Close-up of a watchmaker’s hands in black gloves assembling a Piaget watch movement, with the intricate parts and schematics visible in the background
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon’s use of high-tech materials enables it to be just 2mm thick

The Swiss watchmaker Piaget is today laying claim to the world record for the thinnest tourbillon wristwatch ever made. At 2mm, roughly the thickness of two credit cards, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is expected to break a record held since 2018 by Bulgari’s 3.95mm Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic.

But, according to Piaget chief executive Benjamin Comar, entering the record books was never an incentive. “I’m not really into world records,” he says. “I’m interested in craftsmanship and making a very wearable, elegant watch.”

Despite its wafer-thin profile, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon still behaves like a conventional wristwatch. It has hour and minute hands, hour markers, a crown secreted in the right case flank to set the time and wind the watch (it is manually wound), a 40-hour power reserve, and nominal water resistance of 20 metres.

Its case is made from a blue PVD-treated cobalt alloy called M64BC, a material often chosen for medical implants because it can be machined into thin slices without losing its structural integrity. “It’s a real watch,” says Comar. “It’s not a watch for the sake of it.” He does, however, acknowledge the value of a world record. “I understand that, for the brand to be competitive, you want . . . the best movements,” he says. He estimates around five a year will be produced, each costing about $650,000.

A sophisticated mechanical watch by Piaget displaying an openwork dial with gears and mechanisms visible, gold accents, and a power reserve indicator, complemented by a blue textured band
The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon still behaves like a conventional wristwatch
A side view of a Piaget wristwatch showcasing a thin watch case and a blue strap with a textured design

Piaget’s new tourbillon watch picks up on the integrated case and movement construction concept developed for its Altiplano Ultimate Concept of 2018 which, at 2mm thick, set a world record for the thinnest mechanical wristwatch — a title it has since lost, first to Bulgari, then to Richard Mille two years ago.

But the first Altiplano Ultimate Concept did not feature a tourbillon — the traditional watchmaking device said to reduce the impact of gravity on the delicate moving parts of a mechanical watch by surrounding them in a constantly rotating cage. Working a tourbillon — and the additional 25 per cent power Piaget says the device consumes — into a watch will be viewed as a significant technical milestone in watchmaking. “The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is quite surreal, and its extreme thinness is spectacular,” says Frank Geelen, founder of online watch magazine Monochrome. “Piaget’s ultra-thin calibres laid the foundation for other ultra-thin watches that we see today.”

Comar says 2mm is a “golden number” for Piaget. In 1957, the company introduced the 2mm thick 9P calibre, which at the time became the world’s thinnest mechanical movement. In watchmaking, the 9P enjoys cult status, the more so given it was created long before the advent of computer-aided design and laser-guided precision milling. Some parts in the new watch are produced to tolerances of four microns, or four thousandths of a millimetre.

Only a decade ago, a 2mm-thick tourbillon wristwatch would have been unthinkable. In 2014, Bulgari introduced the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, which cloaked a 1.95mm thick movement in a 5mm case and set a world record for the thinnest tourbillon watch. This was considered groundbreaking, yet Piaget has now reduced the record by more than half. “We asked ourselves: ‘What can we put in a 2mm watch?’” says Comar. “What can we do to push it further?”

Piaget is in a three-way tussle for ultra-thinness. Yesterday, Bulgari introduced the Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC which at 1.7mm becomes the world’s thinnest mechanical watch of any kind, breaking the record set in 2022 by Richard Mille’s 1.75mm RM UP-01 Ferrari.

Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC

“I’m very happy that people are competing on it because it’s always been a focus of ours,” says Comar. “Thinness hasn’t been a trend for a while but, thanks to the records from other brands and this, it’s coming back.”

Comar, however, dismisses the suggestion he will attempt to break Bulgari’s new record. “Breaking records is not a crusade,” he says. “This notion of 2mm is our baseline and, as long as we can do an elegant, wearable watch, that’s the most important thing.”

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is Piaget’s second major release in its 150th anniversary year. In February, it announced the Polo 79, a flamboyant gold bracelet watch recalling a louche original design introduced by Yves Piaget in 1979 that became a favourite of socialites of the time, such as Andy Warhol and Ursula Andress.

A gold Piaget wristwatch with a minimalist dial and a distinctive bracelet design, featuring overlapping horizontal links
The Polo 79

Comar says the 79 examples of the £69,000 watch slated for production this year sold out on release. “I didn’t expect that,” he admits. “It answered where I think the market is, with people wanting the assurance of a look of the past with some creativity.” He adds that after the watch’s release, the company recorded a 39 per cent increase in brand interest, a term to describe global online searches.

With the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry reporting the country’s first decline in watch exports for two years last month, Comar admits the timing of Piaget’s upscale anniversary releases could give the brand a lift while others struggle. “The date of the 150th anniversary can’t be changed, but it’s a good time to be visible,” he says. “I hope, and I think, it will give us market share.”

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