Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Quest For Thinness - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Pre-SIHH 2014

There is a bit of sibling rivalry goin' on over at Richemont, and rivalry is good! We're talking about the battle to be the thinnest. And what a battle it's been!

First up we had Vacheron Constantin, producing the Historique Ultra Fine 1955 back in 2010, the thinnest mechanical watch at the time, at 4.1mm. Then Jaeger-LeCoultre, being the Manufacture that they are, said, "Oh no you didn't" and released the Master Ultra Thin Jubilee at 4.05mm in 2013, as part of a collection to celebrate their 180th anniversary. Piaget was having none of it. Master of the ultra thin, holder of a dozen ultra-thin records, scoffs, and tells her sisters straight up, "You're doing it wrong! You can't do ultra-thin without thinking outside the 'case'! Step aside. THIS is how you do Ultra Thin."

Vacheron Constantin Historique Ultra Fine 1955
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee

The Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

So, instead of going the traditional route of case-glass-hands-dial-movement-case, each adding precious tenths of millimetres to the height, Piaget revolutionised watchmaking by *ahem* taking a page out of Swatch's Skin design book and "combined" all these separate components into one amazing anorexic mash-up. Swatch did this with their "skin" range, which is essentially a one-piece construction. But it's all too easy making ultra-thin quartz watches isn't it? (Swatch's Skin watches measures 3.9mm thin for those of you playing at home)

Swatch Skin
So this is what Piaget ended up doing. The case back of the watch now acts as the base plate of the movement, and because of that, the way the movement is fit together had to be reversed, hence the balance and the gear trains on the dial side. They've also decided to forgo the dial, and instead, have the hands set directly into a slightly recessed part of the movement, meaning there is less clearance needed, and more tenths of millimetres saved. Not only that, any part that can be shaved is shaved. Wheels that are usually at 0.2mm thick is shaved down to 0.12mm. All this brings the whole watch down to a mere 3.65mm, completely decimating the competition like Sebastian Vettel in F1, and wrestling back what is rightfully Piaget's: the crown of the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. (I mean, come on! I have straps that are thicker than this watch...)

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Unlike the competition, Piaget didn't feel the need to emphasise thinness in the naming of the watch. I guess it's just expected that the watch will be ultra thin, which is what the whole range of the Altiplano watches are. In an era when skyscraper architects are adding taller useless decorative bits in order to boost the total height of the building, it is very refreshing to see designers shaving millimetres (and still having the whole thing actually working) in a quest for the ultimate thinness.

There is one concern however. Given how thin it is, and that the case back acts as the base plate of the movement, it remains to be seen how structurally sound the watch is, especially in white gold, and whether it'll be a fragile watch...

Long live sibling rivalry!

**Just in case you're wondering, the world's thinnest watch is the CST-01, a 0.80mm thin flexible wristwatch with an E Ink display housed in a single piece of stainless steel.


1 comment:

Ronel Alvarez said...

The 900P is a great one. Any way I think the PIAGET ALTIPLANO 38MM 900D is also a great one too.