In 2018 at SIHH (now Watches & Wonders), Piaget made watchmaking history with the unveiling of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept— then and now the thinnest mechanical watch in the world ever produced. At the time, the watch remained as its name implies: a concept with an experimental design. Today, the Swiss watch-and-jewelry maison brings the concept to life and again takes center stage by unveiling the new, market-ready Altiplano Ultimate Concept — the first time the ultra-thin watch will be be made available for purchase, and one that easily takes the crown as the thinnest watch commercially available.
The original Altiplano Ultimate Concept design took four years of dedicated research and development to create, and the updated market-ready version took an additional two years of development. In total, this watch took six years of dedicated work on the part of brand to create, not to mention Piaget’s long history in ultra-thin watchmaking, which began in 1957 with the hand-wound Calibre 9P, at the time one of the thinnest movements available at only 2 mm, the same thickness as today’s Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch.
As for the new watch’s design, we find a style similar to the model first revealed in 2018. The 2-mm-thin, round case features short lugs and an integrated, seamless “crown,” all produced from a cobalt alloy that offers a greater durability than gold but a more luxurious feel than steel. The crown itself is quite interesting, taking the form of a flat, telescopic system that eschews the traditional sliding pinion clutch and crown wheel for a single, “infinite screw” wound by a specially designed tool. This unique integrated system, Piaget argues, allows the movement an increased shock resistance from unintentional bumps common on an externally exposed, conventional crown.
The dial of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is covered by a 0.2-mm-thin sapphire crystal, 80% thinner than the 1.0-mm typically used on most other watches. The dial is further protected via a patented bridge technology which lays on top of the dial rather than traditionally below it, helping secure the watch and its timekeeping should the “wafer-thin crystal … be momentarily deformed in an impact.”
The most distinct features on the dial are its time display subdial toward the top of the face, and the barrel, exposed with no drum, towards the bottom. The balance wheel can be found on the dial’s left side, while the inner workings of the unique crown system previously mentioned are visible on the right. As for the watch’s movement, the mechanism is largely composed of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept’s case (which serves as the baseplate), and so remains without a distinct name. The movement nonetheless maintains a 40-hour power reserve when fully wound, which must be accomplished occasionally via the specially designed winding tool.
The watch will be supremely customizable, Piaget says, with buyers able to specify their choice of color for the dial and bridge and the finishing on the hands and mainplate — each of these choices in addition to the buyer’s options for a variety of straps to match or contrast. The straps themselves are available in a range of different options, all secured via an ultra-thin cobalt pin buckle and featuring a velvet calfskin lining and an ultra-strong Kevlar inner layer. Altogether, these various options allow watch buyers more than 10,000 unique permutations on the model, helping ensure a further personalization on the wrist for an already very distinctive design.
Piaget promises that the new Altiplano Ultimate Concept will be a “practical proposition for daily use.” However, with such an incredible thinness, one does have to wonder about the fragility of the model. Could the watch act as an occasional and novel dress watch? Certainly: delicacy, while not always desired, is not uncommon in haute horologerie, and could certainly be an aspect on a rare wearer. But could this model really act as a daily wearer, as the brand implies? Does it really live up to the boldly supposition that it is likely “tough enough to withstand everything from the level of G-Force experienced in an aerobatic jet to the force of a meteorite crashing to Earth,” especially considering its use of a traditional (and ultra-thin) sapphire crystal? That remains to be seen, with the answer likely coming as the first models are available for review.
Pricing for the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept has yet to be revealed, but the watch is expected to be a regular production model as part of Piaget’s catalog available for purchase later this year.