By Nicole Schubert | March 7, 2019 | Watches & Jewelry
Living up to the motto “always do better than necessary,” Piaget, pushing market boundaries to deliver collectors a timepiece that represents infinite slenderness, recently showcased the world’s thinnest watch, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, during Watches & Wonders at their Miami Design District Boutique. Housing 283 components at just 2mm thick, this record breaking innovation—combining opulence, style, and artistry—almost disappears, becoming a natural second skin and “discretely revealing the allure of the one who wears it.” Making a namesake in 1957 as the masters of ultra-thin, Piaget is revolutionizing the watch industry and leading a renaissance in movement creation and ultimate slimness, thus presenting the Miami shopper with a luxury watch that rises above all extreme limits.
Ocean Drive sat down with Quentin Hébert, Head of Watches Marketing at Piaget, to hear firsthand about developing this iconic design, Piaget’s mission since 1874 to create a strong visual identity, setting world records, and market suggestions for Miami timepiece aficionados.
For the first time in the U.S., Piaget showcased the world's thinnest watch, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, during Watches & Wonders Miami. Tell me about this unique and very special timepiece.
QUENTIN HÉBERT: Imagine two credit cards on top of each other. This is the thickness of the Piaget mechanical manual-winding Altiplano Ultimate Concept housing 283 components! It demonstrates Piaget’s unique know-how in ultra-thin watchmaking. This major achievement firmly stands on Piaget's long history in movement creation: Piaget started in 1874 as a movement manufacturer and took a strong and decisive turn in ultra-thin watches in 1957 with the birth of the Altiplano collection. Altiplano Ultimate Concept crowns decades of mastery and leadership of Piaget in ultra-thin watches by being the thinnest manual-winding watch of the world. In addition to its ultimate slimness, Altiplano Ultimate Concept features a stunning design, echoing our strong visual identity.
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept, developed by the Piaget “Research and Innovation” division, set a record as the world’s thinnest mechanical hand-wound watch at just 2mm thick. What inspired its development?
QH: In 2014, Piaget launched an amazing watch: The Piaget Altiplano 900P is a fusion between the case and the movement. The watch case is used as movement main plate. It was the thinnest manual winding watch at that time. It opened new ideas and possibilities in terms of creation and raised new challenges. We started wondering how far we could go, how far we can push the boundaries of ultra-thin, wondering if we could come close to the 9P caliber, the iconic manual winding ultra-thin caliber of 2mm launched in 1957 and which gave birth to Altiplano. Reaching a total watch thickness of 2mm was probably a crazy goal, though Piaget succeeded!
Upon the quest for infinite slenderness, what was the process to creating this revolutionary timepiece and who was involved?
QH: The structure of the 900P movement—the fusion between the case and the caliber—was the starting point of the project. We decided to push it to its extreme, searching for its own limits. 2mm was definitely a symbolic target, echoing the Piaget manual caliber 9P. Therefore, a dedicated task force was created with designers, watchmakers, engineers, and product specialists in order to give life to this stunning movement and design. This very last point is extremely important: At Piaget, the artistic intention always comes first. In other words, ultra-thinness serves a clear purpose: elegance and allure. This stunning concept was in a very modern interpretation of the Altiplano codes combined with the unrivaled expression of Piaget’s ultra-thin mastery.
During the early design stages, were researchers looking to set world records?
QH: In that specific case, establishing a world record was a goal with the ultimate objective of reaching a thinness similar to the 2mm 9P. However, another objective, if not the most important, was to test and combine technical solutions we had in mind. In other words, Altiplano Ultimate Concept was created as a test watch to analyze and validate those ideas that could be used in our regular production ultimately in the upcoming years.
This Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch comes upon a second world breaking record, donned the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, the world’s thinnest self-winding watch at just 4.30mm thick. Tell us about this second extraordinary innovation.
QH: Let’s go back to 2014 when Piaget launched the 900P. With 3.65mm, this watch was setting new rules with the concept of “fusion” which means the fusion of case and movement as the case becomes the mainplate of the movement. This was the start of the Ultimate Concept project as we challenge ourselves to push the technics to the limits. We also started working on the introduction of an automatic version with the challenge of integrating the oscillating weight on a slim watch without altering its strong and powerful design. Altiplano Ultimate Automatic pushes the concept of case/movement fusion a step forward with the addition of a peripheral rotor crafted in gold with pvd coating. This watch is fueled by new technical solutions such as the ones we developed with the Altiplano Ultimate Concept which could be implemented in our future watch developments.
Can we expect to see another unique record breaking watch in the near future?
QH: The idea is tempting. However, the ultimate goal and objective of thinness remains the elegance it allows. The watch almost disappears, becoming like a natural second skin, discreetly revealing the allure of the one who wears it. Piaget does not break records for the sake of it, aesthetics and design always come first. It doesn’t mean we won’t break new records in the future: we are the masters of ultra-thin after all and it’s Piaget’s natural form of expression.
If you could suggest one new timepiece to Miami watch aficionados, what would it be and why?
QH: Miami is a very specific market with great watchmaking knowledge and a strong love for powerful and recognizable timepieces. In that regard, Altiplano 41mm Tourbillon with blue meteorite dial is the perfect watch that echoes the happy, relaxed and easy-going, sunny Miami lifestyle. It expresses Piaget's Sunny Side of Life, a positive attitude aimed at enjoying every positive moment of life. The pure, sleek and essential design of Altiplano is enriched with a rich meteorite dial, an eternal material formed at the same time as the Sun. Another watch that perfectly fits Miami timepiece aficionados' dreams is certainly the Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, thanks to its recognizable and strong design enhanced by the technicality of the movement visible directly on the dial side.
Piaget, born in 1874, has continuously sought innovative solutions in the field of infinite slenderness with the launch of the hand-wound Calibre 9P. How does Piaget plan to continue to distinguish itself in the realm of ultra-thin watchmaking?
QH: Piaget was born in 1874 in a tiny village of La Côte-Aux-Fées in the Swiss Jura as a movement manufacturer. These are the roots of our history, a history deeply linked to ultra-thin watchmaking, which is the way to express ourselves together with our way to liberate creativity. Those two strong elements make Piaget so special with a constant focus on aesthetics. It always comes first in our creative process.
Photography Courtesy of Piaget