"The concept of Altiplano is ultra thinness and ultimate elegance, but it is always technology at the service of design," said Piaget's outgoing CEO Philippe Léopold-Metzger at this year's Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair in Geneva, where the brand presented its 2017 novelties. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the groundbreaking ultra-thin Altiplano collection, so the brand is celebrating with a number of special designs for men and women.
One particularly striking series in the 60th Anniversary Collection is a trio of 40 mm Automatics, each limited to 260 pieces, that look particularly sharp with vibrant, "patinated" dials in slate gray (white gold, $26,000), emerald green (yellow gold, $25,200), and midnight blue (rose gold, $25,200). The dials are finished with a radiant sunburst pattern that reflects light to make them particularly luminous and create a color-shifting effect under changing light conditions. The colorful automatics, with cases measuring a mere 7.65 mm, showcase the svelte mechanical artistry of the Caliber 1203 movement with date function through sapphire crystal case backs.
When the wafer-thin Altiplano launched in 1957, powered by the brand's unprecedented 9P movement measuring only 2 mm, it marked a milestone in an ultra-thin quest that kicked off almost with the birth of the wristwatch. Three years later, Piaget rolled out the automatic 12P movement, another benchmark at only 2.3 mm, thanks to an offset micro-rotor.
Building an ultra-thin movement is a statement of watchmaking prowess because it is far more technically challenging than producing a standard movement. Piaget's mastery of the discipline has been developed and expanded over the decades, even into complications such as this year's Altiplano Tourbillon, and the Altiplano Chronograph from a few years ago.
In 2014, the Altiplano 900P, measuring 3.65 mm, earned a (now surpassed) record for the thinnest mechanical watch, a feat achieved by engineering the case back to double as the movement's main plate, in addition to other tweaks. In January, Metzger hinted that an upcoming technical concept watch will shatter existing records for thinness.
But for us, the Altiplano shines brightest in the light of its illustrious heritage and minimalist ethos, paring down not only the watch's profile, but also superfluous details to make a statement of pure elegance personified.