Monday, September 21

Hands-on With Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate – Thinnest mechanical Watch In The World

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We brought you news of the Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate. The watch was a concept watch announced in 2018, and became a commercial reality in an announcement this year. Here is our hands-on, experiential review of the world’s thinnest automatic watch.

Release information with our commentary of the Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate

Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate

The Altiplano Concept Ultimate changes the game in ultra thin watches. The watch movement is designed as part of the case and is fully integrated, and Piaget tells us that the movement cannot be removed as a whole and separated from the case. This approach is not uncommon in the world of the ultra thins. However, with the Altiplano Concept Ultimate, Piaget takes the crown for the thinnest. And by a rather wide margin.

Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate
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The Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate first saw light in 2018 as an exercise to showcase the maison’s long expertise in ultra thin watches. For Watches & Wonders 2020, this is now turned into reality, where the watch is offered as a fully customizable piece on special order. Piaget says that some 10,000 possible permutations are possible, which practically guarantees that each Altiplano Ultimate is a pièce unique.

Press pictures, showing the incredibly thin case.

We took these photographs at the Piaget Boutique in Singapore recently, where we had a hands-on session, and managed to get close to the Altiplano Concept Ultimate.

The case, dial and hands

The case is thin. Really, really thin. At a mere 2mm it is almost nothing. It is nearly as thin as a S$1 coin, which measures 1.72mm, just 0.18mm thinner! Placed on a tray on the table, it looked like it was a high resolution print on a cardboard.

It is also ultra light, and weighs only 22g, on a metal case measuring 41mm in diameter. The lightest watch we have encountered so far is the Richard Mille RM 2702 Rafal Nadal, which came in at an feather light 19g including stap but Richard Mille had to resort to special carbon fibre composite, while the metal case on the Piaget looks almost like a regular watch case. Only very thin…and a bit less shiny than a standard gold watch.

The case is not made in a precious metal, as they are all too flexible at such dimensions to provide structural support to the movement. The case is thus made of a special cobalt-based alloy that is 2.3 times stronger than gold.

The movement is fully visible from the dial side. The dark base which the main bridge is bolted on, is actually the base plate of the movement and the case back. A main bridge holds the hour-minute dial, and the movement train. The barrel and transmission wheel is set in a flying configuration. The hour-minute is displayed as a sub-dial placed at the 12 o’clock position, with bar markers and bar shaped hands.

The movement – Piaget Cal. 900P-UC

As mentioned, the entire movement is visible from the dial side, and the case back is a solid piece which is part of the case back. The back is engraved, and circular grained, but lets little else visible.

As mentioned, the movement is fully visible from the dial side. The architecture is novel. Of course, as Piaget is a known force in ultra thin movements, they are able to draw from this huge experience base, and the the Cal. 900P-UC is designed and built ground up. Instead of multiple layers, the case and the movement is combined into a single piece. Even the crown is recessed to sit flush with the case, so as not to disturb the sleek lines. The sapphire crystal, to fit into the slim scheme of things, is only 0.2mm thick!

The finishing visible from the dial is quite good. With perhaps the exception of the Piaget logo on the watch we examined and photograph. Click on the Watchscape photograph above (conditions apply) to see the “cobra” image in full 2560 pixels across, where this becomes apparent. Perhaps this is because its a prototype.

But the rest of the finishing is good. The bridges have a straight grained satin brushed finish, held by nicely polished screws. The bridges feature nice anglage which provides a glint as it catches the light on the otherwise matte finished dial side.

The wear impressions

The case is very sturdy when one picks it up, and when strapped on the wrist, it feels as robust as any other. Safe for the fact that it feels like almost nothing – with no height to speak of, and weighing so little. The Altiplano Concept Ultimate is ridiculously thin and light, as one would expect from the specifications. The watch’s 41mm diameter with straight lugs which stick out somewhat from a medium sized male wrist. If you have very small wrists, it will do you good to try it out in person, as you may find the watch wearing large.

However, we found the watch to be quite comfortable. The strap is a kevlar and very thin as well, to match the incredible thinness of the case. It should prove to be very strong with this high tech fabric.

The crown sits flush to the case. It is telescopic, and a special tool is provided to wind and set the time.

A special tool is provided to wind and set the time on the watch. The crown is flat, telescopic and perfectly integrated into the caseband.

The competitive landscape

The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept’s case measures a mere 2mm thickness, and in the ultra thin sweepstakes, this is huge! Although, compared to the thinnest watch ever made – the Concord Delirium IV is no longer in production. The Delirium IV had a which had a quartz movement developed by Concord and manufactured by ETA using the same technique of using the base plate as the case back. It measures only 0.98mm thick. It was so thin and fragile that it could not be worn as strapping it on the wrist will flex the case.

The Citizen Eco Drive One, the case is 2.98mm, almost 1mm thicker than the Piaget.

The nearest competitor is possibly the Citizen Eco-Drive One. The case measures 2.98mm thick, and it is a solar powered quartz movement. The movement of the Citizen Cal.8826 is only 1mm. As it is a quartz movement, it is mainly a circuit board. This makes the Piaget even more impressive as it uses a fully mechanical movement and the entire case is nearly 1mm thinner than the Citizen.

Then there is the Indian made Titan Men’s 679SL02 “Edge” Ultra-Slim is 3.5mm thick, also with a quartz movement. However, as far as we know, the Titan is also currently not available.

The other inhabitants in the landscape all look positively fat in comparison to the Altiplano Ultimate. The former champion, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin measures 4.25mm thickness (a variant of the JLC MUT Squelette, now discontinued, is slightly thinner at 3.6mm), and the Bulgari Octo Finnissimo Automatic is 5.15mm thick.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a magnificent watch. Especially for the collector chasing the ultra thin scene. This is currently the thinnest in the world. No holds barred. Thinner than even the paper thin Citizen Eco-Drive One quartz watch. The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept is fully mechanical, and showcases the prowess of Swiss watchmaking expertise.

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept, lying on a bed of roses…the Yves Piaget variety, of course!

Visually it is impressive. On the wrist, it looks almost like a magnificent tattoo…so thin, that it almost seem like its part of the skin. Entry price is perhaps prohibitively high, one can buy some really nice minute repeaters or tourbillons with the asking price of S$650,000. But if you want the thinnest mechanical watch every, this is it.

Photo Notes: Photographed with the Panasonic Lumix S1R with the Sigma Art 70mm Macro lens.

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