For well over fifty years, Swiss-based watch manufacturer Piaget has been making a name for itself as the manufacture of ever-thinner movements. Indeed, 23 of its 35 in-house calibres released since 1957 are in the “ultra-thin” category (even if we aren’t quite sure exactly how that’s defined). Twelve of those have set records for thinness. The first of those records came way back in 1960 with the Calibre 12P, the thinnest automatic of its time at 2.3 millimeters.
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In celebration of its upcoming 140th anniversary in 2014, Piaget recently announced the upcoming release of its new Altiplano 900P (~$20,000). True to Piaget’s ultra-thin form, the hand-wound 900P has set another record: it’s the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. The entire watch, case, crystal, and all, is just 3.65 millimeters thick. That, in an age when dive watches can measure in at 15 millimeters and up, and even the elegant Rolex Datejust tips the calipers at just under 12 millimeters.
To accomplish the feat of wedging 145 parts into such a narrow space, Piaget has done some rather creative design engineering. Instead of a separate movement installed in a case, the 38 millimeter white gold case itself becomes part of the movement. This is done by making the case back the movement’s main plate (the piece to which just about everything else in the movement is bolted). This necessitated moving the beveled, black-coated bridges (used to position and hold components) from their conventional location on the back of the main plate to the dial side. There, they and the gear train, mainspring barrel, and balance wheel are in plain sight of the wearer. The 900P’s display back is in its front.
The way in which the whole watch is constructed enables the dial and hands to be located below the surface plane of the bridges. Instead of stacking the components on top of each other the way movements are conventionally constructed, components are laid out beside each other, sort of a mile wide and an inch deep. Er…make that 38 millimeters wide and 3.65 millimeters deep.
Although the privileged few have already seen it, the Piaget Altiplano 900P will be formally introduced to the world at SIHH in Geneva, Switzerland next month. We break it all down for you above.