Since more than 50 years, Piaget reigns over the ultra-thin world. The 9P, introduced in 1957, is still a reference in the watchmaking industry for being one of the very first ultra-thin caliber in history. From this date, many competitors tried to reach the same level of expertise : Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, amongst others. In fact, there was only one manufacture able to break Piaget’s record : Piaget itself. Please welcome the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P, the world’s thinnest mechanical watch. Merging the hand-wound calibre with the case elements, it is designed as a single entity in order to achieve record-breaking slenderness at just 3.65 mm thin.
Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P – A bit of history
While clearly geared towards innovation, it is also a nod to history, since it gets the 900P part of its name from Calibre 9P, which was the first ultra-thin hand-wound movement made by Piaget in 1957. That particular mechanism measured just 2 mm thin and sealed Piaget’s destiny in the field of ultra-thin horology. By 1960, Piaget was ready to set a first record with its Calibre 12P, the world’s thinnest automatic movement at just 2.3 mm. The following years witnessed a spate of new slimness records in the fields of hand-wound and automatic models, with or without horological complications – like Calibre 600P, the world’s thinnest hand-wound shaped tourbillon movement; and 1208P, an automatic movement that was also the thinnest in its category, to mention just a couple of these feats.
To date, Piaget has produced no less than 23 ultra-thin calibres out of the 35 movements developed and produced in-house, of which 12 have set new records for thinness over the past few years and are now part of the collection. All of these 23 ultra-thin movements have been produced continually since the time of their launch, while Calibre 430P has established itself as one of the world’s most widely produced ultra-thin hand-wound movements, due to its resistance.
Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P – 1+1 = 1
Very few manufacturers a develop and produce in-house both their calibres and their cases. Piaget belongs to this circle. While the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P merges the case and movement to establish itself as the thinnest mechanical watch ever, it also stems from another fusion without which such a feat would have been impossible: that of the two Manufactures Piaget – one based in La Côte aux Fées, where the movements are made; and the other in Plan-les-Ouates, where the cases are crafted. These skills are now intermingled, since within the Altiplano 38 mm 900P, the mechanism and the external components form a single indivisible entity.
For a full three years, watchmakers, case constructors and designers worked together at each stage of development, production, adjustment and finishing in order to give life to it. Each technical choice had an aesthetic impact, and vice versa. While each of the 145 parts composing the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P has been trimmed to a size sometimes barely thicker than a hair’s breadth. Objective for Piaget : create optimal play between the fixed and mobile organs, while being careful to ensure that the later move freely and thus guarantee the smooth running of the mechanism.
Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P – Turn it upside down
The secret of the 900P lies in the structure of the case itself, of which the back also serves as the mainplate. Thereby merging calibre and case, the latter was machined directly from the case-back in order to house the mechanical parts. This complex architecture meant reversing movement construction so as to fit the bridges on the dial side.
Last but not least, Piaget has devised a suspended barrel hanging from a single bridge on the dial side, contrary to classic barrels that are also fixed to the mainplate side. This unusual device is no way detrimental to the performance of the mechanism, since the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P has a generous power reserve of around 48 hours.
Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P – A patent pending…for hands !
When a watch is subjected to strong pressure, such as when immersed in water, its glass or crystal is slightly deformed. While this physical phenomenon goes relatively unnoticed on a classic timepiece, the same is certainly not true of an ultra-thin watch. Given the extremely confined space available, the glass would be liable to press on the hands when deformed, thus causing the movement to stop. To avoid this challenge to any ultra-thin model, Piaget has come up with a device (patent pending). Instead of fitting the hands above the bridges, Piaget has placed them underneath, thereby freeing up space between the cannon-pinion and the crystal. When the latter is deformed by the effects of pressure, it presses not on the hands – placed below the bridge level – but instead on the wheel-train bridge, thus avoiding any consequences on the rate of the movement.