Piaget’s justly famed for both its ultra-thin movements and for its extremely high level of gem-setting mastery (handled, unusually in an industry that out-sources a great deal of its sertissage to third party contractors, in-house) and this year, they showed a dazzling combination of both. Feast your eyes, brief mortals, on the Piaget Altiplano Gem Set Skeleton Altiplano.
The Gem Set Skeleton Altiplano is based on the hand-wound ultra-thin self-winding calibre 1200S (“S” for squelette, or skeletonized) which is in turn based on the automatic calibre 1200. At 2.35mm the calbire 1200 is the thinnest automatic movement in the world –partly thanks to its micro-rotor; the thinnest full-rotor automatic movement is the one which began life as the Jaeger LeCoultre calibre 920, and which has been used since as the calibre 1120 by Vacheron Constantin and the calibre 2120 by Audemars Piguet, which is a fraction thicker at 2.45mm. The addition of jeweling to the calibre 1200S changes its name –to the calibre 1200D –and it is slightly thicker than the base calibre, at 3mm in height exactly.
The art of setting stones in a skeletonized movement –especially one so thin –is extraordinarily demanding from every angle. Each stone has to be cut to a very exact geometry in order to fit the contour of the part of the movement it decorates, and any accidental application of excess force can put the movement out of tolerance –for instance, by ruining the depth of the train wheel pivots, which would prevent the watch from running. There are 259 diamonds decorating the movement, and 11 black sapphire cabochons. The construction and assembly of ultra thin movements is so difficult that few brands have the technical know how to do it, and to not only be able to boast the thinnest self-winding movement in the world, but to also have the capacity to openwork it and decorate it with such extremely precisely cut and polished diamonds (all of which must also be matched for clarity and color) is a truly remarkable achievement.
Though diamond-set watches aren’t often favored by male aficionados, the incredibly high level of craftsmanship and continuous mastery, over many decades, of the creation of ultra-thin movements that this watch represents makes it of enormous interest to anyone fascinated by high art on a small scale. In its category, this watch sets a new world’s record (the thinnest openworked, gem set automatic watch in the world.) It’s not only a stunning example of Piaget’s mastery of both the technical and decorative horological arts, it’s an important milestone in the history of watchmaking itself, and we think it’s a watch that anyone, man or woman, could wear with pride.
I mean, I’d probably save it for opening night at the Met, but still, with pride, and lots of it.
The Piaget Altiplano Automatic Gem Set Skeleton Watch is available in 18k white gold. Case, 6.10mm x 40mm; movement, openworked and gem-set calibre 1200D, hand-decorated, with 259 brilliant-cut diamonds; case decorated with 40 baguette-cut diamonds.