There is a certain obsession with ultra-thin watches in the scene, with manufacturers trying to outdo each other by producing the world’s thinnest timepieces.
Earlier this year, Bvlgari launched the world’s thinnest mechanical timepiece, in the form of the 1.80mm thick Octo Finissimo Ultra. This effort was however bested by Richard Mille, who recently just produced the incredulous wafer-thin RM-UP 01 which was a mere 0.05mm thinner.
While the pursuit of thinness has always been an obsession, which many collectors appreciate, there comes a point where it does not seem to make sense anymore. Some of these watches are either too out of reach, or they are simply not practical. In some instances, compromises have to be made, which makes it feel as if something has to be compensated for and make way for the thinness.
So, for today’s article, while we celebrate the technical marvels of ultra-thin watches, we also consider how the concept is packaged holistically together with the rest of the watch. Thinness should not be the only end goal, but we reckon it should complement with the rest of the watch as well.
With that, here are some of our favourite ultra-thin watches in the horological scene thus far:
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic
The Octo Finissimo line is one of the flagships of Bvlgari, where it aims to challenge the industry to produce some of the thinnest watches with different complications. For us, while the complicated pieces are certainly impressive, we have a soft spot for the time-only iteration as it allows the multi-faceted case and various design elements of the Octo collection to shine.
Our pick is the 40mm titanium version, which notably has a thickness of a mere 5.15mm. The watch is priced at S$21,600, and we are rather hard-pressed to find a timepiece that exudes as much style and substance as this particular Bvlgari watch.
Breguet Classique 5157
Think of Breguet, and the first image that conjures up is probably a classy and subtle dress watch.
The Classique 5157 is perhaps the textbook example of a fine dress watch. Featuring a 38mm case, the two-hand timepiece is as classic as it can get – with all the hallmarks of a Breguet timepiece, in the form of a rose engine turned guilloche dial, coin-edge case, straight lugs, and heated blue Breguet hands. The self-winding Calibre 502.3 is a sight to behold as well, with its off-centered movement having its roots dating back to 1967 where Frédéric Piguet filed the patent for the world’s thinnest automatic caliber with center rotor (Calibre 70).
Prices for the Classique 5157 begin at S$25,500, and it is available in three different gold variants (yellow, rose, and white gold). If one is looking for an evocative and iconic dress watch, the Breguet is surely worth a double take.
A. Lange and Söhne Saxonia Thin
Continuing with the theme of time-only dress watches, we have another contender, this time from A. Lange & Söhne. Cue the Saxonia Thin.
Launched in mid-2016, the time-only Saxonia Thin also encapsulates what a dress watch should be. The 37mm watch is simple and discreet, but it certainly exudes class and quality. The highlight for the piece perhaps lies in its finishing. A. Lange & Söhne is known for its impeccable attention to detail, and collectors will be pleased to know that the finishing of the Saxonia Thin is on par with its higher-end brethren.
The watch retails at S$31,000 and we believe that it is very well-priced for a timepiece of such calibre. Between the Breguet above and this Lange timepiece, each of the watches have its own merits. The Saxonia Thin is perhaps more suitable for someone who prefers a piece that is a little simpler and more understated.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar
Since its introduction in 2013, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar has carved a name for itself within the collectors scene. Heck, it is even Dr. Strange’s choice of timepiece.
The 39mm JLC MUT Perpetual Calendar offers collectors the essence of what the brand is all about – brilliant timepieces, with a hint of their technical prowess in creating movements. The timepiece, which features the perpetual calendar complication (as its name suggests, duh), is only 9.2mm thick. This is a remarkable feat, especially also considering that this watch is a self-winding piece too.
Prior to the introduction of Montblanc and Frederique Constant’s interpretation of their perpetual calendar watches, this JLC is one of the most accessible timepieces that features this complication. The watch currently retails at S$35,900, and for what it is worth, the JLC MUT Perpetual Calendar is a brilliant watch that offers a lot of value.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate
In the world of ultra-thin watches, the Piaget Altiplano collection is surely one of the forerunners in this field.
Since its debut in 2014, the Altiplano has made its mark by being one of the thinnest timepieces that was ever produced – at 3.65mm. Of course, the figure had since been bested by many, including Piaget themselves. However, thinness is not just a singular factor that collectors are looking at; the watches must feature other attributes as well, such as design and finishing. The 38mm Altiplano Ultimate is one of such pieces that appears to have it all.
We love the Piaget for its pure elegance. It is not just a dress watch, but one that is extremely evocative and stunning all around. The additional bonus lies in how the movement is arranged, whereby the components – by virtue of making it as thin as possible – lay in tandem with the dial. Finally, this phenomenal piece is priced at S$38,200, and if one is serious about watch collecting, then perhaps this timepiece is worth a strong consideration to be included into one’s horological collection.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater
We round up the article with the sublime Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater.
At the first glance, this particular watch may appear to be a well-made but seemingly rudimentary Patrimony timepiece. It only has three-hands, and it does not look as though it has any superfluous or showy complications. However, do not let its subtleness fool you, as this timepiece houses one of the most ethereal and incredible complications in the horological world: Minute Repeater. Talk about wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Aside from the complication, the 41mm Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater is also a stunning timepiece through and through. The finishing of the timepiece and movement is simply breath-taking, with all traditional finissage points being addressed par excellence. The only issue? This brilliant watch, in platinum, is priced at S$633,400. It is undoubtedly steep, but this is definitely one of the best minute repeaters that the world has to offer.
While we are focused on ultra-thin watches, we have not selected the world’s three thinnest timepieces (mainly the new Richard Mille RM-UP 01, Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, and Piaget Altiplano Concept Ultimate). For us, the technical feat is no doubt magnificent and mind-blowing, but these watches are so focus-driven that compromises have to be made, and they somehow do not feel like proper timepieces anymore. Or perhaps, we might just be the only ones who are feeling this way. But that is our perspective on this.
Instead, we try to focus on ultra-thin watches that are “wearable”, or feature some nice complications. Jaeger LeCoultre, Bvlgari, and Vacheron Constantin are brands that come to mind, with their series of ultra-thin watches that have complications such as tourbillon, perpetual calendar, chronograph, and minute repeater. We are definitely in awe of such timepieces, and kudos to the brands for offering such creations.
Even for the time-only pieces, there is a reason for its thinness. For us, we also feel that the height itself is not the main focus of the piece; rather, it is a function, amongst many others, that complements the rest of the watch. Case in point, the sleekness of both the Saxonia Thin and Classique 5157 is an attribute that makes both timepieces great dress watches, but its finesse and finishing are also other factors that determine its greatness within the category. And that is the point that we are driving throughout the entire article: We have to look at a timepiece holistically.
So, what are your thoughts on ultra-thin watches? Do you like them, or do you reckon watch manufacturers have gone too far with this obsession of theirs? Let us know in the comments section below.