How to navigate the ultra-thin world?

  • Oct, 25 2023
  • Advice

Watch brands have been competing for decades in the quest for refinement, in pursuit of creating the smallest, thinnest case or movement, showcasing their ingenuity. Flat watches are particularly elegant, and have the characteristic to disappear under a shirt cuff without damaging them. But with unobtrusive calibres it's not always easy to get one's bearings. Usually, these watches are classic, lightweight, but with few functions, just hours, minutes, sometimes seconds. There are two or three very sober hands. Rarely do they have a date. They give you  a break from complications or complex mechanisms!

It should be noted that the mechanisms of ultra-thin watches are often more fragile: in fact, the extreme miniaturisation of the components makes them more sensitive to shocks or knocks. These elegant, unobtrusive, ultra-thin watches with their minimalist design usually have very simple dials with very fine hands or markers. Often less than 7 mm thick, crowns or adjustment buttons must be handled delicately. Extra caution is needed!

Nevertheless, the search for the ultra-thin remains one of the greatest challenges since the dawn of time for watchmakers, and the thinnest timepieces remain very sought after by connoisseurs and collectors.

Some movements are barely 2mm thick, and can weigh less than 20 grams! The miniaturisation of the components, their lightness, combined with the number of horological complications is what determines the aristocracy of watchmaking. Minimising the thickness of a watch movement or its weight without compromising its performance is a feat that requires a great amount of technical skill and engineering. This is not only the prerogative of ultra-expensive watches: the ultra-thin offer by Swatch, for example, represents a watchmaking range that has never been accessible before. To do this, sometimes the components of the calibre are directly machined into the watch case, which eliminates the distinction between movement and casing.

In their search for ultra-thin watches, many brands have opted for platinum or materials less flexible than gold, to combine rigidity and protection of calibres with thinness. However, this does not reduce the price... The pursuit of the ultra-thin is no longer reserved for people with deep pockets or the most exceptional items. Some brands, such as Longines, Hamilton and Swatch, offer really good price-performance ratios on the market in term of ultra-thin watches.