Ultrathin Watches

Only true masters of the art of watchmaking can take the craft to minimalist extremes. This year, Piaget, a specialist in ultrathin watchmaking since it introduced the 2.0-mm-thick 9P manual movement in 1957, continues to square off with Bulgari, a newcomer to the genre.

Piaget marked the 60th anniversary of its elegant Altiplano collection with the Ultimate Automatic 910P ($27,300 in rose gold and $28,400 in white gold), measuring only 4.3 mm thick. The automatic watch builds off the manual-winding 900P from 2014, similarly condensing space by utilizing the case as a base plate. Other tweaks were made to the movement architecture to further reduce the height of the exposed movement.

The brand further flexed its ultra-thin muscles with a concept piece, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which, at 2 mm, is a little thicker than a quarter. The wafer-like case is made of a stiff cobalt-based alloy, and the movement integrates the barrel into the case with a telescopic flat crown that recesses into the case band.

Audemars Piguet also unveiled a concept watch with its Royal Oak RD#2, which, at 6.3 mm, claims the record for the thinnest automatic perpetual calendar, a format that tends to be thick even without a winding rotor. Audemars’ engineers devised a fully integrated single-level solution with the patented 5133 caliber, which is expected to filter into the main collections.

Bulgari has focused its thinning sights on high complications. In 2014, the manual-winding Octo Tourbillon Finissimo set a new record for thin tourbillons with a movement measuring 1.95 mm thick in a 5-mm-thick case. Next up was a record-breaking 6.85-mm-thick minute repeater followed by a 5.1-mm-thick automatic, and this year’s 3.95-mm-thick Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic (price upon request), which set a new benchmark for automatic watches in general, plus adds a tourbillon for good measure. The sandblasted titanium case and skeletonized movement make a striking modern statement that tells everyone that this is not your grandfather’s watch.

Visit piaget.com, audemarspiguet.com and bulgari.com

—Laurie Kahle