The internet today is flooded with different ways for you to shed that extra weight whilst staying healthy. The trend of getting fitter & slimmer has certainly picked up but we also see a rippling effect in the world of watches. Some of the basic suggestions you will find online is to cut back on the sugar, carbohydrates and starch to shed those extra pounds. With the watches, however, it is a tad bit more complicated than that. Does the weight of the watch equate to its quality, you know the heftier, the better or are paper thin watches now considered as a benchmark for fine watchmaking?
Historically super thin watches have been around for the longest time. Around 1927, Audemars Piguet introduced an impressive pocket watch with a mere 3mm case size. This was followed by Vacheron Constantin’s record-breaking pocket watch that measured just 0.94mm in height. If wafer-thin pocket watches haven’t intrigued you, imagine an ultra thin wrist watch, which is as thin as 1.75mm! Shaving off mere mms off a watch is certainly not as easy as it sounds, on the contrary, it is an extremely daunting task. As you trim the material more and more to win that “world record” in a category that is highly contended today, doesn’t it impact the strength of your watch that is constantly in motion?
Be it Bvlgari’s record-breaking Octo’s, Piaget’s Altiplano or the newest record holder Richard Mille, micro-thin watch making is a challenge. Let’s try and understand how these brands shave off that extra weight whilst maintaining the accuracy and aesthetic appeal.
Kicking off the one that very recently broke the internet—Richard Mille’s RM-UP 01 Ferrari. How did they achieve a thickness, if I may call it that, of 1.75mm? Well instead of superimposing the gears and hands, and using traditional methods like stacking the movement, they have spread it across that vast surface. Breaking records is one thing, but what about strength and durability? Clearly well thought out, the baseplate and bridges of this watch are made of Grade 5 titanium which is capable of withstanding accelerations of more than 5,000 Gs! Pretty impressive I’d say.
While the phrase ‘less is more’ sounds fantastic, we also have brands that have stacked complications in equally slender cases. The one worthy of mention here is Bvlgari’s Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater. The thinnest chiming watch in the market, housed in a 6.61mm case. An ultra-thin minute repeater would mean miniaturisation of the gongs and hammers, which means a reduction in the transfer of energy from the movement to the surrounding air. But the challenge doesn’t end there. The movement also sports a flat-spring barrel and a hanging mainspring barrel and crown to reduce the height of the movement as much as possible. Another example of attention to detail here is the simplicity of the dial that shows no sign of being a minute repeater except the words ‘Repetition Minutes’ on the face. To further capitalise on the aesthetics given the restrictions of the watch in terms of space, Bvlgari has used the cut-out hour markers and indexes to help amplify the sound of the mechanism below, a small yet significant detail that definitely makes a difference.
Up next is Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Automatic at 4.30mm overall. Piaget is no stranger to manufacturing ultra-thin wrist watches. Between 57 and 60 Piaget manufactured two of the thinnest calibres – 9P and 12P measuring 2.00mm and 2.3mm respectively. The Altiplano Ultimate Automatic was originally labelled the world’s thinnest automatic watch until it was trumped by Bvlgari’s Octo Finissimo Tourbillon automatic at 3.95mm. So what is the secret to the slim dimensions on the Altiplano? The answer is Piaget calibre 910P which is based on the hand wound calibre 900P.The automatic winding system uses a peripheral rotor allowing it to remain in the same plane as the rest of the gear train. The solution here is a simple entity for both the movement and the case. Hence inverting the traditional construction, in which the caseback is the main plate affixed with the numerous components, the bridges sit on the dial side.This sheds almost one layer of the contraction further resulting in the thinness of that watch.
The watch business seems to be obsessed with breaking records and claiming technological superiority paired with worldwide recognition for excellence. The takeaway from these ultra thin watches eventually is that while a slim body is much desired by many, a healthy one that takes relentless hours of work and expertise goes a longer way. All puns intended!
The watch world has seen a number of beautifully executed ultra thin timepieces that have excelled in utility, precision while being aesthetically appealing for decades now. Here are a few more noteworthy mentions: