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The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

Now here’s an arms race we can get behind. Fresh off the heels of reclaiming the throne as manufacturer of the world’s thinnest automatic watch just a few short weeks ago, Piaget is stamping its authority on all things ultra and thin, with the introduction of the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which measures a gobsmacking two millimeters thick. And just so we’re clear, that’s not the movement we’re talking about – that’s an entire mechanical watch no thicker than a nickel (well technically, it’s barely an iota thicker – 50 microns, or about 0.05mm, to be exact). Anyone say “shots fired” yet?

In this particularly competitive corner of haute horology where records are claimed in tenths of a millimeter and tolerances are measured in hundredths of a millimeter, every time a new ultra-thin record falls, it’s generally a pretty big deal, despite there really being only a few key watchmakers at this table. One of those of course, is Piaget, who has largely spent the last 60 years pushing the boundaries of the ultra-thin leaderboard itself. And after four years, five patents, and probably more than a few gray hairs, the Piaget engineering team has broken its own record, shaving a full 1.65mm off the Ultimate Concept’s hand-wound predecessor, 2014’s record-setting Altiplano 900P (here’s when we went hands-on with it).

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

Of course, the 900P movement was a big deal when it was introduced four years ago, as was the more recent 910P whose 4.3mm profile dethroned Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique as the world’s slimmest automatic watch. But two millimeters? This is the kind of wizardry that further insulates Piaget from competition, cementing the maison as king of this weirdly awesome castle. It’s also a sly nod to Piaget’s groundbreaking ultra-thin 9P hand-wound movement from 1957, which was also a record-setting two millimeters thick. But again, that was just for the movement, and the measurements we’re talking about for the Ultimate Concept are for the watch thickness in its entirety – case and crystal.

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

To get there, the Piaget engineers employed a series of unconventional design choices, starting with the Ultimate Concept’s 41mm case, which also functions as the foundation for the movement itself. This means the caseback of the watch is in fact, the movement’s own baseplate – PVD-coated to maximize contrast in a visually pleasing sort of way. By doing this, the entire gear train can lay on the same razor-thin plane, to further save height. There are also three other major departures from traditional watch design, which are key to the Ultimate Concept’s record-breaking silhouette, starting with the regulating organ which has been radically re-designed to remove the balance wheel bridge. You’ll also notice the mainspring barrel at 6:00 has been stripped of its cover and drum, and the watch’s crown stem has been re-imagined as a more compact pinion system driven by a worm screw, which is able to wind and control the watch’s functions on the same plane as their rotation axis, rather than being stacked or superimposed in a traditional gear train. Impressively enough though, the Ultimate Concept is still very much a wearable, markedly capable watch – water resistant to 30m (typical for pretty much any dress watch), and carrying a 4Hz oscillation rate and a power reserve of 44 hours when fully wound.

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

One of the dangers of ultra-thin watchmaking, is that the cases themselves actually run the risk of buckling if subjected to even minute stress or impact – thus severely damaging the movement. To mitigate this risk and to further shave tenths of a millimeter from the final thickness, the Ultimate Concept skips the traditional precious metals employed by its predecessors and is instead built with an innovative new cobalt-based alloy, specifically developed for its extreme rigidity. And since any damage to the movement would irreparably damage the case (and vice versa, since they are essentially one and the same), Piaget engineers took further steps to also protect the winding mechanism, by designing a new type of rectangular telescoping crown which sits fully flush to the caseband, where it is secured to the winding stem via a special spring-loaded clip.

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Is Now The Thinnest Mechanical Hand-Wound Watch In The World Watch Releases

And befitting of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch, the Ultimate Concept is fitted with a special 1.1mm thick alligator leather strap, reinforced with a Kevlar core and finished with a comparably svelte pin buckle. Currently as a concept watch, it is not available for sale. We’ll be sure to update you with live photos and wrist impressions from SIHH, so be sure to stay tuned. Your move, Bulgari. piaget.com

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  • MeaCulpa

    This is really impressive even if the end result is a very small and somewhat unattractive dial.

