Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Angus Davies reviews the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P recently launched at SIHH 2014. This hand-wound watch is said to be the “world’s thinnest hand-wound mechanical watch”, measuring a mere 3.65 mm in height.

This detailed review of the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P includes live images and specification details.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

I have recently returned from SIHH 2014 and, once again, I am reminded that my middle-aged torso is plumper than I would ideally like it to be. The annual watch fair seems to be a beacon for the young, slim and attractive.

My girth has been the focus of my obsessive personality throughout adulthood. My weight has wavered between extremes ever since puberty. There have been a thin phases, where frequent trips to the gym have been punctuated with a fat-free, low-sugar, protein rich diet. Conversely, there have been bouts of comfort eating, with my taste buds carefully researching the nuances of different flavoured chocolate.

Denial takes the form of breathing in as I pass the bedroom mirror and contorting my body into a bizarre shape. Another ritual consists of standing on the bathroom scales with one leg raised perpendicular to my body, trying to fool the digital readout into displaying a kinder number. Oh to be thin….

It seems Piaget, the Swiss haute horlogerie brand, knows all about the appeal of a lithe profile. Indeed, it attests to be “The Master of Ultra-thin”.

Ultra-thin, a speciality of the maison

Every year, Piaget, together with several of its competitors, seem to compete for the mantle of being the thinnest. At SIHH 2012, I marvelled at the world’s thinnest self-winding skeleton watch, the Piaget Altiplano Automatic Skeleton, measuring only 5.34 mm in height.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Now, the brand has claimed another title. Its latest model, the Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P measures only 3.65 mm in height and is claimed by the brand to be the “world’s thinnest hand-wound mechanical watch”.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

The difficultly in creating an ultra-thin timepiece is designing a movement which harnesses all of the vital organs to deliver reliable timekeeping, employing fine finishing befitting haute horlogerie status and ensuring that the rigidity of the watch is not lost. While there are an increasing number of watches entering this market segment, volumes remain comparitively small, with only a handful of brands having the necessary skills to make these timepieces. Arguably, Piaget are at the forefront of this genre of timepiece.

The importance of slim dimensions to the Piaget brand is apparent when you look at its collection of movements. The Swiss brand produces 35 in-house calibres, of which 23 are ultra-thin. Moreover, the brand has sold slender timepieces since 1957 when it created the famous hand-wound Caliber 9P, measuring only 2 mm in height, illustrating the demand for ultra-thin watches is no passing trend.

Rethinking the construction of a timepiece 

The Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P contains 145 components, some thinner than a human hair. The secret of the svelte profile lies in the unusual use of the case. Unlike a conventional timepiece, this watch avoids the use of an ordinary mainplate, affixing the components to the inside of the caseback.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Further space optimisation is achieved by placing the dial off-centre, with the going train, balance and spring barrel encircling the hour and minutes display. Moreover, the single barrel is suspended from a single bridge on the dial side unlike most barrels which are fixed to the mainplate.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Another ingenious aspect of the watch is the hands. When a timepiece is subjected to pressure, for example when placed underwater, the sapphire crystal deforms ever so slightly. It is not noticeable on a conventional watch. However, with an ultra-thin timepiece, the resultant pressure on the sapphire crystal can impair the operation of the hands. Piaget has placed the hands below the level of the neighbouring wheel-train bridge. Should the sapphire crystal deform, it will press against the upper surface of the wheel-train bridge, not the hands. The functioning of the hour and minute hands will therefore remain unaffected.

Closing remarks

Placing the timepiece upon my wrist, I was struck by how incredibly neat the watch is and marvelled at its comfortable fit. Piaget has created a timepiece which looks, and feels, more like a secondary skin, such is its slender profile.

Despite the confined internal area of the case, the finishing shows no evidence of compromise. The wheels are decorated with either sunray-brushing or circular graining. The index adjuster on the balance features the Piaget “P”signature.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

The model is available in a choice of 18-carat white gold or 18-carat pink gold. They look very different, with the former appearing more contemporary in character with its black-coloured screws and black-coated sunburst satin-brushed bridges.

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

SIHH 2014 - Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P

Another facet of the Piaget paradigm is its competence at gem-setting and the company offers haute joaillerie versions of the Altiplano 38mm 900P. However, it is the non-gem set white gold model which is my favourite.

The Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P is a tad small for my behemoth arms, but for a “normal” person I can readily see how it delivers boundless appeal. Indeed, if I was a thinner chap, of more diminutive stature, I could readily succumb to the charms of this fabulous timepiece. Oh to be thin….

Technical Specification

  • Model: Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P
  • Reference: GOA39111
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 38 mm; height 3.65 mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes.
  • Movement: Hand wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 20 jewels; power reserve 48 hours; 145 parts.
  • Strap: Black alligator leather presented on a 18-carat white gold pin buckle.

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