When I first moved to the United States two years ago, one of the things that shocked me was how big everything was. The cars, the buildings, the sky were so enormous that they were beyond belief. Signs next to highways advertised the world’s largest ball of twine or the largest man-made body of toxic water, but across the pond, things are a bit different. Speaking on behalf of all of Europe, I feel that the continent likes to revere the smallest or thinnest objects and when it comes to thin watches, there is one watchmaker above all, Piaget.
For 60 years, Piaget has been making some of the thinnest mechanical movements in watchmaking. In 1957, the Caliber 9P became the world’s thinnest manual winding movement at just 2mm, and in 1960, the Caliber 12P became the thinnest self-winding movement at only 2.3mm. Though other watchmakers would compete in the realm of the ultra-thin, Piaget has remained the final word and in 2011 released the Altiplano, which at 5.25mm was the thinnest self-winding watch ever made at the time. Two years later, the Altiplano 38mm 900P became the thinnest automatic watch at only 3.65mm.
Unfortunately, records are made to be broken and soon both of these watches were beaten, albeit by a slim margin. Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra-Thin Squelette beat the 900P by just 0.5mm and Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Automatic beat the self-winding Altiplano by 0.10mm. Yet Piaget continued to develop ways to skim every possible macro-meter from their movements, and with the recently announced Altiplano Ultimate 910P have reclaimed one of their records. At a dizzingly thin height of only 4.3mm, the Ultimate 910P is the thinnest self-winding watch in the world, beating the nearest watch by a staggering 0.85mm (Okay, in the world of ultra-thin watches, 0.85mm is staggering).
Making an ultra-thin movement is more challenging than you might first think; the watchmaker has to design a movement that uses practically no vertical space, then craft components thin enough to reduce height but resilient enough to not break, and then they have to make sure the time-keeping of the watch is of measurable quality to standard thickness watches.
Some ultra-thin movements like to use a micro-rotor, as a full rotor would needlessly increase the height, but when you’ve reached the point of shaving off 1/10ths of a millimeter, even micro-rotors are just too big. What Piaget did with the Ultimate 910P was to use a peripheral rotor that circles the movement on the same plane, thus reducing height even more. To further slim down, Piaget made the base plate of the movement the case back of the watch, and by raising the bridges and sinking the dial were able to make the movement measuring just 3.65mm. With 238 components and a power reserve of 50 hours, it is mind-boggling that anyone can manufacture pieces this small yet still create a working timepiece.
Whilst writing this I actually had to dig around in a drawer for a ruler to comprehend these measurements, and I encourage you to do the same. It’s only when you begin measuring your own watch in comparison to these figures do the achievements of ultra-thin watches start to become clear. There are bracelets and straps that are thicker than this entire watch!
Even though the main focus was to reduce height, Piaget were still able to produce a movement with a finishing of the quality you’d expect from a prestige brand. The wafer-thin wheels are finished with either sunburst or satin finishing, every bridge is chamfered and the main plate is satin finished and sandblasted. The Altiplano Ultimate 910P is not conventionally attractive but ts extreme thinness creates an alluring mystique thicker watches don’t have. I would say that the dial, with its exposed balance at 8 o’clock and visible screws, wheels and jewels, is reminiscent of skeleton watches, but frankly, I think a skeleton has more meat on its bones than the 910P.
The Ultimate 910P is wider than previous Altiplanos at 41mm and is available in only 18K Pink or White Gold at $26,000 and $27,000 respectively. One thing is for certain, if you are lucky enough to buy one of these, you’ll have the satisfaction in knowing your wallet is now as thin as your watch! piaget.com