Ultra-thin is a truly fascinating area of watchmaking. Ultra-thin is the child of miniaturization, which has always been one of the watchmakers’ goals. Ultra-thin is where design and mechanics meet, where the ingenuity of the watchmaker isn’t guided by the need to pack more and more functions, but by the wish to make the watch as elegant as possible. Ultra-thin is a true watchmaker’s field of research that requires complex mechanical solutions. But for long, ultra-thin meant classic watches. Can’t ultra-thin be cool, bold, modern, slightly provocative or usable on a daily basis too? Actually, in the past years, ultra-thin has changed and is no more reserved for the so-called “tuxedo” watch. And here are 5 impressively slender models that prove you can be thin and different.
The Modern Classic – Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
Meet the thinnest perpetual calendar on the market… This watch combines the best of what Audemars Piguet is capable of. First, there’s a design, this bold, iconic shape introduced in 1972 that defined the concept of the luxury sports watch. And if you remember well, the original Royal Oak was already an ultra-thin watch. Then, there are the mechanics. And this Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is nothing less than exceptional. Not only Audemars Piguet has managed to retain the automatic winding, but it adds a perpetual calendar in a case that is actually almost 2mm thinner than the regular “Jumbo” time-and-date model, at 6.3mm. How? By re-thinking the architecture, with the perpetual calendar components now fully integrated into the base calibre. And yes, this watch demonstrates that ultra-thin watchmaking isn’t synonymous of traditional, classic design. It’s bold, it’s more than thin and it is impressive.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 6.3mm height – grade 5 titanium and 950 platinum case – water-resistant to 20m – Calibre 5133, in-house – automatic perpetual calendar – satin-brushed integrated titanium bracelet with polished 950 platinum links – ref. 26586IP.OO.1240IP.01 – CHF 140,000
The Casual Slim-Fit – Bvlgari Octo Finissimo S Silvered Dial
When introducing the Octo concept, and even more this more accessible automatic version, Bvlgari created the ultra-thin watch of the 21st century. From the words of the brand’s designer, this is the equivalent of “slim-fit shirt for watchmaking,” something that is modern, usable every day, in most situations and still, it will look right in place. Chic and slender, yet modern, the case of the Octo Finissimo is faceted and architectural. And inside is the thinnest automatic movement (2.23mm) on the market, wound by a micro-rotor but still delivering 60h of power reserve. The concept has been refined last year, with the new S model, now with a very practical 100m water-resistance. And this year, Bvlgari launched this Octo Finissimo S Silvered Dial, which comes back to the roots with a monochromatic and textured style. A watch with a contemporary approach to ultra-thin watchmaking, stunning design and impressive mechanics.
Quick Facts: 40mm diameter x 6.40mm height – stainless steel case – 100m water-resistant – calibre BVL138 Finissimo, in-house – ultra-thin automatic with platinum micro-rotor – integrated stainless steel bracelet, brushed and polished – ref. 103464 – CHF 11,600
The All-in-One – Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton
Bvlgari has been showing to the watchmaking industry its mastery of the ultra-thin with multiple complications, such as the tourbillon, the minute repeater, the chronograph or the deceptively simple automatic. And last year, the brand decided to combine functions and features, with this watch. Within its 7.40mm case, it manages to pack a fully openworked movement with peripheral selfwinding mechanism, a one-minute tourbillon and a column-wheel chronograph – and about the movement, it is just 3.50mm in height, so about the thickness of your regular automatic date ETA. Once again, the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chronograph Skeleton is a demonstration of watchmaking savoir-faire and design audacity.
Quick Facts: 42mm diameter x 7.40mm height – sandblasted grade 5 titanium case – 30m water-resistant – calibre BVL 388, in-house – automatic ultra-thin tourbillon/chronograph with peripheral rotor – sandblasted integrated titanium bracelet – ref. 103295, limited to 50 pieces – EUR 155,000
The Spaceship – De Bethune DB28XP
There’s hardly another brand that can demonstrate modernist watchmaking such as De Bethune. Cutting edge technology, space-age design, superb craftsmanship and yet immense respect from traditions. One of the best examples of this spirit is the DB28, a watch that has become the brand’s signature model. For its 10th anniversary, “mad professor” Denis Flageollet (co-founder) has decided to give it some thinness, with a collection of 3 watches, the DB28XP models. The present version, with its openworked spaceship-like titanium attire, packs all the features you expect from a De Bethune – polished titanium parts, exposed De Bethune balance, silicon parts, 6-day power reserve – in a far thinner case of only 7.2mm, still equipped with the floating lugs.
Quick Facts: 43mm diameter x 7.2mm height – polished titanium case – 30m water-resistant – calibre DB2115v6, in-house – hand-wound time-only – alligator leather strap with pin buckle – reference DB28XPTIS1 – CHF 72,000
The Record – Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Last but far from least, we can’t talk ultra-thin watchmaking without mentioning this watch, the Altiplano Ultimate Concept. Why? Simply because it is the thinnest mechanical watch ever created, with a case that measures only 2mm in height. This is the pinnacle of ultra-thin, a watch that sums up the quest of Piaget for thinness. It took the brand over 60 years of experience in this field and a fresh mind to rethink the entire construction of a watch and its movement. Every single part of the watch, and not only the movement, had to be redesigned and upgraded to achieve such thinness. We simply can’t list all the solutions developed by the brand here, but if you want to understand how a manufacture has managed to make a full watch thinner than most ultra-thin movements, take a close look at the video here.
Quick Facts: 41mm diameter x 2mm height – case and movement merged as one piece – polished cobalt-based alloy – water-resistant to 30m – calibre 900P-UC, in-house – hand-wound ultra-thin movement – alligator leather or textile strap with Kevlar insert – fully customizable through the Piaget “Infinitely Personal” service – from CHF 410,000