aesthetic appeal. Now with the new configuration in mind, the next challenge was to redesign the movement to seamlessly fit its counterpart.
For the regulating organ at the 9 o’clock position, this meant removing the balance-wheel bridges and shock absorbers to form an inseparable component consisting of the balance staff, the inner ring of the ball-bearing mechanism and the roller. The balance wheel and spring are pinned up to the collet and inverted so that the former appears above the latter, whilst an adjustable balance-spring stud ensures its precision and isochronism.
Meanwhile, the new barrel design at 6 o’clock keeps the ratchet-wheel and barrel arbor but loses a drum and cover, contributing to its thinness. The mainspring is directly integrated into the frame and guided by the ball-bearing mechanism to transmit energy via an inner ring. This technical construction serves to improve the autonomy of the movement, allowing the watch to offer a 44-hour power reserve.
The winding device at 3 o’clock has also been revisited to include a control stem with a pinion mounted on it as well as a selection lever fitted with an intermediate wheel. This novel design serves to establish a kinematic link between the pinion and the different gears (with respective functions). In lieu of a sliding pinion, a worm screw is used to drive a toothed wheel and pinion on the same plane as the rotation axis, thus making the device more compact.
Flat crown & crystal
Complementing the new control device is a flat-shaped “telescopic” crown, replacing the traditional round version that would cause a protrusion on this thin watch. It is recessed to the case and secured to the stem via a spring clip, hence protecting the movement from possible damage.
Even the watch crystal sealing the case is reduced to an absolute minimum of 0.2mm. Yet, it still meets the criteria of shock resistance and water resistance of up to 3 ATM. In line with the new watch configuration, the crystal is perfectly aligned with the bezel and cemented in place in a circular compartment housing the exact quantity of cement that guarantees a seamlessly hermetic seal.
Five patents have been filed for the technological advancements featured in the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, particularly in relation to the inverted movement that gives the watch its unique aesthetic appeal.
To enhance its visual desirability, the watch is attired in cobalt-based high-tech alloy that gives off a sophisticated, technical appearance. The wheels of the movement are glossed in alternate sunburst or circular satin-brushed finishing whereas the chamfered bridges feature cut-outs and satin-brushed finishing for a touch of finesse.
Completing the slim, elegant silhouette of the watch is 1.1mm alligator leather strap featuring a Kevlar core and velvet calfskin lining that is secured by an ultra-thin pin buckle.
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch may not be up for commercial offering, but it sure does open up a host of technological prospects for the Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Piaget in the field of ultra-thin timepieces.
And if it has materialised what was previously inconceivable, it also begs the question: what’s next?