Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept - Watches and Wonders 2020
Piaget has crafted ultra-thin watches for over 60 years. Its flagship, the Altiplano, has been long synonymous with a thinnest mechanical watch, apart from a short period during which Bulgari has topped this particular ranking with the multiple-award-winning Bulgari Octo Finissimo. However, these watches are very different from each other. In this enduring battle to lead as thinnest wristwatch producer ever, the rookie has forced the long-time record holder to raise the bar even further. The outcome is that Piaget has once again moved straight back to the top, thanks to the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate 910P released at SIHH 2018 and its stunning 4,3mm overall thickness. Back then, Piaget also unveiled a surprising concept watch, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, showing off an outstanding 2mm thickness.
That concept shocked the community, generating buzz among enthusiasts and industry professionals alike, eager to find out whether that was just a show-off or a teaser of something to be produced anytime soon. With that said, we began to wonder how much of the concept features we would have found on the industrially engineered watch. There's usually a significant gap between concept and production model, in most industries, given the constraints to overcome when making any concept product, industrially feasible. The wait is finally over, and we're ready to unveil the final version of the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept. All in all, it took more than 6 years of development to turn what seemed something hard to achieve into a micro-engineering masterpiece.
Let's try and find out what is this new timepiece all about. It is close to the 2018 concept, which means that the one-off piece was close to full industrialization (as long as the term "industrialization" concerns since we're talking Piaget and Haute Horlogerie). To reduce the thickness to as low as 2mm, Piaget designers and engineers had to think differently: the term "out of the box" has never been so appropriate. They came with a new and integrated case and movement construction since they virtually create a single piece where the main plate is built into and with the case. This approach required miniaturization to the greatest extent possible, and the adoption of cutting-edge technical solutions, the result being no less than five patents are pending. Piaget is not new to this design approach, considering the 2014 900P models (3,65mm thick) and the 2018 910P (4,3mm), as cited above.
The 2mm threshold required an entirely new caliber, the Piaget 900P-UC. From a structural standpoint, considering the combination of extreme thickness and a large 41mm case, across, the engineers had to exclude gold for reasons that have to with its rigidity. At the same time, they introduced a new high-strength cobalt alloy - 2,3 times more resistant than gold - yet harder to process too. All the parts have undergone extreme downsizing. The wheels, for example, were reduced by 40% in size, and from 0,20mm to 0,12mm, the sapphire crystal by 80% to an outrageous 0,2mm. The figures, alone, confirm the technological effort the development team has gone through. The barrel has undergone full redesign too; cover and drum have been discarded, and the spring runs on a single ceramic ball bearing.
The Piaget 900P-UC caliber runs at 4Hz and guarantees a maximum power reserve of 40 hours. The reduction in thickness brought to an original crown design too: it is flat and, when closed, hides into the case; the winding mechanism houses a worm instead of a standard pinion. The hours and minutes display is off-centered, thus requiring a patented new shaft. Also, both hands are placed below the main bridge's surface to avoid any unwanted impact. The hour hand consists of a rotating disc with a locked hand, whereas the minute hand runs over the dial, as usual. Style and execution go hand in hand.
The movement has a sunray, satin finish, paired to polished beveled bridges and, on some variants, a dark PVD coating which helps highlight the top-notch finishes of all the parts. Straight and slightly curved lugs suggest extreme comfort on the wrist and fasten to an ultra-thin alligator strap, featuring a high-strength Kevlar core and a pin-flat buckle. To sum it up, if the reduced thickness is a plus in terms of comfort, the truth is that not feeling the timepiece at all, once secured on the wrist, might be a letdown for most people.
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept comes in 3 variants, coded as G0A45500, G0A45501, and G0A45502 and listed in the photo below, accordingly:
Each customer is provided with the so-called "Style Selector" available at the brand's boutiques, which offers them to customize the watch as they prefer. Piaget includes plenty of options, including the final color of bridge and dial, hands' finish, other than various strap alternatives to choose from. According to the different combinations available, Piaget claims there are at least 10,000 combinations possible, thus guaranteeing a custom-designed watch to each customer.
With the introduction of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, Piaget marks an impossible-to-close gap with the competition and reaffirms itself as the purveyor of the ultra-thin technology, at all levels. We can hardly imagine anyone considering to challenge Piaget, assuming it makes any sense to craft something even thinner. However, never say never. Price is on request. More information on www.piaget.com
(Photo credit: courtesy of Piaget)
Francesco Falcone @Horbiter®