The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary

Watches and Wonders: Piaget’s 2mm Altiplano Ultimate Concept Adds a Flying Tourbillon

Piaget has done it again! This time, the brand is marking its 150th anniversary with a model that celebrates Piaget’s legacy of developing ultra-thin calibres.

By Cait Bazemore

Before Piaget became the powerhouse watch brand we know today, it was actually a movement manufacturer.

In 1874, Georges-Edouard Piaget established a workshop that was passed down through the family for over fifty years. When his grandsons took over the company in the 1940s, they decided to expand their grandfather’s business and opened a new factory in La Cote-aux-Fees.

With the expansion, the brand began producing the watches we know and love today. But it also poured more effort into refining its production of new calibres. Specifically, Piaget homed in on the development of ultra-thin movements culminating in the creation of the calibre 9P in 1957, which measured just 2mm thick.

Since then, the maison has continued this pursuit of ultra-thin calibers. This work led to a milestone moment in 2018 with the debut of the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, the thinnest watch in the world at the time at just 2mm overall.

Today, the legacy of the Altiplano continues in conjunction with the brand’s monumental 150th anniversary. Meet the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary!

The Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary

The all-new Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary maintains the remarkable 2mm thickness of the 2018 model with the addition of a flying tourbillon complication, which is an incredible feat given the demands such a complication places on the movement, requiring 25% additional power to drive the mechanism.

Yet, despite preserving its sleek 2mm proportions, to add the flying tourbillon, Piaget had to redesign 90% of the components of the original Altiplano Ultimate Concept – including the development of new machinery – to craft a watch as thin as its groundbreaking predecessor with the addition flying tourbillon.

With that in mind, it’s all the more impressive that the brand kept its proportions highly wearable overall, with a case size of 41.5mm. Moreover, adding to this unique case’s stealthy coolness, the maison rendered it in a cobalt alloy that’s received a handsome blue PVD treatment.

These particular materials were specifically chosen in order to provide the best thinness-to-hardness ratio, with the added bonus that they are also super stylish. So how did Piaget come to create a watch as innovative as the new Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary?

Adventures in R&D

The brand started with the same guiding principle that led to the creation of the 2018 Altiplano Ultimate Concept: There is no distinction between the movement and the case.

For instance, the caseback also serves as the movement mainplate, which helps to gain precious space in the small real estate of this timepiece. This philosophy allowed the position of all the watch components to be maintained, even with the addition of the flying tourbillon – though obviously, the integration of the complication was the biggest hurdle to overcome.

It took more than 70 versions of the cage, 15 versions of the anchor, and 30 versions of the case frame to achieve its final structure. This feat is made all the more amazing by the fact that the caseback/mainplate also includes a sapphire crystal window that opens onto the tourbillon and is encircled by the inscription, “Toujours Faire Mieux Que Nécessaire,” which means “Always Do Better Than Necessary.”

However, a challenge still remained.

Piaget was able to execute a flying tourbillon with no upper bridge – only held in place by its underside – that fit into a space only a mere 1.49mm in height, but this still wasn’t enough. Ultimately, the Piaget engineers developed a system whereby the tourbillon would be held in place by its perimeter.

That is why, on the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary, the tourbillon’s outer edge is held in place by a ceramic ball-bearing, which drives its one-minute rotation.

The resulting watch offers perfect legibility with the mini-dial (located between where 12 and 1 o’clock would be on a normal watch dial) displaying the hours and minutes is still slightly off-center. Meanwhile, the tourbillon is tucked at 10 o’clock, with a seconds indicator engraved on the tourbillon ring.

While painstaking hours were spent on the impeccable design of the movement, each and every element of the watch had to be considered to achieve the desired 2mm thickness. This included optimizing the thickness of the sapphire crystal, which Piaget reduced to 0.20mm dial-side and 0.16mm caseback.

Though the crystal may seem like a relatively simple element to slim down by comparison, no aspect of the creation of this watch was a small feat. The machining tolerance of miniaturized parts is a true challenge. With the sapphire crystal’s thickness, the machines that craft it have to work to an accuracy of around two microns – that’s two-thousandths of a millimeter.

Final Thoughts

Despite its incredibly thin profile, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary (which comes on a calfskin leather strap in the same blue tone featuring a sporty yet elegant weave pattern and complete with pin buckle in the same cobalt alloy as the case) offers a dial with incredible depth thanks to an interplay of materials in Piaget’s signature colors, blue and gold.

This watch is truly a celebration of Piaget’s technical prowess and serves as a perfect watch to commemorate the brand’s 150th anniversary.

For more information, including pricing and availability, check out Piaget’s website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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