Watches And Wonders 2024: Piaget's Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon

THM Desk
10 Apr 2024 |
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In an extraordinary feat of watchmaking ingenuity, Piaget has unveiled the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon, a groundbreaking timepiece that defies the boundaries of horological excellence. This remarkable creation marks a pivotal milestone in Piaget's 150-year journey, pushing the limits of technical prowess and aesthetic refinement.

At a mere 2 mm in thickness, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon stands as a paradox, a fusion of extreme thinness and the intricate complexity of a flying tourbillon. With a diameter of 41.5 mm, a water resistance of 20 meters, and a striking blue PVD-treated cobalt alloy case, this timepiece seemingly possesses the attributes of an everyday watch. However, its 2 mm profile and the mesmerizing whirl of the flying tourbillon elevate it to extraordinary realms.

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The tourbillon carriage, encircled by a bridge, subverts conventional technical principles, setting a new standard in watchmaking. Engraved on the back, alongside a sapphire crystal nestled beneath the tourbillon, is Piaget's driving philosophy: "Always do better than necessary." This ethos has fueled the Maison's relentless pursuit of innovation and collaboration.

Crafting the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon was a saga in itself, a three-year race against time conducted in secrecy within Piaget's Manufacture in La Côte-aux-Fées. Doubt, self-questioning, and unwavering determination marked the lives of those involved in this monumental endeavor. The tourbillon complication, a hallmark of watchmaking royalty, takes on a new dimension, both technically and poetically, while remaining true to Piaget's ancestral approach – technical achievements serving as a canvas for aesthetic brilliance.

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Beneath the surface, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is a masterpiece of reinvention. Piaget redesigned 90% of the components from the original Altiplano Ultimate Concept, even developing new machinery to craft a watch as thin as its groundbreaking predecessor, with the addition of a flying tourbillon. Inside, everything is new: parts have been reimagined and redesigned, drawing on years of experience.

"We did far more than merely add a tourbillon. We reinvented everything," explains Benjamin Comar, Piaget CEO.

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon builds upon the legacy of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, which was awarded the prestigious Aiguille d'Or at the 2020 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève. However, for the watchmakers at Piaget's historic Manufacture in La Côte-aux-Fées, the challenge of surpassing their previous achievement was an irresistible calling.

Inspired by the momentum that led to the creation of the thinnest manual-winding calibers and the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, the team embarked on a quest to integrate a tourbillon complication into an ultra-thin watch. The question of how to achieve this feat had no simple answer, but Piaget's development approach, rooted in continuous experimentation and refinement, paved the way.

Capitalizing on its expertise in ultra-thin technology, Piaget drew inspiration from its 4.6 mm 670P tourbillon caliber, whose flying tourbillon fit into a mere 1.49 mm space. However, even with meticulous optimization, the Manufacture in La Côte-aux-Fées fell short of the desired mark – a complete reimagining of the tourbillon was necessary.

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The solution emerged in the form of a tourbillon held in place by its perimeter, driven by a ceramic ball bearing that facilitates its one-minute rotation. Crafted primarily from titanium and steel, this ingenious design paved the way for the next challenge: powering the complication.

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon relies on a unique skeletonized barrel replicating the cross-hair design of the original Altiplano. To meet the tourbillon's higher energy demands, Piaget employed two innovative solutions: a custom-engineered mainspring with an increased blade thickness to deliver additional energy, and the strategic use of ball bearings instead of pivots to reduce friction and achieve unprecedented thinness.

Innovation permeated every aspect of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon's design, from the optimized thickness of the sapphire crystals to the meticulous machining tolerances required for the miniaturized parts. The balance wheel rim and sapphire crystal, both a mere 0.2 mm thick, demanded an accuracy of approximately 2 microns, or two thousandths of a millimeter, during the manufacturing process.

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The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon transcends mere technical feats; it is an embodiment of Piaget's relentless pursuit of elegance and self-expression. Wearing a watch fitted with a tourbillon that is as thin as a coin is a surprising and comfortable experience. From the side, it nearly vanishes; from the back, it captivates with its striking aperture; and from the front, it reveals remarkable depth and a potential for self-expression that defies expectations.

Day to day, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon can either go unnoticed or make a bold statement, showcasing its profoundly elegant character with a play of colors that is quintessentially Piaget, pairing blue with gold. This elegance lies at the very heart of Piaget's DNA, a constant pursuit that drives the Maison to set and surpass new challenges.

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon is a timepiece meant to be worn, admired, and cherished. It serves as a reminder of the long history, passion, and dedication of the people and the Manufacture that brought it to life. Most importantly, it leaves its owners wondering what extraordinary heights Maison Piaget will reach next in its relentless quest for horological perfection.