Time ticks like never before in the ethereal body of the new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Introducing the new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, the ultra, ultra-thin watch that can best be summarised as disruptive art.
Emily Dickinson once said: “Hope is the thing with feathers; That perches in the soul; And sings the tune without the words; And never stops at all.”
With its feather like appearance, the new Piaget release offers a hope which seemed impossible just some years ago that a watch could be this thin. The new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept sings the tune of future to come, with the irrevocable gesture of time ticking in an ethereal body.
Dethroning the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Squelette as the thinnest mechanical watch on the market, we have here the new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept.
The new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept is only an astonishing 2mm thick; that’s just 5-6 sheets of A4 paper, or a single 1 Euro coin, or two credit cards stacked together!
Mine’s Thinner Than Yours
In an industry who’s lovers often cater to the belief of ‘mine’s-bigger-than-yours’ syndrome, it seems almost ironical that we are reviewing a watch that’s the complete opposite.
To show how impressive this feat by Piaget is though, allow me to put the watch’s thickness in some context.
In terms of the watch as a whole, so movement and case together, the above mentioned Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Squelette sits at 3.60mm. Piaget’s own Altiplano 900P — launched in 2014 and was the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at that time — comes at 3.65mm. Vacheron Constantin’s Historiques Ultra-Fine 1955 comes next, clocking in at an impossibly-thin 4.13mm. The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic measures at 4.3mm thick and was the world’s thinnest gold watch. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique, the previous world record holder for the thinnest automatic watch movement, overall measures at 5.15mm. Or look at the still sleek and impressive, the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Plat Automatique 5367. It is encased in a 7.45mm thick body.
That’s still 5.45mm thicker than the new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept.
Now let’s look at the movements side, in particular the automatic, self-winding calibres.
Take the aforementioned Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra-Thin Automatique. This BVL138 Finissimo caliber decorated by hand with côtes de Genève, chamfering and perlage finishing, offers a 60 hour power reserve. Its self-winding movement is just 2.23mm thick, and it beat the previous record of 2.45mm, held by Vacheron Constantin’s caliber 1120. This VC movement, also known as AP 2120/JLC 920, is a full-rotor automatic movement, sitting at 2.45mm. An interesting side note on the latter, it is the only known movement in my knowledge that has been exclusively used solely by the three ‘holy grail’ watch Maisons, so Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. Even though it was developed by Jaeger-LeCoultre, it was never used by the brand itself.
While we are looking into the historical sides of things, and have established that the Bulgari offering had the thinnest automatic movement, it is but imperative to briefly mention the Frederic Piguet 21 and AP/JLC calibre 2003 movements that are noted for the manual-winding side.
When launched in 1925, the F. Piguet movement was only 1.75mm and continued to be for about two decades. Featuring an initial frequency of 3Hz and 42-hour power reserve, it was then overtaken by the AP/JLC calibre 2003. The F. Piguet movement was 1.75 mm and this Cal. 2003 was 1.64mm. It was again manual winding movement and ran at the same frequency.
Just to really drive home the point here, the thinnest movement here is 1.64mm thick, and the thinnest watch overall is 3.60mm. The new Piaget watch including the movement and case is only 2mm thick. You see how mind baffling and impressive that is!
Coming Full Circle
Talking about movements, Piaget has a tradition of being the front-runner when it comes to thin movements and watches. The hand-wound Calibre 9P that was released in 1957 featured a thickness of 2mm. Coincidentally, now that is the thickness of the entire watch including the movement.
After teasing the Altiplano Ultimate Concept as a micro-engineering concept at the 2018 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the Maison is now introducing at Watches & Wonders 2020 the commercial version of this concept.
The new watch is a result of Piaget’s quest to create the thinnest complex and technically advanced watch that could not only be commercially produced but was also a practical proposition for daily use.
The brand’s fusion concept has been reinterpreting the traditional four-layers construction of watches — bezel and crystal, dial, hands and movement encapsulated in a case and case back — by removing the movement mainplate and making use of the the case back as part of the case and the movement mainplate, directly carved from one single block of gold. This was the case with the Altiplano 900P and the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic.