  • ProJ

    Impressive! On the other hand, Panerai is presenting new models with an updated Logo color. ?

    • Polerouter

      To be fair, last year Panerai presented some nice developments with their oil-free watch.

      • ProJ

        Yes, that one with the 50 year maintenance free. I guess time will tell if they are up to that claim.

        • IG

          It will take 50 years to know the truth! Clever from Panerai.

          • IanE

            “It will take 50 years to know the truth! Clever from Panerai.”

            Not if they are wrong!

  • Rob D

    I love how this messes with your depth perception when it’s at an angle, makes it look almost like the parts have been drawn on. Incredibly impressive, I’d love to see them use something like vantablack on parts of the dial to make the effect even more bizarre.
    Fantastic work, and as others have said, big news from other manufacturers are a new colour being released, I can definitely see what H Moser were getting at with the icons watch.

  • David Rolls

    Impressive piece of engineering, tick. Dreadfully boring dial with minimal decoration, tick.

    • Gadgety

      They could add some color to the main dial to set it off more.

  • JosephWelke

    Technically impressive, and quite illegible.

  • Reprobus Marmaritarum

    It’s an incredible achievement. I would worry that the crystal would crack if you so much as looked at it, seems barely as thick as a microscope cover slip.

  • IG

    Congratulations to Monsieur Piaget.

  • Ulysses31

    It’s an impressive achievement, but in a contest no one else can be bothered to enter because, like an impossibly thin smartphone, such a goal isn’t a top priority for anyone. How many times have you complained that a watch was too thick and there were no thinner alternatives available? Perhaps a chrono watch with a module might be a bit fat but I think mechanical watch lovers are more forgiving of a watch with some thickness. All we have here is a technical curiosity that looks painfully fragile and so thin it is comical.

    • DanW94

      Exactly, well put.

    • Kuroji

      Certainly IWC isn’t going to join in, amirite?

    • egznyc

      This is definitely not my kind of thing, either – I like a little thickness – but as you say it’s technically impressive. I find the mechanism (movement) mesmerizing in its own way.

  • BNABOD

    What attracted me to analog watches was the certain heft they possess and while I don’t like pancake size watches this just looks so wrong on so many levels I just don’t see the point of it. Ok it is thin, super thin, microtome thin but grandpa just called and he wants his watch back stat. Clearly I don’t get it but to each his own. Good news is legibility is also microscopic

    • ProJ

      The point is not practicality at all, it is rather about reclaiming the record in something they’ve been superior at. They wanna keep on top… they want to beat all in that specific feature: thinness. That’s it.

      • BNABOD

        Yeah ok then

  • IanE

    Edward VIII’s lady-friend once said that you can never be too rich or too thin: for me, this watch proves her wrong, at least in the latter part of her witticism!

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I find it insists upon itself.

  • frauss

    The next level will be a mechanical watch printed on cellophane a few microns thick that works on the static electricity from rubbing against your wrist hairs.

  • SuperStrapper

    These ultra thin watches look like literal shit on the wrist. It’s the other end of the spectrum that the charmex 20k thing lives on.

    • Kuroji

      Yeah, a friend of mine with big hairy wrists bought a metal Swatch Skin back in the day. It looked shockingly bad on him.

      • Gokart Mozart

        Tell him to shave his wrist.

        • Kuroji

          Full body wax is the only solution. Also dramatic weight loss.

  • Gadgety

    I just love the fact that they are doing this, stretching what’s possible. Amazing stuff. Even more so if it’s sturdy to protect the movement.

  • Debashish

    There are some people that do not like thin watches, but I do not belong to that aforementioned group, as I genuinely love thin watches. I think thin watches are incomparable as dress watches. Especially, majority of the watches created by Piaget are simply awesome! If Piaget starts to market this fabulous timepiece, then I would certainly go out of my way to acquire it.

