BY ALEX JACKSON
The pinnacle of a half-century of virtuosity in the field of ultra-thin watches, in which Piaget reigns supreme, the Altiplano 900P testifies to the sheer excellence of the Maison’s two integrated Manufactures – where watchmakers, case makers and designers join forces to breathe life into a masterpiece of reliability and precision. The Piaget family motto, “Always do better than necessary,” explains their technical challenge for creating ultra-thin watches, a feat that requires rigor and solidarity. Holding more than a dozen records in various categories, Piaget is the king of ultra-thin watches. This expertise goes all the way back to 1957 with the invention of the Calibre 9P, the first Piaget ultra-thin movement and what today is a real classic. To celebrate the mark’s 140th anniversary, Piaget went for the biggest record of all; with its blend of manual winding and external finishing, the Altiplano 900P was designed as an ensemble to set a world record for thinness, at only 3.65 mm thick.
While Piaget holds many of the ultra-thin records, the overall thinnest mechanical watch title was previously held by Jaeger-LeCoultre for the Master Ultra-Thin Jubilee, which comes in at 4.05mm. But now, thinner by a full .4mm, But now, thinner by a full .4mm, the Altiplano 900P climbed to the top. The secret of this extreme thinness lies in the case itself.
In the Altiplano 900P the case and the movement are one unit. In order to maximize economy of space, Piaget took a different approach and built one self-contained unit. The “case back” is actually the baseplate for the movement components as well. Housing both the caliber and the case, the case back was itself machinetooled to accommodate the mechanical components. This means that there is one layer less on the back of the watch, shaving off crucial millimeters. Additionally, the dial here is a smaller, off-center unit that is set into the bridges, again cutting down on the thickness that results from laying a dial on top of a movement.
The real limiting factors with the Altiplano 900P are the thickness of the balance wheel and how thin a wheel can be made without risking distortion or breakage. One of the things Piaget touts is that 900P is made with traditional materials instead of space-age composites. The thinnest wheel in the 900P is the third wheel of the main gear train, which comes in at only .12mm thin. There are 145 components in all, and each one fits within the thickness of the balance wheel.
One of the greatest challenges was ensuring that the crystal could sit as low as possible without pressing on the hands when subjected to pressure. A new patent-pending mechanism was invented to fit the hands below the main bridges (when they would normally be fit above) so that the crystal will push on the bridges instead of the hands.
While it’s obviously impressive technically, this watch ticks all the aesthetic boxes as well. The main gear train and balance wheel are laid out horizontally in the bridges, so most of the mechanism is visible right up front. The “dial” is offset around 10 o’clock, just like the running seconds on all manually wound Altiplanos, secured with two visible screws and decorated with brushed finishes. All the bridges and wheels are beautifully finished, as you would expect from Piaget. Brushing, chamfering, and polishing create a lot of visual interest in a way that manages to avoid looking flashy or over-the-top. It would have been easy for Piaget to go with a 40mm or 43mm case here, but they opted for the more difficult and elegant 38mm case; really an awesome choice.
Putting the watch on, it’s almost tough to believe how light and thin this watch is. It’s definitely not for everyone and probably not an everyday watch, but when it comes to an elegant dress watch that is also interesting and complicated, the Altiplano 900P makes a very compelling case. This is the 23rd ultra-thin calibre from Piaget and something only achievable because the Maison controls both its case and movement manufacturing processes.
The Ultra-Thin Altiplano 900P is available in 18k white gold and is priced between $20,000 and $30,000 US. The power reserve is about 48 hours and the watch comes on a black alligator strap with a matching white gold pin buckle. The spectacular and uncommonly rare aesthetics of the Altiplano 900P 38 mm ultra-thin watch are also available in an extremely exclusive gem-set version.
The creation paves the way for further feats, seemingly only achievable by Piaget thanks to the experience it has amassed since 1874.
- Manufacturer: Piaget
- Reference No: G0A40510
- Model Name: Piaget Altiplano 900P 38mm
- Material: 18K white gold Watch. Calibre and case merged to form a whole, circular satin-brushed case-back. Case-back engraved with the inscription “Only Watch 2015 – unique piece” Calibre: Black-coated movement, 145 parts (case + movement), 20 jewels, 21,600 vph /3 Hz, approx. 48 hour power reserve, blackcoloured sunburst satin-brushed bridges, bevelled bridges, sunburst or circular satin-brushed wheels, black-coloured screws, dedicated index-assembly with t-e Piaget “P” signature.
Bracelet/Strap: Black alligator leather strap. 18K white gold pin buckle
- Dimensions: 38mm. Diameter / 3.65 mm (case + movement) Thickness
- Price: 32,000 US