There are few grande complications greater in technical difficulty to the minute repeater and the ultra-thin movement may also be considered a complication in its own right. This “latest embodiment of virtuosity” while a bombastic turn of marketing-speak for Piaget is an accurate description of their SIHH 2013 offering. For me, the Piaget Emperador Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater ticks all the boxes when it comes to must-have timepieces.
The minute-repeater is one of the finest symbols of a manufacture’s horological mastery, the Emperador Coussin Ultra-thin Minute Repeater represents the 4th complication developed completely in-house at Piaget’s La Cote-aux-Fees manufacture. It’s a technical coup of sorts, in this instance, the movement and casing are contoured to such perfection that two distinct watch components essentially function as one organ now- by doing so, Piaget achieves its signature “ultra-thin” look.
At first blush, it’s easy to scoff at such an achievement but when you consider that most “ultra-thins” are handwound, Piaget’s automatic version with micro-rotor (made in platinum so as to achieve maximum winding with minimum thickness) is a technical achievement in itself moving around some 407 components in the world’s thinnest automatic Calibre 1200P to create the 1290P just to include the minute repeater complication- the hammers for the chime are on the bridge side and the slide activation device is pushed down rather than up.
Until we get a piece in our hands, we’re assuming that Piaget inverted the standard arrangement in the course of making room for the micro-rotor for the automatic winding system- a pretty neat trick if true.
While a Patek 5078 is a self-winding repeater with a micro-rotor also, the rotor isn’t set as flush with the plate whereas the Piaget’s got it on the dial side, so they’ve tinkered a bit with the standard arrangement. Getting the movement this thin, with an efficient micro-rotor automatic winding system, is quite an accomplishment.
I mentioned earlier that this minute-repeater has essentially turned two distinct watch parts into one organ; in addition to the thinness part of Piaget’s DNA, this level of symbiosis was also necessary to ensure optimal sound transmission. Four braces secure the case to the calibre allowing the resonance to vibrate through the case- the result is chiming gongs that can be heard barely under conversation tone as opposed to most other minute repeaters which require dead silence (usually with watch held to appreciative ear). There’s something to be said about the robustness as well, such tight integration has allowed Piaget to guarantee water resistance of up to 3 ATM (to me that means if you get pushed into the pool by 3 topless Brazilian models during some high society soiree gone wild, you need not worry about your timepiece).
It’s a 1400 hour project just for developing the case and another three years just for developing the 1290P movement, at this point, the wise man should only ask “how much?” just so he knows what to write in his cheque book.