    • Paul Noronha

      I agree — thin watches are not for everybody. A “thin watch” is a style and not everyone will love every style. Just like not everyone loves an Omega Speedy. There’s not wrong with having a preference or a favored style. That being said, I love the new Piaget — if not for its beauty, but also for its mechanics. Unfortunately, I have a Bvlgari Finissimo which USED to be the thinnest automatic watch in production until the new Piaget came along! My favorite Piaget (within my budget) remains the Polo S (blue dial).

  • PollyO

    Well done. You’ve just engineered the thinnest waste of time in human history. Have yourselves a drink.

  • Marius

    To be honest, I’m not terribly impressed by this watch, and this is why.

    Firstly, it’s important to point out that this is merely a prototype/project watch that cannot be actually worn as a normal watch. In fact, Hodinkee explained that Piaget won’t even allow watch bloggers try the watch on, let alone wear it. Sure, from a theoretical perspective this watch is very interesting, but if its thinness makes it so fragile that it can’t be worn in everyday conditions, then this “timepiece” is essentially useless. Not to mention that I have always found sub – 5mm watches unattractively-thin.

    Secondly, I don’t think that it’s really fair to compare Piaget with other bands specializing in ultra thin watches, such as Bulgari, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and co. The main reason for that is Piaget`s technical approach. Piaget uses an integrated system, meaning that the dial, movement, and back plate of the watch are basically one. On the other hand, brands like JLC — the Ultra Thin 1907 using the 849 caliber is a good instance — use a traditional approach, which means that the dial, case, and movement are separate components. For instance, in the case of a JLC, you can simply change the dial should the need arise, whereas in the case of Piaget, you would need to take the entire movement (i.e. watch) apart. So, it’s not entirely correct to directly compare these watches.

    Lastly, as Jack Forster recently explained in an article dedicated to ultra-thin calibers, servicing such a movement would be an extremely difficult task. For instance, in the case of ultra thin Lassale 1200, servicing it was virtually impossible, so a “service” actually meant replacing the entire movement with a new one. Not to mention that such ultra thin calibers are notoriously unreliable and fragile — even the excellent Audemars Piguet 2120 (which is considerably thicker) can occasionally suffer from such problems.

    • Kuroji

      [Sad trombone sound]

      • Paul Noronha

        lol! love your sound effects!

  • Tea Hound

    No date, no purchase.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      2mm and you want a date!

      • Marius

        Size doesn’t matter when you’re driving an Aston Martin Vanquish.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          Must get my licence soon.

        • Kuroji

          Ideally you should be able to get it in, otherwise what’s the point. 2mm is not going to do the job.

          • Paul Noronha

            Get it in? It’s a watch, not a sausage.

          • Kuroji

            Pretty sure he was talking about his microphallus.

        • Gokart Mozart

          Just as well as the AM is fat and overweight, unlike the Paget.

      • Tea Hound

        I want a moon phase too. And I want it now.

    • Marius

      “No purchase (of Hermes Birkin bag), no date” is what my Thai ladyboy always tells me.

  • Jean

    Man if you don’t like this watch and check this one https://goo.gl/sR57C4

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Go away.

    • Ranchracer

      Loser.

  • BJ314

    Masterpiece. If you can’t appreciate this prototype, you’re just pretending to be a “watch guy”.

  • Kuroji

    Likey.

  • Ross Diljohn

    Thin watches are not for me but damn that is some fine engineering. Very very impressive. Can’t imagine how it gets serviced or repaired in any way though. Still as far as concept watches go….Wow.

  • Ranchracer

    Crazy. Insane. Amazing!

  • Sheez Gagoo

    This is deeply impressing. Of course, it’s unwearable and I doubt that it will work very long but as a concept watch it works very well. Piaget was never my favourite brand, but I found them deeply underrated and mostly better than Cartier (l love their drive collection) but the brand gathered some dust.

  • benjameshodges

    Incredible self-set challenge that inspired creative thinking.

  • Lindsay

    An article about the thinnest mechanical watch ever that doesn’t state its thickness.

    • Paul Noronha

      It’s 2mm thick. The article states this in the first paragraph: “Piaget is stamping its authority on all things ultra and thin, with the introduction of the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which measures a gobsmacking two millimeters thick.”

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