Why 2024 might be the slimmest year on record, thanks to Piaget, Bulgari and Richard Mille

The current record is 1.75mm — how much thinner can it get?

If you’re paying even the slightest bit of attention to watches over the last few years, you’ll be aware there’s a simmering tension brewing in the world of exceptionally thin watches. The category, once one of curiosity and utility, has become quietly contested, with three main players vying for the title of ‘thinnest’. Piaget, long acknowledged masters of the genre, had enjoyed uncontested decades as the slender kings until, 10 years ago, Bulgari burst onto the scene with their attention-grabbing Octo Finissimo. For years, Piaget and Bulgari battled it out over increasingly infinitesimal case widths in one of the most exciting batches of ante-upping R&D we’ve seen in a long time. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Richard Mille dropped the proverbial mic and claimed the title for themselves. A brand with no previous form in the ultra-thin race currently boasts the world’s thinnest watch, the RM UP-01 Ferrari, which measures a mere 1.75mm thin.

However, 2024 is still young, and there’s plenty of time and several good reasons why we might have some new exceptional entrants into the ultra-slim club by the time December rolls around.

150 years of Piaget

Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept

This year marks a significant milestone for Piaget. Now, watch brands love celebrating anniversaries — no matter how arbitrary — but 150 years since the brand’s inception is a legitimate cause for celebration. And while we’ll have to wait until Watches & Wonders at least, it’s clear that Paiget is in the celebratory mood — their brand new take on the old Polo, the Polo 79 is proof of that. But it would be wild if they had this opportunity and didn’t take the moment to capitalise on their legendary status in ultra-thin timepieces.

Piaget’s platform for slender horology is the Altiplano, and the Altiplano Ultimate Concept is their shining star. Originally shown as a concept in 2018 and a production piece a few years later in 2020, the AUC (as it’s known) is a 2mm thin watch that uses countless space-saving engineering tricks to reduce thickness. For example, the sapphire crystal is only 0.2mm thin, and the case, which also serves as the plate for the movement, is made from a cobalt alloy, allowing for a more rigid case design to avoid the very real risk of the wafer-thin case bending when worn.

When it was announced, the AUC was the thinnest watch in the world, but its record has been beaten not once but twice. Now would be the perfect year for Piaget to showcase whatever slender surprises they’ve been working on in the last few years, perhaps coming up with an even more ultimate Altiplano.

10 years of the Bulgari Octo Finissimo

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, 2022
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, 2022

Like Piaget, Bulgari marks a milestone in 2024. Admittedly, it’s not one as weighty as Piaget’s 150 years, but it’s an incredibly significant one for ultra-thin watches. It was in 2014 that Bulgari surprised and delighted with the first Bulgari Octo Finissimo, a slim titanium watch that revived the Octo profile in all its faceted glory. In the years since, Bulgari has pushed into the category in a big way. In the 10 years since, Bulgari has set eight world records in the field of thinness. In 2014, they debuted the concept with the thinnest hand-wound tourbillon in the world, with a movement only 1.95mm thick. This was quickly followed up in 2016 with the thinnest minute repeater, and in 2017, the Octo Finissimo Automatic at 5.15mm became the thinnest auto on the market. In 2018, the thinnest automatic tourbillon was only 3.95mm. The hits kept coming in 2019, with the thinnest ever mechanical chrono, with a 3.3mm movement, joining the family. In 2020 they combined the chronograph and the tourbillon for a 3.50mm thin (skeletonised!) movement and in 2021 they released a perpetual calendar calibre at just 2.75mm thin. Finally, in 2022, they snatched the crown from Piaget with the 1.8mm Octo Finissimo Ultra, a barely there magnum opus with a bonus NFT on the dial. Of course, this is a remarkable feat, but we’re hopeful that for the 10 year anniversary, they might add an extra record or two, and perhaps make an incredible boxed set of all their record-breakers to date.

Richard Mille and Lewis Hamilton

Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari
Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari

As we’ve learned by now, ultra-thin records don’t last long in this day and age. Richard Mille, with no prior history in slender timekeeping, emerged from nowhere with the 1.75mm RM UP-01 Ferrari. To be honest, we’d be amazed if we saw the brand create a thinner version this year, but we’d expect to see some new twists on the (current) world’s thinnest watch. Really, though, we’re waiting for 2025, when Lewis Hamilton hangs up his Mercedes hat and dons the Ferrari livery. Hamilton has continuously shown his enthusiasm for inventive watches, and between Hamilton, Ferrari and Richard Mille, something exceptional can be created.

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