The Thinnest Watches in the World
Brands push the boundaries of horology in their quest to create the world’s thinnest watches.
Has the race for the thinnest watch in the world finally ended? In the past few years, Richard Mille, Bulgari, and Piaget have produced the three thinnest watches ever made, and it’s hard to imagine anyone finding a way to shave even a fraction of a millimeter from these ultrathin watches. In order to create these record-breaking watches, watchmakers have to make sacrifices, and they don’t look like the watches we’re used to seeing. After all, Richard Mille’s RM UP-01 Ferrari is the thinnest watch in the world, and it barely looks like a watch. But if we know anything about watch brands, it’s that they will always strive to create the thinnest, most complicated timepieces possible.
Of course, you don’t need to have a record-breaking watch to appreciate ultrathin watches. These slim watches feel wonderful to wear and fit under even the tightest shirtsleeves. Whether you’re looking for a record-breaking wonder or simply a slim dress watch to wear every day, you’ll find it in our feature on the thinnest watches in the world.
Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari
When Richard Mille announced it had created the world’s thinnest watch, which measures just 1.75mm thick, it was shocking for many reasons. First, 1.75mm is unbelievably thin. The watch is the same thickness as an American quarter, and it contains a mechanical movement that tells the time. Second, Richard Mille has never been a player in the ultrathin game. Its watches are known for their architectural, three-dimensional movements. Slimness never seemed to be a concern for its statement-making watches. Additionally, Bulgari had just set the world record for the thinnest watch a few months prior, a record that seemed unbreakable at the time. The RM UP-01 Ferrari slipped past Bulgari’s record by a mere .05mm. But most of all, its look was unlike anything we’d seen before.
In its quest to create the world’s thinnest watch, Richard Mille’s watchmakers removed pretty much everything that we expect from watches, including the central time display, crown, and a large sapphire glass covering the dial. Instead, the titanium watch has four visible windows. The two on the left side of the watch control winding the movement and setting the time. Because the watch doesn’t have a crown, you need to use a specialized key (or your fingertip) to wind the watch. The central window is a petite watch dial covered by an ultrathin sapphire glass. On the right, the balance wheel is visible beneath another sapphire glass.
While other ultrathin watches use the caseback as the mainplate, Richard Mille completely reinvented how it made watches. Instead of stacking the movement vertically, its watchmakers spread it out horizontally throughout the large rectangular case. The movement itself measures 1.18mm, weighs just 2.82 grams, and still somehow has a 45-hour power reserve. Richard Mille will produce just 150 of these watches, and each costs a cool $1.88 million.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra
Bulgari has made a name for itself as the leader in ultrathin watches, setting eight records in eight years. It holds records for many of the thinnest complicated movements that exist and presumably saved the best for last with its thinnest watch ever: the Octo Finissimo Ultra. However, with the RM UP-01’s debut so soon after it launched, Bulgari didn’t get to enjoy its title as the world’s thinnest mechanical watch for long. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less impressive, especially because the Octo Finissimo Ultra still keeps the design codes of the Octo collection — just as slim as can be. The titanium watch measures 1.80mm thick, and the bracelet is just 1.50mm.
Bulgari chose a traditional ultrathin watch construction by using the caseback as the mainplate. It integrated the components directly into the caseback. While the Octo Finissimo Ultra has the same 40mm case shape as the rest of the collection, it tells time in a different way to achieve its thinness. In central time displays, the hour and minute hands are stacked on top of each other, which creates height. In this case, Bulgari placed an hours subdial at 2 o’clock and a minutes subdial at 5 o’clock.
The Octo Finissimo Ultra was released in March 2022, at the height of the NFT craze, so naturally, Bulgari got on board with that too. The barrel’s ratchet wheel has a laser-engraved QR code connected to an NFT artwork. Only 10 of these watches were made, and they sold out immediately.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Piaget is a master of ultrathin watches. For decades, it produced slim movements that were so wonderful that other prestigious brands, including Cartier, used them in their thinnest watches. Now that brands prize exclusively using their own in-house movements, that’s occurring less and less, but it shows the impact Piaget has had on the ultrathin watch category.
In 2018, Piaget introduced a mind-blowingly thin watch: the 2mm-thick Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch. At the time, it was just that: a concept watch they weren’t sure they could produce. It took 30 designers and watchmakers six years to create it. The 41mm watch pioneered the fusion of the movement into the caseback to achieve its thinness, placing the movement and dial on the same plane.
Two years later, Piaget brought the watch to market, and it held the record as the world’s thinnest mechanical watch for two more years before Bulgari and Richard Mille bested it by .20 and .25mm, respectively. However, you can purchase the Altiplano Piaget Concept and even customize it with different colors. Piaget offers more than 10,000 customization options, so you can ensure you have a watch unlike any other.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Squelette
Jaeger-LeCoultre leads the pack in the thinnest dress watches in the world. It uses a traditional stacked watch construction with a caseback, movement, dial, and sapphire glass. Even with all of these components on different planes, the case measures a mere 3.60 mm in height. The watch has a unique design that highlights the beautifully decorated skeletonized movement at the center. A decorative chapter ring with hand-painted enamel surrounds the movement, which is just 1.85mm thick.
Breguet Extra-thin Classique
Breguet leads the pack in the thinnest classic dress watches in the world. It uses a traditional stacked watch construction with a caseback, movement, dial, and sapphire glass. Even with all of these components on different planes, the case measures a mere 5.4mm in height and 38mm in diameter, which is 2mm smaller in diameter than the three thinner watches. The watch tells hours and minutes but omits the seconds hand to keep its slim profile. The dial has a handsome guillochéd center and elegant Roman numerals for hours, and there’s a minute track around the outside of the dial.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony
This ultraslim watch from Vacheron Constantin is part of its timeless Patrimony collection, inspired by classic watch styles from the 1950s. The elegant watch comes in several different colors, but the blue dial paired with a blue strap is striking. The watch is 40mm in diameter and 6.79mm thick. The movement itself is only 2.6mm thick and has a 40-hour power reserve. It’s beautifully decorated and finished, earning the prestigious Poinçon de Genève. However, you can’t admire the movement because it has a solid caseback. However, a solid caseback is the perfect canvas for personalization or engraving, and Vacheron Constantin employs some of the best engraving artisans in Switzerland.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin 50th Anniversary
As part of its yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Royal Oak, Audemars Piguet released a series of limited-edition anniversary watches. This watch honors the very first Royal Oak with a steel case and iconic blue Petite Tapisserie guilloché dial. The Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin 50th Anniversary features a new automatic-winding movement and measures 8.1mm in height. It tells hours and minutes, and it has an unobtrusive date window at 3 o’clock, thanks to a matching blue background on the date. The movement is 3.2mm thick and has a 55-hour power reserve.
Arnold & Son Ultrathin Tourbillon Platinum
Arnold & Son is one of the few independent watchmakers that specializes in ultrathin watches. And this isn’t just any ultrathin watch; it has a tourbillon and measures only 8.3mm in height. The tourbillon itself is one of the thinnest ever made; it measures 2.97mm thick. The unique green dial is made using a new technique called Cosmic Grené, which is inspired by stargazing. It’s crafted from gold powder mixed with aluminum sparkles. The Ultrathin Tourbillon Platinum has an open caseback so you can admire the beautifully finished movement and the bold rear tourbillon bridge, which is crafted from 18K yellow gold and decorated with a sunray motif. The watch has a 100-hour power reserve, a significant accomplishment for an ultrathin movement with a power-hungry tourbillon.