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New: The Piaget Altiplano Concept with Editorial Commentary

how thin can you go?
by Peter Chong on April 27, 2020
Overview
Brand

Piaget Altiplano Concept

Complication / Type of Watch

Ultra thin automatic wristwatch
Current world's thinnest watch
Special order only, and highly customizable - 10,000 permutations possible

The 2mm thick Piaget Altiplano Concept 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 Altiplano Concept

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept was developed and produced in-house by Piaget’s dedicated Research and Innovation division. The prototype took four years, and a further two years were spent engineering and perfecting the design making the development a total of 6 years.

Piaget Altiplano Concept. One of the possible renditions out of more than 10,000 options to customize.

The claim to fame is that the Altiplano Concept will be a record breaking automatic watch which measures only 2mm in height of the case. To imagine how thick 2mm is, stack two credit cards, and you have it. On the 41mm case diameter, the watch looks like a coin-shaped blade.

Piaget Altiplano Concept.

Its classical design dictates a standard four-layers construction: bezel and crystal; dial, hands and movement encapsulated in a case and case back. The Altiplano is made by combining the bezel, case, caseback and mainplate from a single block to create a single layer. Over this monobloc is the ultra thin sapphire glass. The crystal is normally 1mm thick in a standard wristwatch, but in here it measures a mere 0.2mm.

Exploded view. All these components into a 2mm space.

This case-baseplate is too thin to use gold, and a new engineering material is used. Enter a cobalt-based alloy which is highly resistant, and according to Piaget is 2.3 times stronger than gold, and much harder to machine.

The movement: Piaget 900P UC

The entire movement is only visible from the dial side, as the bridge and train sits on the main plate which also serve as the caseback and the case. The movement is remarkable. With 67 individual parts, many of which have had to be produced to microscopically small dimensions in order for the goal of ultimate thinness to be met. However, Piaget is still able to embellish the movement with sunburst and satin-brushed finishes, chamfered and polished bridges.

All other parts were re-sized, with the wheels reduced from the standard 0.2mm thickness to only 0.12mm thick. The mainspring barrel is also a flying design, and with no cover. Mounted on a single ceramic ball bearing within the frame. The hour hand is replaced with a rotating indicator disc but the minute hand is traditional.

Even the crown needed a re-invention to take the form of a flat, telescopic system. When pushed in, it fits flush with the case side, and the watch looks like it has no crown, and offers additional protection from shock. The design has a worm drive on the same plane as the cogwheel, keeping the entire assembly on the same plane.

Side profile. Note the rectangular shaped crown is flush to the case side.

The movement train layout is also unconventional that the power flows in a U shape. This is because of the dial’s off-center position, which is achieved by not merely rotating the movement, but a redesign of the train. The crown remains at the 3 o’clock position, and Piaget employs a patented staggered stem to do this.

The power flow of the movement train follows an unusual layout. The main wheels are labelled and the power flows in the shape of the numeral 7 from bottom.

The balance wheel is also flying in design, and mounted upside down. From the dial side, one sees the underside of the balance assembly. The balance wheel is adjusted by inertia screws, and eliminates another level required by a traditional index adjustment system.

The balance wheel (right) is right beside the mainspring barrel. Note both are flying arrangements, sans upper bridge.

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept is so thin that a mere 0.12mm of cobalt separates the movement from the wearer’s wrist. And yet the case is rated to 30m, and able to withstand shock.

Customization

Piaget offers the Altiplano Concept with their “Style Selector” initially introduced some 50 years ago in its New York boutique to offer clients the opportunity to choose the shape of their watch case, the type of dial and bracelet and the extent of the gem setting. They revived this idea with the Altiplano Concept.

Buyers may customize the colour of the bridge and dial, the finish of the hands and the main plate and select straps that match or contrast – a range of options that will allow the Altiplano Ultimate Concept to be created up to 10,000 permutations. Thus ensuring that few will be alike and that some will be truly unique.

Parting thoughts

The design considerations taken to trim the thickness not only of the movement, but the case is ground breaking. The concept of combining the case with the movement base plate is not exactly new, as this was possibly pioneered by Audemars Piguet in the Ref. 25643, caliber 2870 way back in 1986 measuring 4.8mm thick, long before things like CAD and spark erosion machines and LIGA technology. The AP features a tourbillon and is automatic winding via a bumper automatic system. It featured a crown at the caseback.

Also, Piaget’s own Caliber 900P introduced in 2013, employs the same technique. The current 900P-UC is based on the design work of the earlier 900P, but with more aggressive trimming work. What is impressive is that the donor base is already 3.6mm thick, and the UC version shaves a full 1.6mm off it.

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Specifications

Ref. G0A45500 (and variants)

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 2 mm
Material: Cobalt alloy
Water resistance: Moisture resistant

Movement: 900P-UC
Functions: Hours and minutes
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 40 hours

Strap: Various, including leather, rubber, or fabric

Limited edition: Custom-order only

More details on Piaget site.

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