At Baselworld 2017, Bulgari unveiled the world’s thinnest watch with a self-winding movement, a timepiece we’ve explored here. As we’ve seen in recent years, watch brands are pulling out all the stops to achieve new records not only in thinness, but in the level of complication and complexity that they pack into those super-slim movements and cases. Here are seven recent examples of timepieces that (at least for the moment) have set records for thinness in their respective categories.
1. World’s Thinnest Minute Repeater (Current – 2016):
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater
Introduced at Baselworld 2016, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater, now claims the title of smallest striking watch on the market, a title that had been held previously by Jaeger-LeCoultre (see below). Striking watches carry several specific construction constraints, and require a high level of expertise to achieve the challenging goal of an intense, crystal-clear chime with a uniform, consistent cadence when the mechanism is activated. Usually, such a watch tends to be on the large side, due to the need for sufficiently generous interior volume for optimal diffusion of the sound within the case, thus ensuring ideal acoustic quality. Bulgari, however, set out to achieve this “perfect sound” within the smallest possible space. To this end, the brand developed the in-house BVL Caliber 362, which measures just 3.12 mm thick, and created a case whose overall thickness is only 6.85 mm. The case is made of titanium, whose low-density properties proved to be excellent for sound diffusion. Another clever touch was the cut-out hour-markers on the dial (also made of titanium) and cut-out ring around the small seconds subdial, which created openings that serve to amplify the resonance inside the case and thereby optimize the sound effect. More detail on that watch can be found here.
2. World’s Thinnest Minute Repeater (2014):
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica 11
The watch’s full name is a mouthful — Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater Flying Tourbillon — and it not only grabbed the record for thinnest repeater when it was introduced at SIHH 2014, but also manages to include a flying tourbillon and automatic winding (by means of a peripheral rotor) in its ultra-complex movement, which is just 4.8 mm thick. The case of the Hybris Mechanica 11 measures 41 mm in diameter and a mere 7.9 mm in thickness, an unprecedented size for such a complicated timepiece. The repeater mechanism is also equipped with silent-time-lapse reduction system that eliminates pauses between the chimes. The watch, for which Jaeger-LeCoultre has obtained eight patents, is limited to only 75 pieces. Click here to read more on the watch from our reporting at SIHH 2014.
3. World’s Thinnest Manual-Winding Minute Repeater (and Minute Repeater Movement): Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Contemporaine Ultra-Thin Calibre 1731
A milestone timepiece first shown at the Hong Kong “Watches and Wonders” fair and unveiled to most of the watch world at SIHH 2014, this Vacheron Constantin watch has a case that is slightly thicker than that of the Hybris Mechanica 11 (8.09 mm) but a minute-repeater movement that is a tad thinner (just 3.9 mm). Calibre 1731 is a manual-winding movement, as opposed to JLC’s automatic one, and it carries a 65-hour power reserve and bears the Geneva Seal. The movement also incorporates a flying strike governor, an innovative device that controls the speed and spacing of the repeater’s chiming tones and reduce the audible whirring sounds that can accompany the chimes. The watch comes in a rose gold case and retails for $369,300. Click here for more on the watch and here to watch a video presentation of it from SIHH.
4. World’s Thinnest Mechanical Watch: Piaget Altiplano 900P
It should surprise no one that Piaget is on the list: the brand has long been associated with super-thin watches and holds records for thinness in several horological categories. Perhaps its most impressive world-first is the Altiplano 900P — the slimmest mechanical-movement watch in the world, bar none, at a case thickness of just 3.65 mm — that’s right, the case is thinner than the movements of the previous two watches. Piaget accomplished this feat by merging the movement with the case so that the inner caseback serves as the mainplate. The Piaget Altiplano is 38 mm in diameter and comes in rose gold ($26,200) and white gold ($27,800) cases. Click here for more interesting details on the watch.
5. World’s Thinnest Tourbillon (2013): Arnold & Son UTTE
Introduced at Baselworld 2013 by the revitalized Arnold & Son brand, the UTTE (initials are for “Ultra Thin Tourbillon Escapement”) quickly garnered attention when it became — without necessarily meaning to, according to Arnold & Son head of movement development Sebastian Chaulmontet — the thinnest tourbillon watch on the market. The watch’s case, available in either rose gold ($69,050) or palladium ($59,950), is just 8.34 mm thick and 42 mm in diameter. The flying-tourbillon movement, Arnold & Son’s A&S8200, is just 2.97 mm thick (not counting the height of the tourbillon cage, which rises above the dial) and packs 90 hours of power reserve into two barrels. Click here to see a video of the Arnold & Son UTTE shot exclusively for WatchTime and here to listen to Chaulmontet discussing his challenges in developing the movement.
6. World’s Thinnest Tourbillon (2014):
Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic 5377
Arnold & Son held the thin-tourbillon record for only a brief time. Breguet — a brand named for the tourbillon’s inventor — previewed its Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic 5377 watch at Baselworld 2014 and released it to the market last year. The watch’s 42-mm-diameter case is an astoundingly slender 7 mm thick, and its movement, Calibre 581DR, is just 3 mm thick. The movement is also notable for its “high energy” barrel, which provides a 90-hour power reserve; its 4-Hz frequency (exceptionally high for a tourbillon movement) and its peripheral winding rotor made of platinum (yes, this watch also has automatic winding.) The off-center tourbillon (whose carriage and balance are made of titanium) is protected by two patents. The dial and case are emphatically Breguet: engine-turned dial, Roman numeral hour markers, open-tipped blue Breguet hands, and fine fluted caseband.
7: World’s Thinnest Tourbillon and Tourbillon Movement (Current – 2016): Bulgari Octo Finissimo
Bulgari (them again!) went even slimmer with its new-record-setting Bulgari Octo Finissimo, a timepiece with a movement thickness of only 1.95 mm — thinner than a Swiss five-franc coin — and a case thickness of a mere 5 mm. To achieve this horological milestone, the brand had to devise a number of technical solutions to reduce the overall thickness of the movement. Its two bridges, one for the minute wheel and one for the gear train of the tourbillon cage, use ball bearings instead of jewels for many of the moving parts; the base movement uses seven ball bearings and the tourbillon cage pivots on a peripherally driven ball-bearing mechanism. The timing is adjusted directly on the balance wheel, which eliminates the need for a traditional regulator assembly and enabled the movement to be even thinner. For more on the watch, click here to read our report from Baselworld 2016.
This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.