Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept: from idea to reality
4 mins read
Back in 2018, Piaget stole the show at the SIHH (now Watches & Wonders) with the unveiling of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept – the thinnest mechanical watch in the world. Measuring at 2mm, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept served as a stage for numerous Piaget innovations, including a case that formed part of the movement, a unique, integrated winding crown, an ultra-thin crystal and new constructions for the barrel and energy regulation. Thanks to this evolution, the power reserve of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept extended to more than 40 hours.
In 2020, Piaget is proud to announce that the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is no longer just an ambitious experiment, but a fully developed, tried and tested watch that is now available to buy, own and use.
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept was developed and produced entirely in-house by Piaget. The team worked solely on the prototype for four years and spent a further two years perfecting the design and engineering in order to bring the watch to the market.
Classical design dictates a standard four-layers construction: bezel and crystal; dial, hands and movement encapsulated in a case and case back. Piaget had already used the fusion concept in its 900P in 2014 (3.65mm) – the world’s thinnest mechanical watch at the time. With such specific engineering, the traditional movement mainplate disappeared; the case back was used both as part of the case and the movement mainplate, directly carved from one single block of gold. In 2018, Piaget pushed the concept even further by launching the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic which, at just 4.3mm thick, became the world’s thinnest gold watch. With the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, however, the only option was to go one step further. Piaget filed no fewer than five patents.
Too thin to use gold, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept case had to be made from a new, cobalt-based alloy that is highly resistant, 2.3 times stronger than gold and, therefore, much more difficult to machine.
Other parts were entirely re-engineered and re-sized, with wheels, for example, being reduced from a conventional 0.20mm thick to 0.12mm and the sapphire crystal, normally 1mm thick in a standard watch, being pared-down by 80 per cent to a scarcely believable 0.2mm.
The crown has been re-invented to take the form of a flat, telescopic system that fits flush with the case band and in which the conventional sliding pinion clutch and crown wheel are substituted for a single, ‘infinite screw’. Such a construction offers the great advantage of perfectly protecting the crown, and therefore the movement, from unwanted shock.
The dial’s off-centre position, meanwhile, meant that a conventional, straight winding stem could not be used – a problem Piaget solved by creating a patented ‘staggered’ stem. In order for the system to function, the conventional hour hand was replaced with a revolving indicator disc while the minute hand continues to work in the usual way.
Instead of having a dial and two hands placed on top of a bridge, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept features a dial that lies beneath it, thus providing protection from any contact with the strong but wafer-thin crystal should it be momentarily deformed in an impact. This innovative technical feature is a patent registered by Piaget in 2014 (for the launch of 900P caliber).
Although the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is 2mm thick, it contains 167 individual parts, many of which have had to be produced to microscopically small dimensions. Buyers can specify the colour of the bridge and dial, the finish of the hands and the main plate and select straps that match or contrast.
Finally, Piaget wants you to close your eyes, and you will struggle to believe you are actually wearing it. Because with Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept, a mere 0.12 mm of cobalt separates the movement from your skin.
Case: Diameter – 41 mm World’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound watch at 2mm. Cobalt-based high-tech alloy Calibre and watch exterior merged Rectangular-shaped crown recessed into the caseband Monobloc bezel integrated into the frame 0.2mm thick crystal
Calibre: Piaget 900P-UC
Development time: 6 years Five patents pending
Power reserve: approx. 40 hours
Number of jewels: 13
Functions: Hours, Minutes offset at 12 o’clock
Finishing: black PVD-treated and satin-brushed baseplate and caseback, polished case.