Reviewing the Piaget Altiplano – the Perfect Hand-Wound Dress Watch
Today we’re going to review a watch that actually perfectly embodies a “dress watch”. In fact, I would call this the perfect dress watch. In terms of size, design, technical feats, everything, this watch IS a dress watch as dress watches are described. It’s not too big, it’s super thin, it’s very elegant, it tells time by means of an hour and minute hand (not even a second hand) and it’s understated. We’re looking at a watch that is known for its ultra-slim profile, and today there are hand-wound versions, automatic versions, with or without date, with or without small seconds. And we’re looking at the most understated of them all, in white gold, 38mm in diameter, hand-wound, and no second hand… here’s the Piaget Altiplano.
Before starting this review, I had a feeling that I might find the Piaget Altiplano, at least in the reviewed execution, could be slightly boring. After several weeks on the wrist however, I can tell you it was exactly the opposite. At first, you might not see all the lovely details that you become fond of over time, and the Altiplano has quite a few of such lovely details.
What I also didn’t expect, is that this rather plain Altiplano would be easy to match with different styles. Tuxedo? Yes, absolutely. Suit and tie? Very nice match! Jeans and shirt, or even a nice sweater? Yep, even that works just fine. I was amazed how well it looked with jeans and a nice sweater, or shirt, and didn’t look out of place, or out of style, combined with such casual outfit.
Some Facts About Piaget
While Piaget offers various collections of wrist watches – three for women and three for men – they are mainly known, at least here at Monochrome, for their ultra-thin watches. Over the last decades (Piaget started out at movement manufacturer first, and as high-end jewellery maker later) Piaget developed 35 new calibres, of which 23 ultra-thin calibres.
In 2010 Piaget created the world’s thinnest wrist watch with an automatic movement: the Altiplano automatic with calibre 1200P. Its case measures 43mm in diameter and it’s only 5.25mm thick, while the movement measures a mere 2.35mm in height! This movement is now also available in the new Altiplano 60th Anniversary model.
In 2014, for Piaget’s 140th anniversary, the brand revealed the world’s thinnest wrist watch with a manually wound movement, again in the Altiplano collection, and now featuring their own calibre 900P (see here).
Case and strap
Ultra-thin, exactly what one would expect from a Piaget Altiplano, and in this case, it’s one of the thinnest watches on the market today. The watch itself measures 6mm thick, 38mm in diameter and has a closed case-back. The case is executed in 18K white gold and comes on a black alligator leather strap with 18K white gold ardillon buckle (that’s a tang buckle in English.)
Those are the simple facts. Things that will only stand out when wearing this lovely watch are the small but lovely details. The case construction for instance. From the side – and when wearing the watch you will see its side – it looks like two halves, with the same thickness, sandwiched together. Yet the two very thin layers of white gold – both seem to have the exact same thickness – look so balanced. The lugs might seem utterly boring from the front, however as soon as you get a glimpse of ’em from the side, you’ll see very nice shaped lugs.
The case back (a screwed case-back) is engraved with the brand’s logo and underneath it reads “Piaget – Mécanique – Swiss made” and several reference numbers (including “Au750” which indicates that it’s 18K gold.)
The 38mm diameter is just perfect on my wrist. In fact, for most watches besides sports watches, I find sizes below 40mm the best. The good thing about <40mm is that you get to see some strap as well, and your wrist will not be covered entirely by the watch’ case/face.
Dial and hands
The face, or better call it dial, is white and features slim and long hour markers. These are so-called baton hour markers, or stick markers in English, and the Altiplano features double stick markers at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. This gives the dial a very nice presence and balance, and with only the brand name printed on the dial (just under the 12 o’clock marker) it remains very ‘clean’ and to the point. No frills or anything, exactly like pretty much everything about this watch.
The hands are also called baton hands or stick hands in English. They are as black as the hour markers and with the white dial as backdrop, the Altiplano offers very good legibility, even when it’s getting dark (well, not when it’s properly dark.)
The movement inside this lovely shaped white gold case is Piaget’s own calibre 430P. Its ancestor is the legendary calibre 9P, which has been the world’s thinnest movement for a very long time. The new 430P is also extremely thin, and measures only 2.1mm in thickness. Most likely the leather strap on one of your thinnest watches is thicker than this movement. Go figure!
The finishing on calibre 430P is very nice however, we can’t see it because of the closed case-back. Piaget didn’t choose for a closed case-back because they had something to hide, however a set-in sapphire pane in the case-back adds a few millimetre to the overall thickness, so the closed case-back is a simple necessity to achieve the thinnest possible case. Rest assured, the finishing is very nice and features all classic adornments, like circular graining on the main plate, circular côte de Genève on the bridges and balance cock, bevelled edged on all bridges and heat-blued screws. Nothing frivolous, but nice finishing done by hand.
Since we don’t have a photo of the movement, here’s a short video from Piaget about the calibre 430P.
The watch winds easily, although the crown isn’t very big. During the review, I never had any trouble getting enough grip on the crown in order to wind it. With its 43 hours of autonomy, when fully wound, this Altiplano needs to be wound almost on a daily basis. For precision’s sake, it’s also good to wind a watch every day, ideally at the same time. It was easy to feel the resistance build up, so you felt when you’d fully wound it.
When describing the properties that make THE perfect dress watch, it would be precious metal, smaller than 40mm in diameter, thin, clean dial, no additional functions, only indications of hours and minutes. This Piaget Altiplano – mind you, there are several variations with automatic movements, skeletonized movements, a small second hand, and a date indication – gets as close as possible to being the perfect dress watch.
Yet on a daily basis, when wearing it, it also looks great with much more casual outfits, so I was wearing it daily, in the office, and that means with jeans and shirt (on days when I didn’t have any meetings.) Although I wear my own rose gold 36mm Lange 1815 with jeans and shirt, it was still kind of a surprise how well this Altiplano fitted to pretty much any situation. Plus it wears so comfortably!
I never missed a second hand, nor a date. It’s so legible, so clean, and the design is so …perfect, that it’s perfect as it is. I sincerely enjoyed wearing the Altiplano 38mm hand-wound and when looking for a perfect classic dress watch I would certainly recommend it.
More info at the Piaget website here.
Technical Specifications – Piaget Altiplano 38mm hand-wound
- Case: 38mm diameter and 6mm thick – 18k white gold – sapphire crystal – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 430P in-house movement – hand-wound – 43h power reserve – 18 jewels – 21,600 vph – two central hands for hours and minutes – circular Côte de Genève, circular graining, bevelled edges, heat blued screws
- Strap: black alligator leather strap with 18k white gold pin buckle
- Variations: 18k pink gold with silver dial, and two 60th anniversary variations in 18K white gold with blue or pink dial
- Price: approx. € 16.000 EUR (including VAT)
- Reference: G0A29112
Altiplano is gorgeous, but the hands are a little too thin for me.
…and to short
As a matter of fact, you pay 16000 euros for the 18k gold case. Horologicaly speaking, it is a basic (in-house) movement and a classic design. I will pass.
I own a citizen watch which is almost exactly the same as this, but the hands are the proper length, the hour markers are in the nicer, Eichi II style and it is the classic 36mm.
It cost me 300 quid.