A beautifully written new musical score expressing the fine art of watchmakingSIHH 2013: The Piaget Emperador Coussin Ultra-Thin Minute Repeater
The latest embodiment of Piaget’s virtuosity in the field of ultra-thin movements since 1957, the Emperador Coussin Automatic Minute Repeater sets another double record for slenderness in its category: 4.8 mm for its calibre, and 9.4 mm for its case.
This exceptional model was entirely crafted in-house thanks to the twin expertise of the two Manufactures Piaget: the one located in La Côte-aux-Fées for the calibre, and the other in Plan-les-Ouates for the case. And since the exceptional loves to rub shoulders with perfection, the new 1290P calibre beating at its heart is adorned with the highest level of hand-crafted finishing.
Expressing Piaget’s insatiable quest for ultimate horological excellence, Calibre 1290P testifies to the exceptional mastery cultivated by one of the rare fully integrated Haute Horlogerie manufacturers. This first Minute Repeater represents the 4th major complication developed by Piaget, which has created in-house no less than 35 movements, including 11 comprising major complications, within the space of just 14 years. This rare breed of expertise is embodied in such iconic calibres as the 600P (the world’s thinnest hand-wound shaped tourbillon), 880P (ultra-thin automatic chronograph), the 855P (ultra-thin automatic perpetual calendar) and the 1270P (ultra-thin automatic tourbillon), to mention but a few. This involves constant challenges, since the desire to push boundaries in ultra-thin watchmaking is backed by a will to make calibres perfectly tailored to the cases. The idea is in fact that the movements follow the case contours so closely that the two become an inseparable whole. The Manufacture applies this philosophy to all its movements featuring major complications, and the 1290P is no exception to the rule.
A calibre entirely developed, produced, decorated and assembled by Piaget
If there is one major complication that is particularly difficult to produce, it would definitely be the Minute Repeater. To also enrich the movement with an automatic winding mechanism; to endow it with an exceptional sound; to offer the thinnest calibre in its category along with the thinnest case; to guarantee water resistance to 3 ATM; and to achieve all this 100% in-house: this array of individual feats form a unique accomplishment that is unique in the world of Haute Horlogerie. The Manufacture Piaget has thus achieved an authentic tour de force in developing the Emperador Coussin Automatic Minute Repeater. The development of its 1290P movement alone involved three years of work by six engineers dedicated to this task.
Developed on the basis of Calibre 1200P (the world’s thinnest automatic movement), the 1290P measures just 4.8 mm thick, a new record in its category despite its 407 parts – a mind-blowing number that demanded exceptional miniaturisation and a refusal to compromise on the sound or on technical reliability. A daunting feat indeed, that called for each part to be skilfully thought out and shaped.
The ultra-thin nature of this model adds a further touch of complexity to the development of such a technical calibre as an automatic minute repeater. From the first sketch to the final finishing operation, each stage requires absolute mastery of every single profession. This is a constant challenge, in that assembling, adjusting and decorating such thin parts allows no room for mistakes. Some wheels are for example a mere 0.12 mm thick, scarcely more than a hair’s breadth (0.08 mm). Some components even measure as little as 0.07 mm! The micro-rotor was designed in platinum in order to guarantee the best possible winding power within a minimum thickness. The will to push back the limits of ultra-thin horology led to certain construction choices, such as the decision to display the hammers on the bridge side, or to reverse the repeater slide device which is pushed downwards rather than upwards. Precision was not neglected either, since Calibre 1290P is equipped with a surprise-piece device ensuring an optimal hour jump at the end of the 59th minute so as to ensure that the striking mechanism indicates the exact time to the nearest second.
