For decades, a handful of high-end watch brands have created ultra-thin watches, such as Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet to name a few. We’re talking about super-thin timepieces, some just a few millimetres thick, yet still encompass incredible complications. But why the obsession? For many watch connoisseurs, ultra-thin watches are the ultimate horological complication. After all, making a complicated watch is one thing, but making a complicated watch that’s just a few millimetres thick is an even more impressive achievement. These watchmaking marvels are svelte and sophisticated, to be admired and then slipped discreetly under a shirt cuff or dress sleeve.
Let’s take a closer look at the brands doing it best…
The king of thin: Piaget
Perhaps the watch house most strongly associated with ultra-thin watches is Piaget. In its history, the brand has manufactured the world’s thinnest mechanical watch, thinnest chronograph, thinnest hand-wound movement and thinnest self-winding mechanical movement. The brand first set itself the challenge of creating an ultra-thin movement that the world had ever seen during the 1950s. Its first ultra-thin movement and the first in its flagship Altiplano collection was launched at Baselworld in 1957. Designed by Valentin Piaget (the grandson of Piaget’s founder Georges-Edouard Piaget), the hand-wound 9P movement measured an astonishing 2mm thick, and was praised by many for its elegant profile and its high level of performance. In 1960, Piaget went a step further, inventing an ingenious micro-rotor concept enabling it to launch the thinnest automatic movement in the world: the 12P. The calibre measured just 2.3mm thick and cemented Piaget’s reputation for creating high-precision, ultra-thin timepieces for the sophisticated gentleman. Since then, the brand has gone on to create super-thin mechanical calibres, both hand-wound and automatic, featuring complications such as tourbillons and chronographs for both men and women.
Piaget has continued to impress with its signature ultra-thin speciality. Take this incredible Altiplano Ultimate Automatic model. Its 38mm case, which is cast in 18-carat white gold is one of the thinnest watches on the market at just 3.65mm thick. It houses Piaget’s 900P movement, an ultra-thin hand-wound movement which, despite its height powers an off-centre hours and minutes display with a 48-hour power reserve. The maison has achieved this feat by designing the case back to serve as the mainplate on which the movement’s 145 components are affixed, fusing the movement to the case. Such complex architecture means the movement’s sunburst chamfered black bridges are visible through the dial side, and the entire mechanism and hands are contained within the thickness of the balance, thus gaining a few more precious millimetres. It’s a truly elegant wristwatch to wear both day and night, and comes on a stylish black leather strap (£24,100).
Piaget is available at Watches of Switzerland UK in Regent Street, London and Heathrow Terminal 5.
Past master: Jaeger-LeCoultre
One of the most timeless ultra-thin watches is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Thin. Based on the calibre 145, the first ultra-thin movement was created by Edmond Jaeger and Jacques-David LeCoultre in 1907. It was originally a pocket watch, and the world’t thinnest at just 1.38mm thick. The maison’s Master Ultra Thin features a slim profile, a classic round case shape and an uncluttered dial design. This exquisite Master Ultra Thin Réserve de Marche (£15,800) features a 39mm case cast in warm 18-carat pink gold. Underneath its eggshell beige dial ticks an automatic movement that is 4.9mm in height and is powered by the calibre 938. The watch contains a date subdial between 2 and 3 o’clock, a small seconds dial at 6 o’clock, and a power-reserve indicator between 10 and 11 o’clock, all while packing a 43-hour power reserve.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
We also love this Master Ultra Thin Moon (£8,150). The automatic 39mm stainless-steel timepiece features a sleek black dial with a sunray effect, an eye-catching moon-phase complication at 6 o’clock (which features a small hand indicating the date on its perimeter). Its caliber 925/1 is just 4.9mm thick, and boasts a 38-hour power reserve, and has a matching black alligator leather strap.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon
Making history: Vacheron Constantin
In 2010, Vacheron Constantin unveiled the Historiques Ultra-Fine 1955. At the time, it was clocking in as the thinnest mechanical watch in the world at 4.13mm. Since then, other brands have launched even thinner watches, but we still think the Historiques is an astonishing watchmaking feat. After all, its hand-wound caliber 1003 was barely 1.64mm thick.
We’re proud to offer a further example of the brand’s ultra-thin watchmaking skills in our showrooms, the Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar (£65,800). Its 41.5mm pink-gold case houses the automatic calibre 1120 QP/1, which manages to power hour and minutes hands, a moon-phase and a perpetual calendar (including a 48-month counter with leap-year indication) despite being a diminutive 4.05mm thick.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas
From concept to reality: Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet certainly has form when it comes to producing slim, high-spec watches such as their breathtaking Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, that was released at SIHH 2019.
Still, we love this quartz Royal Oak model for the ladies. Its stainless steel and rose-gold case measures a svelte 7mm thick, and its striking rose gold-toned dial is enhanced by the brand’s famous Grande Tapisserie pattern (£16,400).
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
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