Competition helps an industry to thrive, and it is the reason that kept many watch manufacturers on their toes over the years. The watch industry had certainly seen many important innovations over the years because of that. The end-users, like us, certainly benefit from this as well.
One of the things that watch manufacturers are obsessed about, besides complications, is the pursuit of making ultra-thin watches. The intriguing thing about watches is how watchmakers are able to fit all the different components into a tiny case to carry out its various functions. That, in itself, is a marvel. But the manufacturers are not so easily satisfied. They want to showcase their engineering prowess by taking it a step further – by incorporating these parts and functions into an ultra-thin case.
It is certainly not an easy task to design an ultra-thin watch. The components, firstly, must be further compressed in terms of its thickness. Next, the manufacturer must sort and redesign the various components to minimise the amount of components stacking on top of each other. Finally, it has to be tested for its robustness – there is no point making an ultra-thin watch that is unreliable or brittle. It is a long-drawn process with a heck load of work.
Now that we have gained some appreciation for the ultra-thin watches, we shall take a look at what are some of our favourite ultra-thin watches that we have reviewed. Let’s find out what we have selected!
Citizen Eco-Drive One
The first watch that we have here is the Citizen Eco-Drive One. Interestingly, this is the watch that had inspired us to come up with this particular topic for this week’s column.
Citizen is typically associated with mass-produced watches that are priced modestly. However, in recent times, Citizen has been seen to carve a niche in terms of producing some mind-blowing pieces. The Chronomaster, for instance, is an extremely well-made timepiece that focuses predominantly on finishing techniques. The Eco-Drive One, on the other hand, tackles the ultra-thin aspect of watches. The case is approximately 2.98mm thin, and its movement is nearly 3 times thinner. What is also amazing is that Citizen had incorporated its proprietary solar-powered Eco-Drive movement.
Priced at US$4,500 (approximately S$6,077), the 37mm Super Titanium watch is certainly a tad pricey for a Citizen timepiece. However, if one is able to look beyond the brand itself, we have got to say that what we have here is a product of amazing engineering.
A. Lange and Söhne Saxonia Thin
The Saxonia Thin may be the entry-level model from A. Lange & Söhne, but it is certainly a damn fine timepiece.
Launched in mid-2016, the time-only Saxonia Thin 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 US$14,800 (approximately S$19,985), and we believe that it is very well-priced for a timepiece of such calibre. If one is looking for a simple and excellent dress watch, look no further.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatique
Over the last few years, Bvlgari had constantly impressed us with its Octo collection. Its relentless pursuit of making ultra-thin watches had yielded some interesting results, and these pieces had certainly differentiated itself against some of the counterparts in the same category.
The 40mm Octo Finissimo Automatique is one of our favourite pieces from Bulgari just yet. While there are many other more complicated pieces (such as the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and the Octo Finissimo Répétition Minute), we pretty much like the clean and sophisticated looks of the Automatique itself. Besides, the price point is also much more accessible, and that its simple aesthetics really brings out the case and bracelet construction (which we reckon is the main attraction of this piece).
The Finissimo Automatique is cased with Bulgari’s Calibre BVL138. The self-winding movement comes with a platinum micro-rotor, and it has a power reserve of around 60 hours. This is even more impressive considering that the movement is only 2.23mm thick – which is even thinner than Piaget Altiplano’s record of 2.35mm. Finally, this incredible titanium timepiece is available from S$17,700 onwards (with the leather strap option), and we feel that this is excellent value for an ultra-thin luxury sports watch which is constructed beautifully and coupled with excellent finishing.
Jaeger LeCoultre Master Ultra-thin Perpetual Calendar
The Master Ultra-thin Perpetual Calendar is one of the defining timepieces for Jaeger LeCoultre, since its debut in 2013.
When the timepiece was first introduced, it was one of the most reasonably priced perpetual calendars in the market. But the MUT Perpetual Calendar is more than just figures in monetary terms. The 39mm timepiece is very sleek and elegant, and it measures a mere 9.2mm in thickness. The in-house Calibre 868 is a very solid movement too, and its single-corrector function (which requires just one corrector to automatically adjust the different indicators) is very intuitive and simple to operate as well.
This particular JLC is certainly a welcoming addition to any watch collection, and it is a very compelling piece for such an excellent piece at its price point. The watch is priced at S$28,400 for the stainless steel version.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15202BC Salmon
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is a collection that is familiar with many. First launched in 1972, the watch is considered by many as an icon – thanks to Gerald Genta’s handiwork in designing the legendary octagonal bezel.
There are many iterations of the Royal Oak, and the new 15202BC is fitted with an interesting combination. The watch comes with an ultra-thin case (Reference 15202BC), measuring 39mm by 8mm. The watch is cased in white gold, which contrasts nicely with the “Petite Tapisserie” dial in pink gold tone. It is also fitted with the stunning Calibre 2121 – an ultra-thin movement that was famously used by the holy trinity of Swiss watchmaking.
We reckon that despite its slight premium at US$55,400 (approximately S$74,812), this Royal Oak is going to be a highly collectable piece. This is owing its limited production run of 700 pieces, as well as its ultra rare combination of pink gold dial and white gold case. For any Royal Oak fans, this is certainly a must-have in one’s watch collection.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater
Finally, we round up the article with the sublime Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater.
In terms of aesthetics, the Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater appears to be a nondescript but elegant dress watch. But do not let that fool you. It is a Minute Repeater, and a bloody one at that. According to our Editorial Director, this particular timepiece produces one of the best sounds among the other Minute Repeater watches in the industry. We have done a review article on this piece previously, and we highly recommend the readers to read about it.
The Patrimony Ultra-thin Minute Repeater is probably out of reach for many of us, since its price tag is a staggering S$633,400. But if one is looking for an ultra-thin watch with a magical complication, this Vacheron Constantin will surely take the cake.
We have always been fascinated with ultra-thin watches. We like to think how these watches challenge watch manufacturers to create a similar product, but with the additional condition of making it much thinner than before. It is already difficult to create timepieces with complications, but it is on an entirely different level to attempt and condense everything to a mere few millimetres thin.
What are your thoughts on ultra-thin watches? Is this a showcase of technical prowess, or you’d reckon that time will be much better spent on improving the other aspects of the watch? Let us know in the comments section below!