Piaget adds two world firsts to its ultra slim Altiplano collection of watches

One of Piaget's most enduring designs, this year sees the arrival of another record-breaking Antiplano Date and the beautiful Altiplano Gem-Set Skeleton.


The Altiplano is one of the most enduring designs associated with Swiss watchmaker and jeweller Piaget. I am sure that most of you are familiar with its perennially elegant simplicity, but what I find so interesting about the Altiplano is that its looks were largely determined by its inner workings. The seminal moment came in 1960 with Piaget's watchmaking breakthrough: the legendary Calibre 12P, the thinnest self-winding mechanical movement the world had seen. It was this technical milestone that quite literally changed the face of watches and allowed Piaget to create the incredibly slender Altiplano with a larger-than-expected dial.
This year sees the arrival of another record-breaking Altiplano Date, which was recently voted Watch of the Year 2013 by the magazine 'Montres Passion'. Powered by the Calibre 1205P, the world's thinnest automatic movement at just 3mm thick, it sits in a case that measures 6.36mm, making it both the thinnest watch and movement of its kind. The Calibre 1205P, a development of the 1208P created in 2010, is the twelfth movement developed and entirely built in-house by Piaget for the Altiplano range. Like the former movement, it has an off-centre small seconds indicator but adds a date window to the dial, presented in a slightly smaller 40mm case. The rotor is made of rose gold and, despite its reduced size, is capable of driving the movement for 44 hours. All 221 components are entirely produced from scratch in-house are patiently assembled into this world first of a watch.
Rather than clutter the dial, this timekeeper - beloved of purists - limits itself to tracking only hours, minutes, seconds and the date. Its noble exterior echoes the watchmaking pedigree of its mechanism and attracts those who appreciate the most sophisticated in technical prowess and design. The alternating double and single baton hour markers are one of the few minimalist ornaments on this version of the Altiplano. The new Piaget Altiplano Date is available in white gold or rose gold and there is also a rose gold version set with a discreet row of diamonds.
A second model adds a more ornate take on watchmaking to the Altiplano family. The Piaget Altiplano Gem-Set Skeleton watch is all about showing off the beauty of the movement and dispenses entirely with a dial. The skeletonised watch movement is visible through the front of the watch and, unlike other skeleton Altiplano watches, this one has an automatic movement - and bear in mind that it is more difficult to make an automatic movement that requires space for a rotor. A skeleton movement is one that has been created to allow for the most beautiful panorama into the workings of the watch, cutting away unnecessary metal and lightening as many components as possible by filing away any excess.
But there is more. This 3mm-high movement is set with 259 diamonds and 11 black sapphires - a task of mind-boggling complexity that takes four days of careful work by the gem-setter. This craftsman, who must have some of the steadiest hands in the business, has to work within tolerances of microns to ensure that his work does not in any way interfere with the delicate and complex balance and precision of the watch movement. Imagine attempting to set a sapphire cabochon onto a component that is but 0.069 mm thick. Other parts of the movement are lavishly decorated with sunray-brushed bridges and wheel, and the main plate and bridges have bevelled edges and a hand-filed finish. The mastery of the watchmaker and jeweller has made this movement the thinnest automatic gem-set skeleton movement, so it's understandable that its glory should be on show.
The white gold case is set with 40 baguette-cut diamonds and a further 347 brilliant round cut diamonds. But despite the impressive carat count of this watch, its ultra-slim proportions ensures that it sits lightly on the wrist and will easily slip out of sight under the cuff should you wish to keep its dazzling virtuosity to yourself.

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