NEVER TOO THIN
The race to the championship rages on for the the slimmest.
IT IS THE DEFINITIVE DRESS WATCH.
Created with black tie functions in mind, the ultra-thin watch performs three functions; first, keeping time while not disturbing the tailored lines of a gentleman’s jacket or tuxedo sleeve. Second, oferring a hint as to the wearer’s refined sensibilities and lastly, showcasing the technical expertise of the watchmaker.
Bulgari, Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre have introduced much admired versions of the ultra-thin watch in 2014. While differing vastly in design, a common feature of these watches is that their movements are all made in-house. Little wonder, considering the technical demands associated with creating such intricate instruments, especially when complications like the chronograph or tourbillon are incorporated. As a point of contrast, the Rolex Datejust, arguably the most iconic everyday watch, has a case thickness of 12mm while the thickest casing among the ultra-thin watches featured here measures just 7.58mm.
With the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, Bulgari has set a new world record for the thinnest watch incorporating the tourbillon complication. This esteemed complication seeks to negate the disruption to a watch’s timekeeping from the earth’s gravitational pull by housing the escapement and balance wheel in a perpetually rotating cage. It’s 1.95mm movement is conceived through several innovations including the use of ball bearings for the moving parts as opposed to jewels (which require mounting), the tourbillon cage pivoting on a peripherally-driven ultra-thin ball-bearing mechanism and the elimination of the regulator assembly, since timing is now directly adjusted on the balance wheel. Both the Finissimo Tourbillon and the simpler Finissimo calibre are housed in a platinum casing measuring just 5mm.
Piaget’s new Altiplano 38mm 900P (available in white or pink gold) has a case thickness of just 3.65mm and sets the record for the world’s thinnest hand wound mechanical watch. Taking three full years for development, this watch sees slim movement specialist Piaget redefine the relationship between watch casing and movement by integrating the two. The key to this innovation is the watch’s caseback serving as the movement’s mainplate; the base on which all other parts of the movement are mounted. This required reversing movement construction so as to fit the bridges on the dial side. To trim more millimetres, the entire mechanism and the hand-fitting system are contained within the thickness of the balance-wheel itself. Special attention has been paid to clearances; optimizing the arrangement of the watch’s fixed and mobile organs to ensure reliability.
Having been the 2013 world record holder for the slimmest hand wound mechanical watch (Master Ultra Thin Jubilee), Jaeger-LeCoultre does not have to keep competing on the same technical front as other manufactures. The introduction of its Master Ultra Thin with case thickness of 7.58mm (available in steel and pink gold) and the Master Ultra Thin Date with case thickness of 7.4mm (available in pink gold) sees this distinguished manufacture achieving several objectives at once; delivering exceptional value to a broader market through it’s steel pieces while catering to customers who seek a more luxurious feel from the use of precious metals. All this time, the manufacture continues to assert the restrained elegance that has characterised the Master line of watches. Further, powered by it’s in-house Calibres 896 and 899 which have both passed Jaeger-LeCoultre’s ‘1000 Hours Control’; a quality test more rigorous than that of the COSC, buyers can be assured of the high degree of reliability which undergirds the timeless, classical beauty of these pieces.
As with the rules for dress on the occasions where these fine timepieces are most suited, less is most certainly more.
“One is never served so well as by oneself.”
Top, left: Bulgari Octo Finnisimo Tourbillon in platinum.
Above, left: Finissimo’s Calibre Finissimo exploded.