Piaget stole the show at the 2018 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie with the unveiling of the remarkable Altiplano Ultimate Concept – the thinnest mechanical watch in the world.
Measuring a gossamer 2mm, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept served as a stage for numerous Piaget innovations, including a case that formed part of the movement, a unique, integrated winding crown, an ultra-thin crystal and, more importantly, new constructions for the barrel and energy regulation.
Thanks to this evolution, the power reserve of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept extended to more than 40 hours, a benchmark in the canon of ultra-thin watches…
But what people wanted to know was whether or not such a complex and technically advanced watch could ever be produced commercially and, if so, would it be a practical proposition for daily use?
Piaget – the King of Ultra-thin
In 2020, Piaget is proud to announce that the answers to those two questions are ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ – because the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is no longer just an ambitious experiment in pushing the boundaries of horological micro-engineering, but a fully developed, tried and tested watch that is now available for watch lovers and collectors to buy, own and use.
To reach the goal of creating a watch just 2mm thick – a remarkable feat which established a new world record – the team had to abandon conventional thinking.
Bear in mind, this watch is only as thick as a 1 Euro coin, thinner than most after dinner mints and the same height as just two credit cards stacked together !
Classical design dictates a standard four-layers construction: bezel and crystal; dial, hands and movement encapsulated in a case and case back.
Piaget, the master of thin watches since 1957, had already used the fusion concept in its 900P in 2014 (3.65mm) – the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at that time.
With such specific engineering, the traditional movement mainplate disappeared, the case back being used both as part of the case and the movement mainplate, directly carved from one single block of gold. In 2018, Piaget pushed the concept even further by launching the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic which, at just 4.3mm thick, became the world’s thinnest gold watch.
With the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, the only option was to go one step further. Piaget embarked on a journey of unprecedented miniaturisation that resulted in the filing of no fewer than five patents, the process beginning with the creation of a case for the watch into which the movement baseplate is directly machined.
Too thin to use gold, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept case had to be made from a new, cobalt- based alloy that is highly resistant, 2.3 times stronger than gold and, therefore, much more difficult to machine.
Other parts were entirely re-engineered and re-sized, with wheels, for example, being reduced from a conventional 0.20mm thick to 0.12mm and the sapphire crystal, normally 1mm thick in a standard watch, being pared-down by 80 per cent to a scarcely believable 0.2mm.
The mainspring barrel (the source of power that drives the mechanism) is also of an entirely new design that has no cover or drum but is mounted on a single, ceramic ball-bearing within the frame of the watch and enables the fully-wound movement to run for up to 40 hours.
The crown, meanwhile, has been re-invented to take the form of a flat, telescopic system (with its own, specially-designed winding tool) that fits flush with the case band and in which the conventional sliding pinion clutch and crown wheel are substituted for a single, ‘infinite screw’.
Such a construction offers the great advantage of perfectly protecting the crown, and therefore the movement, from unwanted shock.
The dial’s off-centre position, meanwhile, meant that a conventional, straight winding stem could not be used – a problem Piaget solved by creating a patented ‘staggered’ stem.
In order for the system to function perfectly, the conventional hour hand is replaced with a revolving indicator disc while the minute hand works in the usual way.
So incredibly thin is the Altiplano Ultimate Concept that a mere 0.12 mm of cobalt separates the movement from the wearer’s skin – close your eyes, and you will struggle to believe you are actually wearing it.
Although the Altiplano Ultimate Concept measures a mere 2mm thick, it contains a remarkable 167 individual parts, many of which have had to be produced to microscopically small dimensions in order for the goal of ultimate thinness to be met.
Price Altiplano Ultimate Concept: 417.000 Euro including 19 % VAT.