Regular Haute Time readers know what a minute repeater is: a watch that chimes the hours, quarter hours, and minutes “on demand,” it’s considered by far the most challenging of all the classic complications. Not only is it incredibly complex and delicate, it requires enormous skill to make one that not only functions accurately (for instance, even at 12:59, it must not mistakenly chime 1:00) but also has a pleasant tone and good volume. The circular steel gongs, hammers, and complex rack-and-snail gear system that allows the watch to “read” the time internally and translate it to sound is so challenging to make that repeaters remain today where they have always been: at the top of the pyramid of complicated watches.
All the more impressive, then, is the latest minute repeater from Piaget: the Emperador Coussin Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater. It’s said by Piaget to be the thinnest watch in its category (self-winding minute repeater) in the world, and it’s not hard to believe them. The movement –Piaget’s self-winding minute repeater calibre 1290P –is a mere 4.8mm thin, and the entire watch only 9.4mm thick. To achieve this means reducing the components of the watch to an almost unbelievable flatness; several of the gears are only 0.12mm thick (for comparison, a human hair is about 0.08mm thick) which means that there is virtually no margin for error in manufacturing components or assembling the watch. Everything must fit together exactly for the watch to function, and such minute clearances –in everything from the minute repeater gear train to the clearances between the hands of the watch –has to be monitored and adjusted manually, making this probably one of the most time and labor intensive watches in the world.
An aid in making the movement so flat –a specialty of Piaget’s, who has set several world’s records for extra-flat watch construction –is the use of a micro-rotor as the oscillating mass that winds the watch. To provide the most efficient performance, the micro-rotor (engraved with the Piaget coat-of-arms) is made of platinum.
All this would mean nothing, however, if the watch was not acoustically superior as well, and despite the slimness of the case, Piaget has managed to wring a full 64 dB out of it –loud enough to be easily heard over an ordinary conversation. To ensure optimum transmission as well as purity of sound, the case –whose construction profoundly affects the sound of a repeating watch –has been made as thin-walled as possible, with the movement suspended inside it on four braces. The case is a masterpiece of complexity in its own right, with a total of 69 parts.
Despite its incredibly slim profile and elegant lines it’s still water resistant to 2 atmospheres, though if you’re lucky enough to own one we do not recommend showering with it –best not to tempt fate. If Fate’s on your side, you might be one of the lucky few who has a chance to own one of the most technically distinguished and flat-out gorgeous complicated watches of this or any year.
The Piaget Emperador Coussin XL is the world’s thinnest self-winding minute repeater. 43mm in diameter, offered in 18k pink gold, with the movement visible front and back through sapphire crystals. On a brown alligator strap, with 18 pink gold folding clasp. Price available upon request to Piaget.