Last week the great and the good of the luxury world descended upon Geneva Airport’s Palexpo convention centre for the “Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie” – which basically translates as “glamorous showcase of mindbogglingly complicated timepieces”.
So glamorous, in fact, that even the iron-clad bleakness of Palexpo was not enough to dissuade a healthy crop of A-list visitors, among them Patrick Stewart, Lewis Hamilton and that loveable puppy of hunk, Ryan Reynolds – Piaget’s latest signing alongside equally fabulous Jessica Chastain.
When he’s not extolling the virtues of BT Smart Hub’s wi-fi reach, Reynolds is persuading newly wealthy millenials that Piaget is no longer the preserve of retired bankers or Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – and quite right too; the 60th-anniversary Altiplano pieces he was at SIHH to promote are as crisp and contemporary as you’d want from a dress watch (the fact it was his love of that Eighties roadtrip movie that convinced him to sign with Piaget simply makes Ryan even more loveable).
What all this overlooks, however, is the technical mastery involved in realising such a slimline mechanical watch, while maintaining an accuracy that barely wobbles beyond 3 seconds a day. This trademark expertise began in 1957, when Valentin Piaget presented his ultra-thin “9P” manual-winding movement to the Basel watch fair.
Being just 2mm thick, the 9P was universally hailed for the elegance of its profile, as well as for its performance and its reliability. Above all, it enabled a broader 20.5 mm dial opening, heralding a new, clean, expansive aesthetic – hence the “Altiplano” name, after the Atacama Desert’s pancake-flat Bolivian Plateau.
Ticking inside Ryan’s new 38mm-diameter is a worthy modern-day heir to the 9P, the manual-winding calibre 430P – at just 2.1 mm thick, its combination of winding barrel, geartrain and ticking balance no more voluminous than a two-franc coin.
As confirmed by our two other examples below, and befitting Mr Reynolds’ zeitgeist appeal, the thinner watch is clearly having something of a moment – no bad thing after so many years of flashy, outsized cuff-busters – but Piaget’s is the one to get, and probably will be for another 60 years.