Piaget has announced the launch of its first minute repeater timepiece, set to debut at next month’s SIHH watch fair in Geneva. In the brand’s tradition of historically thin watches and mechanical movements, the new watch sets another record for slenderness in its category: only 4.8 mm thick for the caliber and only 9.4 mm for the case.
The Emperador Coussin Automatic Minute Repeater was crafted entirely in-house, with the movement, Caliber 1290P, developed, produced, decorated and assembled at the Piaget manufacture La Côte-aux-Fées and the case made at the brand’s facility in Plan-les-Ouates. This minute repeater movement represents the fourth major complication developed by Piaget, which over the past 14 years has created 35 in-house movements, including 11 comprising major complications. Some of these include notable calibers like the 600P (the world’s thinnest hand-wound shaped tourbillon), 880P (ultra-thin automatic chronograph), 855P (ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar) and 1270P (ultra-thin automatic tourbillon).
The development of the 1290P movement involved three years of work by six engineers dedicated specifically to the project. Among major complications, the minute repeater is particularly difficult to produce, especially one that includes, as this one does, an automatic winding mechanism and and an exceptionally thin design. Developed on the base of Caliber 1200P, the world’s thinnest automatic movement, the 1290P is made up of 407 parts despite its 4.8 mm thickness, a feat that demanded a high level of expertise in the shaping and miniaturizing of parts. Some wheels, for example, are only .12 mm thick, and some other pieces are as wafer-thin as 0.07 mm. Automatic winding is made possible by a micro-rotor made of platinum. The thin construction also meant that the hammer mechanisms are displayed on the bridge side of the movement and that the repeater slide is pushed downward rather than upward. The movement also has a device that ensures an optimal hour jump at the end of the 59th minute so that the striking mechanism indicates the exact time to the nearest second.
The 48 mm-diameter case, made up of 69 parts, has been hollowed out as much as possible to achieve the best resonance for the transmission of sound. Four braces secure it to the movement to ensure the transmission of the gong vibration. The gong base is connected to both the movement and the exterior via four screws. A mechanism beneath the bezel is designed to ensure the watch’s water resistance.
Activating the slide at 9 o’clock triggers the minute repeater on demand, with the sound generated by the vibrations of a gong struck by hammers. The latter are made of steel for an ideal hardness-to-weight ratio. The gong is designed for enhanced transmission of the vibrations – and thus the sound – through the movement and on through the case. In order to preserve the purity of this sound throughout its duration, Caliber 1290P is equipped with an inertia flywheel to regulate the rhythm between the start and finish of the chiming. Calibre 1290P chimes with a very high level of intensity, at 64 decibels (the average for a conversation is 65). Striking in the fifth octave, the hours are pitched at G sharp, and the minutes at A sharp. Despite using a fixed gong, Piaget’s repeater sound has three virtually harmonic partials.
Calibre 1290P boasts a number of decorations, crafted by hand and using a file on all movement components. The shaped movement features alternating interior and exterior angles, bridges hand-bevelled and hand-drawn with a file, sunburst and circular satin-brushed wheels, rose-gold-toned screws and oscillating weight, and mirror-polished finishing. All told, the finishing for each movement requires 70 hours of work.
On the bridge side, you’ll find the micro-rotor, the regulator assembly bearing the “P” for Piaget, the circular Côtes de Genève and classically designed gear trains. On the mainplate side, the embellishments include a sunburst guilloché motif marking off the 60 divisions of time, all on display beneath the sapphire crystal dial.
As with previous major complications from Piaget, this one makes its debut in the cushion-shaped Emperador case. The case structure is a combination of cushion (“coussin”) and round shapes that is a hallmark of Piaget’s Black Tie models. The finishing includes alternating polished and satin-brushed surfaces. The price of the watch has yet to be announced.
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