Since the very beginning, Piaget has cultivated the art of ultra-thin watchmaking, like second nature. The creative flow of colour and energy has yielded a brand-new Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept in shades of midnight blue.
Piaget is keeping the flame of ultra-thin watchmaking very much alive. It is more than just a speciality. It is a state of mind, a culture, an identity that began with watch movements and has spread to all of Piaget’s designs over almost 150 years. For Watches & Wonders Shanghai 2023, the Maison, which laid the aesthetic and technical foundations for ultra-thin watches, is launching a new version of a mechanical watch that is an astonishing 2 mm thick, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept.
With its captivating dark blue colour scheme, this new Altiplano Ultimate Concept showcases an even more pared-back design and a more marked celebration of the Maison’s signature colour. This version is a first for Piaget, as previous hours and minutes Altiplano Ultimate Concept models were designed upon request and personalised for a handful of customers: the happy few.
A Game of Refinement
At Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023, Piaget presented a stunning emerald-green version of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, alongside a blue version of the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic 910P with a rose-gold case, a piece only 4.30 mm thick. These two new models emphasised the continuing strength and relevance of ultra-thin watchmaking at Piaget, as well as another of the Maison’s deep-rooted legacies — the art of playing with colour.
Piaget presents these dazzlingly thin pieces as embodiments of the Maison’s living heritage. These are the most recent pieces in a long line of watches whose curves have grown slimmer and slimmer, achieving the seemingly impossible. Their pared-back appearance elegantly conceals the hard work required to overcome obstacles posed by materials, one millimetre at a time.
The Origins of Ultra-Thin Watches
Before it was even a Maison, Piaget designed many different components for the biggest names in Swiss watchmaking. Ever since it was founded in 1874 by Georges-Édouard Piaget, the company has focused on creating lever escapements, the most delicate regulating system for watches. In the 1920s, a second speciality emerged from this meticulous approach to manufacturing: the ability to design, create and finish pocket watch movements that were groundbreakingly thin, measuring as little as 2.4 mm.
To achieve this, the founding Piaget family embarked on a visionary journey, years ahead of the rest of the industry: the integration of all watchmaking processes. Their aim was to completely master the complex skills required to specialise in ultra-thin watchmaking. Springing from a mindset of unity, this single workplace, now known as the Manufacture, is rooted in the family’s home village, La Côte-aux-Fées.
The Founding Calibres
Deeply committed to its identity as a manufacturer, Piaget first introduced the ultra-thin in the shape of watch movements. The hand-wound 9P movement was launched in 1957. 9 for its size, nine lines corresponding to the small diameter of 20 mm, and P for Piaget, a decisive signature.
The movement was even more iconic as Piaget only used it in watches made of precious metals. The same process saw the launch of 9P’s self-winding successor, Calibre 12P, a mere 2.3 mm thick with its revolutionary micro-rotor integrated within the movement. Gold and ultra-thin: two founding signatures of a brand that established itself by proving the unquestionable excellence of its horological creations.
A Minimalist Spirit
Piaget’s third signature is instantly noticeable on all watches created since the company’s foundation. They all display simple lines, refined dials, and a design in which the bare necessities are an aesthetic signature emphasising Piaget’s high-flying technical prowess. The Piaget family’s culture, their relationship to their work and their beautiful pieces stem from their precision: an approach that drives perfection and breathes magic into their skilful play of materials and textures.
The family motto became that of the Maison: “Always do better than necessary”, engraved on the bottom of all caseboxes. This permanent reminder is essential. Despite Piaget’s constancy in delivering watches that are only a few millimetres thick, these pieces conceal an art that is extremely demanding.
As well as its design process, the manufacturing of the Calibre 9P was a daily feat of genius that continued over many decades. In the 1950s, manufacturing work was mostly performed by hand or using machines with very basic capabilities. Each component needed to be checked individually and often needed to be modified. Keeping the thickness around 2 mm was a constant challenge, an everyday mastery over materials. Therefore, while the Calibre 9P movement was followed by Calibre 12P in 1960, it was not until the 1970s that the same thinness was reached.
In 1998, Piaget invented a unique signature for its ultra-thin creations, which, since the 1960s, had only been referred to by their style. The name Altiplano was officially created. This title conveys a sense of height, of flat smooth surfaces, of stripped-down style, perfectly matching these discreetly refined, ultra-thin watches. In this field, Piaget continues to push boundaries, reaching dizzying, seemingly impossible heights.
The Phenomenon That Is the Altiplano Ultimate Concept
An exceptional feat: even at 2 mm thick, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is waterproof to a depth of 20 metres and equipped with a traditional crown. Its first working prototype took seven years to develop; two more were required for it to meet Piaget’s rigorous reliability standards. Its case is made from a special torsion-resistant cobalt alloy, which makes it 25% thinner than precious metal cases.
A stunning achievement that holds many surprises in store as Maison Piaget’s 150th anniversary approaches…