A finely crafted case
The 48 mm-diameter case also entails a show of technical prowess, since it plays an essential role in the sound transmission. It has been hollowed out as much as possible in order to achieve optimal resonance. Four braces secure it to the calibre to ensure the transmission of the gong vibration. This essential transmission is reinforced by a gong base that is interconnected both with the movement and the exterior via 4 screws – a rare device, as too is the ingenious mechanism placed beneath the bezel and designed to ensure the watch’s water resistance. Measuring just 9.4 mm thick despite its 69 parts, the case of the world’s thinnest automatic minute repeater requires all the expertise of a fully integrated Manufacture. It involves a truly complex equation in the pursuit of a triple objective: uncompromising technical mastery, superlatively pure acoustics, as well as an aesthetic appeal orchestrated around exceptional finishing featuring alternating polished and satin-brushed surfaces. No less than 1,400 hours were devoted to developing the case of the Emperador Coussin Autoamtic Minute Repeater.
Acoustics of rare purity
The technical feats stemming from a double record for the thinness of its movement and case in no way overshadow the essential quality of the watch: its fabulous acoustics.
Indeed, the pursuit of such rare performances governed the entire conception of the movement. Activating the repeater slide at 9 o’clock serves to trigger the minute repeater on demand. The sound is then generated by the vibrations of a gong that is struck by the hammers. The latter are made of steel to ensure an optimal hardness to weight ratio. The gong itself is designed all of a piece to guarantee enhanced transmission of the vibrations – and thus the sound – through the movement and on through the case. In order to preserve the purity of this sound throughout its duration, the calibre is equipped with an inertia flywheel serving to regulate the rhythm between the start and finish of the chiming.
Whereas a conversation reaches an average of 65 decibels, Calibre 1290P chimes with exceptional intensity, with no less than 64 decibels dedicated to an incredible pure sound. Striking in the fifth octave, the hours are pitched at G sharp, and the minutes at A sharp. The sound lingers pleasantly, with an excellent damping factor of 2600 – a remarkable quality, since the latter is considered good at anywhere between 2000 and 3000.
Not content with developing a chime that is as intense as it is regular; the Manufacture has also worked on the tune. Despite using a fixed gong, Piaget has succeeded in creating a sound enriched with three virtually harmonic partials.
Finishes worthy of this exceptional calibre
Such an exceptional movement deserved exceptional decoration. Calibre 1290P heralds the most prestigious level of finishing ever performed by Piaget: the “image finishing” level. Embodying the brand motto “Always do better than necessary”, these decorations are entirely crafted by hand and using a file on all movement components. Boasting a perfectly controlled geometrical shape, Calibre 1290P is one of the most sophisticated expressions of horological finishing, featuring alternating interior and exterior angles. Bridges hand-bevelled and hand-drawn with a file, sunburst or circular satin-brushed wheels, pink gold-toned screws and oscillating weight, mirror-polished finishing: such an impressive range of finishes calls for the most accomplished skills exercised by the finest artisans. This exceptional degree of finishing – emphasised by the Piaget motto appearing through the dial opening revealing the inertia flywheel – calls for no less than 70 hours of work for the 1290P movement alone.
Tradition meets modernity
Stemming from a subtle blend of tradition and modernity, the design of Calibre 1290P reveals an aesthetic displaying an unusual sense of equilibrium. On the bridge side, the micro-rotor, the regulator assembly bearing the P for Piaget, the circular Côtes de Genève and the architecture of the gear trains all evoke the classic identity codes of the Manufacture. On the mainplate side, a sunburst guilloché motif marking off the 60 division of time provides a more modern signature, already expressed on certain existing calibres. The overall effect is further enhanced by a sapphire crystal dial providing admirable views of the remarkable quality of execution characterising this exceptional movement.
Entirely in tune with this major new complication, the case displays a cleverly orchestrated structure accentuating the sophisticated interplay of the cushion and round shapes that is a signature of Black Tie models. The exceptional finishing – featuring alternating polished and satin-brushed surfaces-rendered the case construction even more complex, since they notably required the making of an applied bezel. In keeping with the Piaget tradition, this major new complication is featured on the cushion-shaped model that hosts all the horological complications produced by the Manufacture.
Constantly reinventing its “Always do better than necessary” motto, Piaget strikes the perfect chord of harmony between watchmaking art, ultra-thin accomplishment, exceptional design and absolute acoustic purity. A musical score orchestrated into a masterful symphony and admirably interpreted by the new Emperador Coussin Automatic Minute Repeater.