Scroll through Instagram, and it won’t take you long to appreciate the worldwide obsession with being skinnier than size zero. That malnourished-chic look is everywhere, and unfortunately it seems that watches haven’t quite escaped the cult of slim either. Of course, for a watchmaker, showing off how thin you can get your movement has always been an obvious flex that’s worthy of praise. But these days, some brands have been competing so hard to slim down their watches that you might snap your precious timepiece in two by accident. Here are some of the 10 thinnest watches on sale today. Sit down with a cheeseburger and a milkshake to enjoy…
The Nomos Tangente has been around for 30 years in various forms, and it embodies all the virtues that slimline watches need to possess. That’s to say an elegant uncluttered simplicity, inspired in this case by the Bauhaus artistic philosophy that dictates how form should follow function. The Tangente is around 6.6mm thick, made possible by a movement that is only just over 3mm tall. Several different versions are available, including a date and small seconds variant, with both the classic brilliant white and darker shades on offer as well, from around £1600. All feature the classic numeral typography that sets Nomos apart.
NOMOS Tangente - Credit NOMOS
Of course slim normally means micro-engineering, and that’s expensive. But not always, because like the horological equivalent of Joe Wicks, Swatch brings leanness to the masses: except without a single celery smoothie in sight. The Skin series of Swatches combines minimalism with compact engineering at a price that will suit everyone, combined with clever packaging and striking colours. Many options are available and this is a stylish Swiss watch that you can put on your wrist for less than £100 – how often can you say that? Total thickness is 5.65mm, proving that less is sometimes…less.
Swatch Skin - Credit Media World
Breguet Classique Extra Thin
Coming in at 5.4mm thick, you’ll pay more than £15,000 extra compared to the Swatch to save just 0.2mm. But of course you’re getting much more – or should that be less – for your money: including a white gold case and parts of the movement that are made in silicon. There’s a 45-hour power reserve squeezed out of nowhere, and most importantly of all, you get those famed Breguet hands. It all forms part of an impossibly elegant watch, which somehow manages to encapsulate the spirit of what classical French-inspired watchmaking is all about.
Breguet Classique Extra Thin - Credit Media World
Yet you don't need to afford Breguet prices to have a Swiss watch that is even thinner. The tradition 5.5 is eminently affordable at just over £300, and for that you get a rock-solid quartz movement and traditional proportions that make this probably the perfect dress watch that you can take anywhere. At just 5.2mm thick (so why do they call it the 5.5?) this is the thinnest watch in Tissot’s collection, carrying not only signature style but also a two-year guarantee and 30 metres of water resistance. It's a handsome beast that simply offers more thinness for money than you can find anywhere else.
Tissot T Classic - Credit MediaWorld
Rado True Thinline Automatic
Breathe in, Rado has just arrived. At 4.9mm, this is the first of our contenders to sneak in under the 5mm barrier, but there and again the Swiss firm has always had a reputation for carefully-crafted, ultra-thin watches enveloped by glass; what they call the ‘monobloc case’. This one is no exception. It comes in a variety of colours and special editions (you can have a bright red or yellow one if you like, along with more conventional versions) but they are all relatively affordable – at between £2000 to £3000 – and very wearable, at 39mm with a reliable quartz movement.
Rado True Thinline Automatic - Credit Rado
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic
The Altiplano has always been a superstar in the world of thin watches, setting the standard here so far at 4.3 millimetres thick. Such technology doesn't come cheap, but there’s an awful lot going on for you to look at, and there’s plenty of extra choice with a number of precious metals and complications available, including moon phase. For many people, the Altiplano will always be the ultimate slim watch – even though it's a long way from being the thinnest watch you can buy these days.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic - Credit Piaget
Jaeger Le Coultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee
Probably the only instance in the watchmaking world where the name is more substantial than the actual case, which comes in at an unfeasibly small 4.05mm. Looks can be deceptive, because from the outside this simply looks like a classical dress watch, without the futurism of the Rado, for example. The Jubilee marked JLC’s 180th birthday in 2013 and was billed as “the thinnest mechanical watch in the world” at the time. That’s made possible thanks to a movement only 1.85mm thick: the calibre 849, which surprisingly has been around since the early 1990s. The case is in platinum, and while you can’t get these watches new anymore – the edition was limited to 880 pieces – you can get hold of them second-hand from about £10,000: which is actually incredible value for the engineering within.
Jaeger Le Coultre Master Ultra Thin Jubilee - Credit Media World
Citizen Eco Drive One
And now, incredibly, we dip under the 4mm marker, with the Citizen creeping in at 3.88mm: the horological equivalent of limbo dancing. There’s even a version that is just 2.98mm thick. I’ve often maintained that Citizen is one of the most under rated watch brands out there, and here’s yet more proof with another ground-breaking light-powered timepiece that pushes the very boundaries of what’s technically possible. The view from the side is the most mind-blowing, as the bracelet actually appears thicker than the watch. And what’s incredible is that you can have all this for less than £3000. To my mind, it’s the biggest little bargain on the list.
Citizen Eco-Drive One - Credit Media World
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra
Another watch that made headlines when it first appeared, because it’s basically not much thicker than a credit card. Bulgari for many years hoovered up the record for making the world’s thinnest watch, with the Octo Finissimo concept having been around since 2014. Other records toppled courtesy of Bulgari include the world’s thinnest tourbillon, minute repeater, self-winding watch, self-winding tourbillon, chronograph (which was also self-winding with a second time zone), tourbillon chronograph, and perpetual calendar. So when it comes to miniaturisation, the Italians know what they’re doing. Perhaps the ultimate accolade came from an enthusiast who commented: “It looks more like a photocopy of a watch than an actual watch.” No surprise, when this Finissimo is only 1.8mm thick.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra - Credit MediaWorld
Richard Mille RM UP-01
Stealing the record for the world’s thinnest watch is the Richard Mille RM UP-01: by just half a millimetre. It’s an impressive tour de force, but we can’t help feeling that watches you can confuse with postage stamps probably aren’t necessary. This titanium masterwork was created out of Richard Mille’s partnership with Ferrari, as a technical showcase designed to demonstrate how both firms push the limits together. It took 6000 hours of laboratory testing to validate the unique manual-winding movement, released in a limited edition of just 150 pieces. And at about £1.5M (yes, you saw that correctly) the irony is that it costs more than most Ferraris to buy.
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