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The Battle for the World’s Thinnest Watches (incl. Video)

The battle is heating up again, with the two main competitors hard at work!

| By Frank Geelen | 3 min read |

Some of the standout highlights of the 2024 Watch Week in Geneva undoubtedly revolved around ultra-thin watches. Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC now reigns as the world’s thinnest mechanical wristwatch, boasting an astonishing 1.70mm profile. Meanwhile, Piaget clinched the record for the thinnest tourbillon ever with its Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon, measuring a mere 2mm! We are undoubtedly living in a golden age of the ultra-thin watch, with records for ultra-thin watches being beaten one after the other as timepieces materialise with a thinness that would have been literally unimaginable a few years ago. Let’s delve into some of the most notable advancements in this field.

Piaget can rightly be considered the precursor and historical specialist of ultra-thin watches. From the 9P and 12P presented in the 1950s to the legendary 20P and 25P, these record-thin yet delicate movements were made with Jean Lassale in the mid-1970s. The 20P movement was a staggering 1.2mm thick, while the 25P automatic version was only 2.08mm thick! More recently, the brand broke a series of records for thinness. In 2014, the 900P – and later its automatic version with a peripheral rotor, the 910P – marked an important step with its ingenious concept and construction, fusing the mainplate and the caseback. This allowed Piaget to present the thinnest mechanical watch with an Altiplano as thin as 3.65mm. But the culmination is evidently the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate concept. At a mere 2mm, it was the thinnest mechanical watch ever when it was unveiled in 2018, literally smashing all previous records! A radical reengineering of the architecture of a watch and its amazing slenderness was achieved by fusing the movement’s mainplate, the case and the bezel into one single component.

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept - thinnest mechanical watch in the world 2mm

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Over the past ten years, a new contender has emerged as a formidable force in the realm of ultra-thin watches. Bulgari, with the Octo Finissimo Saga, has had an impressive run of records initiated in 2014. Among these, Bulgari broke the record for the thinnest watch in 2022 with the 1.8mm Octo Finissimo Ultra, a development conducted with movement specialist Concepto. Quite similarly to Piaget, its movement components are integrated directly into recesses machined into the caseback. The idea is to avoid having different layers in the watch architecture, taking advantage of the entire surface of the watch and re-arranging and building all functions in the same horizontal plane.

In-Depth Technical Review Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra

But Bulgari’s record was short-lived. Just a few months later, Richard Mille came up with the RM UP-01, a watch with a profile of just 1.75mm! What is really impressive about the RM UP-01 is that, unlike Piaget and Bulgari, Richard Mille has assembled the movement (made with Audemars Piguet Renaud Papi), itself just 1.18mm thick, into the case!

Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari Ultra-Thin - World's Thinnest Mechanical Watch 2022

But now, Bulgari has grabbed back the title for the thinnest mechanical watch with the Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC, which is just 1.70mm thick! To become thin enough to reclaim the record, there was no revolution in the “ultra” structure. The shape of the bezel, crystal, dials, and barrel were reworked to shave off a few microns… And interestingly, the watch is chronometer certified, showing that it is not just a concept watch or prototype.

Not to be outdone, Piaget has not presented a new record-beating, ultra-thin watch; instead, it has created the thinnest tourbillon watch ever. The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept Tourbillon 150th Anniversary is paper-thin at just 2mm and looks almost two-dimensional. For the records, it is now the thinnest tourbillon ever, the previous mark being held by the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic at 3.95mm!

Brands seem to be competing on two different planes simultaneously. While they never or rarely admit it, they are competing against each other. And healthy competition is great fun, actually… Most importantly, they are chasing ghosts, chasing microns—trying to become thinner than ever before! From a technical or innovation perspective, we are talking about genuine prowess. How far can the limits of extra-thin be pushed? Stand by for the next instalment!

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