So what is the answer to this question? Are slim watches still popular? At SIHH last year, the ultra-thin case and movement showed the watchmaking industry’s re-emergence of more stable, creative styles. Simple, classic timepieces that display only hours and minutes are gaining prominence in professional watchmaking media. There is no doubt that thin watches were very “popular” in 2011, and they were still popular in 2012. Most watch brands launched at this year’s SIHH at least one watch that we can call ‘thin’. Some brands have also made a bold step forward and entered the ‘ultra-thin’ ranks. All of this can’t be separated from the extra complicated functions or hands, so the movement becomes thinner, which ultimately reduces the thickness of the case itself.
Let’s start with the thinnest watch launched at this year’s SIHH. It has nothing more than a window indicating the hours and minutes. The classic Cartier Tank XL Slim Line uses Caliber 430MC movement. In fact, this movement is also used on the Piaget 430P’s Altiplano and Dancer line, I am sure you will be surprised. It is worth noting that the thickness of this movement is only 2.1 mm, so the height of the Cartier Tank XL case is only 5.1 mm. In second place is Van Cleef & Arpels Pierre Arpels, which reinterprets the Parisian House, which first appeared in the 1940s. With the Piaget Caliber 830P at a height of only 2.5 mm, the new Pierre Arpels is now an extremely elegant and powerful competitor.
Van Cleef & Arpels Pierre Arpels takes inspiration from 1940s watches © Van Cleef & Arpels
Vacheron Constantin introduced the new Malte 100th Anniversary Platinum using the Caliber 4400 caliber with a height of only 2.8 mm. This barrel-shaped timepiece is designed to commemorate the brand’s first uniquely shaped watch a century ago.
Vacheron Constantin Malta Small Seconds © Vacheron Constantin
Just a tenth of a millimeter thicker than Vacheron Constantin, the manually wound Caliber L093.1 movement from German manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne makes the new Saxonia Thin attractive. Made from Glashütte’s unique art of watchmaking, this watch guarantees a power reserve of no less than 72 hours after the top is wound. The latest version of the ultra-thin watch that only shows hours and minutes in this category is Audemars Piguet’s ‘Royal Oak Ultra-Thin’ series, which launched at its historic moment at its 40th anniversary. Although it has an extra date window at 3 o’clock and a self-winding oscillating weight, the Caliber 2121 movement developed by AP is only 3.05 mm high.
Lange-Saxon ultra-thin watch with 72-hour power reserve © Lange
As a part that runs the miniature metal discs and splints of traditional mechanical watches, the movement has become a very challenging task for watchmakers. Such operations on ultra-thin movements are just a few things that high-end watch brands can do. As a recognized expert in the field of ultra-thin movements, Piaget surpassed the Caliber 1208P movement (2.35 mm high) and added a height of only 0.05 mm, which led to the birth of the new 1200S movement. This is an extraordinary technological achievement, which is directly comparable to the overall image of the fashionable charm of Altiplano watches.
Piaget Altiplano Skeleton is equipped with Caliber 1208P movement, only 2.35 mm thick © Piaget
SIHH’s second new product that combines an ultra-thin mechanical movement and hollow-out technology is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Grand Reverso ultra-thin SQ. The watch uses a record-breaking Caliber 849RSQ movement with a thickness of only 1.85 mm and 128 parts. Just imagining that the movement is hollowed out is a feat that is incredible. Jaeger-LeCoultre dubbed it the ‘double-sided steel maze’.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Reverso Ultra Thin SQ movement with 128 parts and a thickness of only 1.85 mm © Jaeger-LeCoultre
Enter another category of ultra-thin watches on display at the 2012 SIHH: the Parmigiani Tonda 150 Special Edition, which features small seconds, clear lines, exquisite contours and perfect proportions. Powering the watch is the Caliber PF701 calibre, which is only 2.6 mm tall and equipped with a mini rotor. Vacheron Constantin’s hand-wound Malte Small Seconds is the only other ultra-thin watch to be displayed in Geneva this year, which is actually amazing. Its Caliber4400AS movement is only 2.8 mm tall and only two tenths of a millimeter thicker than a Parmigiani movement.
Before entering the high-complexity category of thin watches, naturally we cannot ignore Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra-Thin Reserve de Marche. Although it has a central rotor, it also displays hours, minutes, small seconds, dates, and even its power reserve. The Caliber938 movement incorporates these functions, with a total of 273 parts and a thickness of no more than 4.9 mm!
The most complicated category of ultra-thin watches is the model with tourbillon, and this year only two brands dare to compete in this field. Audemars Piguet showed off its elegant 40th anniversary edition of the ‘openwork royal oak ultra-thin tourbillon’ and another non-openworked version. Both versions use a hand-wound Caliber 2924 movement with a thickness of only 4.46 mm.
The other is the ultra-thin tourbillon of Caliber 899 with a thickness of 6.4 mm, which is only 1.94 mm thicker than Audemars Piguet. The excess height is used to fit the center rotor in its movement. However, in this category, the crown still belongs to the excellent ‘Emperor Coussin automatic ultra-thin’ watch that Piaget showed at SIHH last year. Its Caliber1270P movement is still the world’s thinnest tourbillon after it is equipped with a pearl tourbillon. Only 5.55 mm thick.
Audemars Piguet ultra-thin royal oak tourbillon with a thickness of 4.46 mm is impressive © Audemars Piguet