SIHH 2014: Piaget Altiplano 900P World’s Thinnest Mechanical Wristwatch

First Look…Piaget merges case with caliber for record setting thinness of 3.65mm…

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Angle

In 2014 Piaget will celebrate its 140th anniversary with a new record in ultra-thin mechanical watchmaking:  the Altiplano 38 mm 900P.   Simply said, this is a WOW watch —  all 3.65mm of it!  While clearly geared towards cutting-edge innovation, it is also a nod to history, since it gets the 900P part of its name from Calibre 9P, which was the first ultra-thin hand-wound movement made by Piaget in 1957.  In a fascinating bit of engineering, the watch case and watch movement have become one as Piaget has seemingly shaved every last hundredth of a millimeter from the total depth of the watch.  Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

38mm white gold case + movement (3.65mm thin, 145 total components), black coated movement, power reserve 48 hours, frequency 3Hz/21,600vph, offset hours and minutes subdial at 10 o’clock

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Some of the various 145 parts composing the Altiplano 38 mm 900P have been trimmed to a size sometimes barely thicker than a hair’s breadth – some wheels measuring a mere 0.12 mm thin (compared with 0.20 mm on a classic movement).  The back of the watch actually doubles as the mainplate of the movement; the bridges and gear train are on the dial side and visible to the observer (an aesthetically pleasing detail, I might add!).

Moreover, Piaget has devised a suspended barrel hanging from a single bridge on the dial side, contrary to classic barrels that are also fixed to the mainplate side.  Despite all this, the watch still is able to deliver a fairly generous power reserve of around 48 hours.

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Dial Closeup

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Profile

Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P Caseback

There’s one last and not-so-easily-visible detail worth noting here:  Piaget has come up with a patent pending device representing what it calls a “major breakthrough” in ensuring the reliability of this type of ultra-thin watch:

Instead of fitting the hands above the bridges, Piaget has placed them underneath, thereby freeing up space between the cannon-pinion and the crystal. When the latter is deformed by the effects of pressure, it presses not on the hands – placed below the bridge level – but instead on the wheel-train bridge, thus avoiding any consequences on the rate of the movement.

As I understand it, the underlying idea here is to eliminate the potential movement-stopping effect of the crystal pressing on the hands due the application of pressure to the watch case (from water immersion or otherwise).  Ultra-thin watches comes with there own unique set of engineering and design challenges and this seems a clever solution to just such a challenge by Piaget.

The finishing of the watch appears also to be uncompromising — black screws, satin-brushed and sandblasted surfaces, sunburst or circular satin-brushed wheels, bevelled and brushed bridges and more can be observed on the new Altiplano 38mm 900P.

Overall this is clearly a watershed moment for Piaget as it continues to define itself as the leader in ultra-thin watchmaking.  This is a fantastic and stupendously beautiful watch that clearly required massive collaboration between everyone at the manufacture’s La Coate aux Fees and Plan Les Ouates locations.  Nicely done, everyone!

Did You Know?

Piaget points out that it has produced no less than 23 ultra-thin calibres out of its 35 movements developed and produced in-house, of which 12 have set new records for thinness over the past few years and are now part of the collection (all 23 have been produced continually since the time of their launch, while Calibre 430P has established itself as one of the world’s most widely produced ultra-thin hand-wound movements).  The Piaget Cal 9P measured just 2 mm thin; around 1960 Piaget followed with its Calibre 12P, then the world’s thinnest automatic movement at just 2.3 mm.  The following years witnessed a spate of new slimness records in the fields of hand-wound and automatic models such as the Calibre 600P (thinnest hand-wound shaped tourbillon movement), 1208P, an automatic movement that was also the thinnest in its category, to mention just a couple.  Here is a pic of some of these famous calibers that I snapped during my visit to the Piaget manufacture in La Cote-aux-Fees last year:

Piaget Caliber Tray Over the Years

More recently, I’ve written at length about Piaget’s ultra-thin heritage and in particular some of the latest evolutions such as the minute repeater Caliber 1290P as found in the Emperador Coussin XL or the manufacture’s skeleton Caliber 1200S as found in the Altiplano Ultra-thin skeleton, both record-setting watches which debuted in 2013.