The Fusion Concept
Taking this fusion concept further is the feather like 2mm diameter of the new Altiplano Ultimate Concept that has been achieved by incorporating a part of the movement in the case itself, and using an integrated winding crown, an ultra-thin crystal and new constructions for the barrel and energy regulation. Unlike the use of gold in the 4.3mm thick Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, the new Altiplano Ultimate Concept case is made from a new, cobalt-based alloy that is highly resistant and 2.3 times stronger than gold.
Six years in the making and five patents later, and developed and produced entirely in-house, this engineering and horological powerhouse also boasts of an impressive 40-hour power reserve.
The Technical Specifications
The reference G0A45502 Altiplano Ultimate Concept Blue features a manual-winding mechanical movement, calibre 900P-UC. The movement comprises of 13 jewels and 167 individual parts, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), and is encased inside a 41mm diameter and 2mm thick polished cobalt-based alloy case. The movement has been embellished with sunburst and satin-brushed finishes, chamfered and polished bridges. The black PVD coating treatment also enhances the appearance of the combined case/baseplate.
The watch offers an impressive (for an ultra-thin movement) 40-hour power — the mainspring barrel has no cover or drum but is mounted on a single, ceramic ball-bearing within the frame of the watch to enable the fully-wound movement to run — reserve and a 30m (3 ATM) water-resistance.
Driving back to the fusion concept we talked about earlier, this movement makes use of entirely re-engineered and re-sized parts. The wheels have been reduced from the conventional thickness of 0.20mm to 0.12mm, and the sapphire crystal from the standard thickness of 1mm to only 0.2mm.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
I don’t like using this over employed word but heck it makes sense here, disruptive. Simply put, the watch is unbelievable. In the world of horology and as a feat of engineering, it’s simply disruptive.
From the 2.3mm Calibre 12P of 1960s to the creation of the diamond-set skeleton watches and the 2017 Calibre 670P ultra-thin flying tourbillon watch, the Maison since 1874 has established itself as a leading movement manufacture and horological powerhouse.
Of-course the sleek case is the real star here but we shouldn’t forget the dial. The watch face shows the functions of hour and minutes at 12’o clock on a silver sun-ray effect brushed plate that in the blue model stands out in contrast to the different shades of grey used. The dial overall is slightly off-centered, and 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.
The degree of thinness of this watch also means that even the method of indicating the time had to be re-thought. Instead of having a dial and two hands placed on top of a bridge, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept features a dial that lies beneath it, thus providing protection from any contact with the strong but wafer-thin crystal should it be momentarily deformed in an impact. This innovative technical feature is a patent registered by Piaget back in 2014 (for the launch of 900P caliber).
Moving beyond the dial, the crown has been re-invented as well to take the form of a flat, telescopic system (with its own, specially-designed winding tool) that fits flush with the case band.
To maintain the sleek look, these watches have been fitted with a special alligator skin strap. Ultra-thin, these blue baltimor technical textile straps feature a velvet calfskin lining and ultra-strong Kevlar, all secured by an ultra-thin cobalt pin buckle.
Besides these achievements, there is another aspect of this new offering that has got us curious and interested; the customisation. Piaget is offering its clientele the opportunity to customise these timepieces into personal, bespoke treasures. This falls in line with the Maison’s tradition of providing customisation of its timepieces. More than 50 years ago Piaget introduced its innovative ‘Style Selector’ at its New York boutique in order to offer customers the opportunity to choose the shape of their watch case, the type of dial and bracelet and the extent of the gem setting.
Bringing this concept to the modern day and to your wrist is Piaget’s new offering: buyers can choose to specify the colour of the bridge and dial, the finish of the hands and the main plate and select straps that match or contrast. According to the Maison this gives buyers a range of over 10,000 permutations and combinations to choose from. The new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept retails for 410,000 CHF already, so the chances of you seeing one in the wild are rare. But add the customisation feature to the mix and you can truly have a one-of-a-kind, and record breaking timepiece at your disposal. If you have the finances, these bad boys speak and sell for themselves.
I know we have talked about the engineering side of it and horological feats of it, but if I was to summarise this watch, I would simply call it art. In all fairness when you look and hold a watch this thin in your hands, the tangible and intangible sort of merge into one another.
The new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept truly presents disruptive art wrapped in an ethereal body. To find out more about this and other Piaget watches, please head to their website here.