In the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest (1959), when Cary Grant
makes a note to himself to think thin, all he really needs is a Piaget Altiplano.
Indeed, the always debonair Grant would be the perfect gentleman to sport
the ultra-thin watch. Given that Piaget's important and groundbreaking ultra-thin
movement 9P and 12P debuted in the 1950s, Grant's suave and witty international
man of leisure and means image would have been perfect for the Altiplano – and
vice versa of course.
Piaget is today universally celebrated for its expertise in all
things ultra-thin and ultra chic. If you return to the time when Grant was
top dog in Hollywood, you will find that the exact moment this expertise
was confirmed was in 1957, in the firm's atelier in La Côte-aux-Fées, when
the watchmakers revealed calibre 9P, a manual winding movement of excellent
quality. They followed this up with the calibre 12P, which was a first amongst
equals and the champion of thinness in mechanical movements. More than 50
years ago, in 1960, calibre 12P was the world's thinnest self-winding mechanical
Today, Piaget has once more taken the crown for the slimmest self-winding
mechanical movement with calibre 1200P. The movement was previewed in 2009
and unveiled to the world in 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of its forebear,
calibre 12P. At just 2.35mm the movement incorporates many small – no pun
intended – innovations to arrive at its desired thinness. For example, the
gear trains of the 1200P are only 0.12mm thick as opposed to the normal 0.2mm.
This brings us to the watch of the hour, so to speak, the Altiplano 43mm in
two versions: the 43mm Anniversary Edition with Calibre 1200P and the 43mm
with Calibre 1208P. The anniversary edition arrived at the SIHH with two
records: it boasts the world's thinnest automatic movement at 2.35mm (calibre
1208P is also 2.35mm thick) and is the world's thinnest mechanical automatic
watch at 5.25mm. The anniversary edition is available in a limited edition
of 235, in honor of its world record thinness.
More will be said on both these movements and watches but for now, we turn
the spotlight onto the glamorous cousin of the noble Altiplano 43mm, the
Altiplano Gem-set Skeleton.
In a scene-stealing turn, the Gem-set Skeleton unites the worlds of fine watchmaking
and high jewelry. Not only is calibre 838P here skeletonized and set with
diamonds to the maximum extent possible, it is also an ultra-thin movement
at heart. Take a moment to consider this.
Like any other skeleton, the utmost care has been taken to whittle away as
much material from the plates and bridges as possible. Unlike most other
skeletons, here Piaget asked its watchmakers to use as a base a movement
that was already working on the very edge of micromechanics. As if this was
not enough, the gauntlet was thrown down – Piaget's in-house team of jewelers
and watchmakers had to find a way to festoon the entire movement in diamonds.
Their response was to produce a reinforced, solid gold mainplate to support
the gem-setting on the calibre, which measures 3.10mm thick. The finish here
is also worth noting. Look closely at the prongs holding the 144 brilliant-cut
diamonds on the movement. Notice the high polish the craftspeople have worked
into each and every one of the settings. Make no mistake, this is a very
special watch that speaks to all the core characteristics of Piaget, which
reminds us that we must return our attention to the star of the show, the
Altiplano 43mm Anniversary Edition and Altiplano 43mm.
In 2007, the brand celebrated the 50th anniversary of the legendary calibre
9P with a slew of ultra-thin watches and this year, as the 50th anniversary
of the equally important calibre 12P, Piaget pulled out all the stops to
bring this movement into this century. Clearly, both calibres 1200P and 1208P
are evolutions of calibre 12P that are meant to both pay tribute to the Piaget's
ultra-thin legacy while also setting the standard for the ultra-thin watch
of the 21st century
Turning to calibre 1208P and the regular Altiplano 43mm, this watch will become
a regular production watch for Piaget. Significantly, both movements are
quite large, even if they are thin, at 13 1/4 lignes or 29.9mm, making them
ideally suited to power the new Altiplanos in their contemporary sizes. Take note of the
'P' on the index assembly and the excellent finishing touches on both calibres 1200P
and 1208P, including bevelled bridges with Cotes de Geneve, circular graining on the
mainplate, satin-brushing on all steel parts, circular sunray brushing on the wheels
and of course blued screws.
At the SIHH in 2010, the brand confirmed that it was not interested in playing the vintage
or retro card with the Altiplano collection. They mean for these watches
to be wedded to the wrists of the contemporary man of elegance and taste.
Speaking of taste and elegance, the new Piaget Altiplano Double Jeu 43mm puts
a new face on this idea, literally. Another stunning addition to the Altiplano
collection, the watch was launched in 2007 and appears much like two watches
locked in a sort of embrace; a veritable union of time. Designed for travelers,
the top display is powered by the mechanical hand-wound calibre 838P and
effectively acts to show local time. The bottom display showing home time
is driven by the hand-wound calibre 832P.
Returning to the 43mm watch and calibre 1208P by way of closing, the watch
speaks to the brand's philosophy of offering their entire legacy and know-how
across their entire collection. As befits a brand with such an elegant profile,
Piaget does not like to brag but it is one of the few watch brands that can
say all its mechanical movements are produced in-house, not just the haute
horlogerie statement pieces, the special collections and limited editions.
This is the true substance behind a high watchmaking and high jewelry house
that has become renowned over the decades for having style to spare. Perhaps
the brand has more style than even Cary Grant. Remember, it is time to think