Timepieces From Piaget, Panerai And Vacheron Constantin Are Turning Heads At Watches & Wonders

The inaugural Watches & Wonders turned out to be markedly different to its predecessor, SIHH—though not entirely intentionally. 2020’s tumultuous events forced the watch fair to take place on an exclusively online platform. The participants are familiar, though—brands from which the watch community anticipates annual new releases, year after year in Geneva. We are not quite in Geneva this year, but here are some of the highlights that we admired from afar.

Altiplano Ultimate Concept

Two years ago, Piaget showcased the Altiplano Ultimate Concept, an exercise in extreme ultra-thin watchmaking. Just 2 mm thick in entirety, the Ultimate Concept is the world’s thinnest mechanical watch and relied on some innovative engineering to achieve its goals—enough that its design generated five patent filings. 

Its 41 mm case was made from a specially developed cobalt-based alloy, one exceptionally tough—and difficult to machine—as is necessary to prevent bending. 

The caseback also serves as the baseplate for the movement, which has its components arranged in a single plane. There is no dial in the traditional sense, so the components are perfectly visible—better to appreciate the little depth-saving touches throughout. These include a mainspring barrel without cover or drum and mounted on a single ceramic ball bearing, and an hour hand replaced by a recessed disc. The crown uses an ‘infinite screw’ construction that replaces the usual, more unwieldy pinion-and-wheel system.

Its only caveat: it was not available for sale. It was always a tantalising prospect, however—the Ultimate Concept when it was presented was an essentially complete product and it felt like a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if.’

The ‘when’ is now. The Altiplano Ultimate Concept enters production as a fully tested and capable wristwatch. It is offered under Piaget’s customisation programme and therefore will come with the buyer’s choice of colour and finish. Its release is accompanied by three new ultra-thin, Kevlar-reinforced straps, in alligator skin, blue rubber or blue technical textile.

Piaget has long been a champion of ultra-thin. In 1957, its hand-wound calibre 9P was just 2 mm thick. The Altiplano Ultimate Concept continues the tradition in stylish, 21st century fashion.


Luminor Marina Titanio DMLS

In 1950, the first Panerai Luminor coalesced. A supplier at the time to the Royal Italian Navy, the Luminor was a no-nonsense tool watch with a distinctive crown guard and highly visible in low-light conditions thanks to a patented tritium-based lume—the eponymous Luminor.

Seventy years on, and the Luminor has changed very little. The brand honours its ongoing appeal with the 270-piece limited edition and boutique exclusive Luminor Marina Titanio DMLS (RM74,000). The 44 mm form factor is reassuringly familiar to Panerai fans—crown guard, cushion-shaped case, and 9 o’clock small seconds included.

Lume is the focus of this watch. It is highlighted with Super-Luminova X1, the latest generation and highest grade of the industry benchmark luminescent material and one that lasts up to 60 per cent longer than previous iterations. It also has additional lume not found on regular models, including outside the dial such as the crown guard and the stitching on the strap.

The case is distinctly 21st century, using one of Panerai’s more innovative construction techniques known as DMLS; this essentially 3D-prints the case out of titanium powder. The choice of material means the watch is exceptionally light—just 100 grams, including the strap. Within is the tried-and-tested automatic P.9010 calibre, good for three days of power. In customary Panerai fashion, it has an anti-shock system and 300m of water resistance—but the brand seems particularly confident in this one, as it has a 70-year warranty. It seems Panerai is willing to bet on the Luminor for another seven decades.


Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly for a brand oft thought as one of the most traditional, one of Vacheron Constantin’s more prominent signatures is the contemporary (by watchmaking standards, anyway) Overseas collection. An evolution of a certain iconic 70s sports watch design, the Overseas was first launched in 1996 and proved to be distinctive, versatile and popular. The collection has expanded in every conceivable direction—case material, strap, and complications including chronograph, world timer, and the ever-popular dual time—but this year sees a new first.

The Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton brings skeletonization to the collection for the first time—and to a moonphase perpetual calendar at that, for glorious mechanical visibility. Skeletonising a movement a skillset unto its own, one the maison does in fact consider it to be a complication in itself. Here, the self-winding 1120 QPSQ calibre has had its components hollowed out, a complex and demanding process that ensures their function is not compromised. The movement is finished to the sublime level that one honed over the manufacture’s 265-year history. Straight-graining, bevelling, circular brushing, sunburst finishing—these techniques and more are masterfully employed in an interplay of polished and satin surfaces, curves and corners and straight lines, in a celebration of watchmaking aesthetics.

There is a darkly modern look to most of the components, an anthracite grey made possible through electrolytic treatment. This makes for a dramatic contrast to the pink gold of the rest of the watch, found in the case, hour markers, and hands—and bracelet as well, though the Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton is also provided with a leather and rubber strap.

The case is 41.5 mm in diameter, and remarkably slim by any standard—let alone that of a perpetual calendar—at just 8.1 mm thick. Living up to its sporty heritage, the hands are lumed and the watch is rated for 50 metres of water resistance.

Vacheron Constantin


Sign up for our Newsletters

Stay up to date with our latest series