Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

The Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch fuses haute horologerie with haute joaillerie to mesmerising effect. Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of this remarkable timepiece.

This detailed review of the Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch includes live images and specification details.

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

I am not the biggest fan of flying. I think it is the combination of being shoe-horned into the narrowest of seats and inhaling the germs of sickly fellow passengers that dissuades me from taking to the skies too often.

The food provided is another daunting prospect. I find myself risk assessing the chicken and lettuce fusion, trying to ascertain the probability of suffering the ill-effects of salmonella typhimurium.

However, the most intimidating aspect of flying must be walking past customs officers upon arrival at my destination airport. I don’t smoke, seldom drink alcohol and have never carried any prohibited substances. Logically, there should be nothing to fear, but the notion of being greeted by a man with large hands, clad in latex gloves, does seem a little unnerving.

As I walk through the green channel, I am always unsure whether to avoid eye-contact or proffer a friendly smile to the uniformed officers in attendance. I am convinced my non-verbal behaviour conveys guilt even though I am as innocent as a newborn baby.

Clearly the role of a customs officers is justified. They have an important job to perform. The fact is some passengers are devoid of honesty, they will carry contraband and try to conceal objects about their person.

Piaget is a paragon of honesty and openness

By way of contrast, Piaget is a paragon of honesty and openness, readily revealing all aspects of their skeletonised watches including the many internal components within. The Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch is latest model from the high-end Swiss watch brand and was released earlier in 2013. On the face of it, the 1200D calibre shares much in common with the 1200S calibre, launched in 2012. However, the newer calibre features 259 brilliant-cut diamonds (approximately 0.8 carats) and 11 black sapphire cabochons (approximately 0.2 carats).

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

This latest model, the Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch, combines three design elements practised by the maison, namely it is skeletonised, ultra-thin and features matchless gem-setting.

Skeletonised watches

Removing material from a movement, eschewing a conventional dial, and providing an insight into the inner workings of a timepiece is no mean feat. Strength and rigidity have to be retained or the watch will lack longevity. Moreover, if inner components inadvertently move, they may marr the smooth operation of the watch, resulting in poor reliability. Conversely, for skeletonisation to be noteworthy, extraneous material must be removed. The shrewd judgement, between removing too much or too little is best left to those brands which are well-versed in executing an open-worked movement. Piaget have repeatedly shown they are capable of producing some of the finest open-worked movements in existence and this latest offering is another outstanding example.

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

Ultra-thin timepieces

To create components which are shallow in height is one pre-requisite necessary for making ultra-thin timepieces. However, functionality of the movement must not be lost, merely to accord a slender waistline. Piaget continuously push the boundaries with its range of ultra-thin timepieces in what is a very competitive arena. Earlier this year, in January 2013, when the watch was revealed to assembled trade and press, the watch was reputed to be the, “World’s thinnest automatic gem-set skeleton watch: 6.10 mm thick”. However, as SIHH 2014 looms on the horizon, I am sure various companies will be seeking to beat this record and attain the “bragging rights” for their latest lithe novelty.

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

Nevertheless, whether new slimmer, ultra-thin models subsequently enter the marketplace, nothing should discount the achievement of Piaget in creating this model. It stands testament to the skill of the artisans who tirelessly work within the confined area dictated by the shallow case height.


Several watch companies adorn their timepieces with gems featuring on the bezel or bracelet. The finest practioners size and mount gems with adroit skill, appearing to create flowing lines with invisible setting. However, on this watch, Piaget show its exalted talent by not merely applying gems to the external surfaces but fitting them to the movement as well.

It seems remarkable that the super-slim automatic skeleton movement is gem-set. Once more, Piaget claimed at SIHH 2013 that the Caliber 1200D is, “The first ever automatic gem-set skeleton movement.”

Up-close and personal

I handled the Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch at SalonQP and fell under its alluring spell.

The bezel is set with 40 baguette-cut diamonds (approximately 3.2 carats). The caseband, lugs, crown and exhibition caseback feature an additional 347 brilliant cut diamonds (approximately 1.4 carats). But, the inventory of diamonds also includes 24 brilliant cut diamonds (approximately 0.06 carats) adorning the 18-carat white gold deployant.

It necessitates much skill to apply gems to a calibre. Consideration cannot be restricted merely to aesthetics but must also ensure no impediment to the moving parts occurs. It takes four working days for the gem-setter merely to mount the aforementioned 259 diamonds and 11 black sapphire cabochons to the movement.

A danger of gem-setting a watch is that it can appear gawdy and excessive. However, this is not an accusation that could be levelled towards this watch. My female host at SalonQP, kindly offered to place the model upon her demure wrist, and the resultant spectacle was jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch

The alluring aesthetics of the watch are evident. But, watchmaking prowess has not been overlooked. The finissage is executed to a peerless standard. Haute horlogerie finishing includes hand-bevelled bridges, sunray brushed wheels and a blackened platinum micro-rotor.


In creating the Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch, the haute-horlogerie brand has openly disclosed each element of the watch. Everything is laid-bare to scrutinising eyes and discriminating critique.

Is there anything to declare? Yes, the screw threads are secretly located beneath black sapphire cabochons. But, this is an enhancement rather than a strategy to dupe and does not detract from the honesty openly demonstrated by this remarkable timepiece. The maison has successfully married haute horlogerie and haute joaillerie in a spell-binding form.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Piaget Altiplano automatic gem-set Skeleton watch
  • Reference: G0A38125
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 40.00mm; height 6.10mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes
  • Movement: Calibre 1200D, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 26 jewels; power reserve 44 hours; 191 parts
  • Strap: Black alligator leather strap presented with a gem-set 18-carat white gold deployant.

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