Ever felt like you’re wearing a watch so thick that you feel like you’re wearing a Ben 10 watch and turn yourself into an alien superhero? Do you feel tired after a wrist workout by wearing your watch? Well, look no further.
Watches can sometimes be thick for a reason, but sometimes, it’s just because it can make you feel substantial on the wrist. If you’re someone who wants to feel something lighter, something a bit more comfortable, then you’re on the right page.
About Ultra-Thin Watches
Back in the mid-1700s, when pocket watches were still the main instrument to tell time, watchmaker Jean-Antoine Lépine was discovering how to make pocket watches less substantial. Since then, he has made significant steps in horology and achieved a much thinner pocket watch using a mechanical movement, just like most watches today.
After understanding the inspiration behind making a timekeeping piece thinner, the following breakthroughs are more about “who can make the thinnest watch” and a competition between who’s the “better” watchmaker.
In general, a thinner watch means a thinner mechanical movement, and creating a thinner mechanical movement is a whole new level of complexity. Some of the best watchmakers struggled to create ultra-thin watches because it’s as complicated as a perpetual calendar.
Notable watch brands such as Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, and Audemars Piguet are well known for competing in making the thinnest watch.
How They Do It
A normal three-handed watch would generally have a thickness of about 9mm-12mm. But an ultra-thin timepiece can be as little as 1.75mm, which belongs to the current king of thinnest watches, the RM UP-01 Ferrari. You might wonder, how do they do it?
In general, these thin movements are achieved by using a micro-rotor instead of a full-sized automatic movement. Because a micro-rotor is much smaller, it can be placed inside of the mechanical movement instead of using a traditional rotor.
This greatly reduces the thickness of the watch. However, because of the small rotor, it is harder for it to swing naturally, therefore making it harder to wind. Watchmakers would have to make many adjustments to figure out the best setting for the watch without compromising the quality of the movement.
However, the recent discovery of quartz has helped mitigate all the difficulties and problems that a watchmaker might find in creating an ultra-thin watch. Not only is it more accurate and less problematic, but it’s also thin because it has much fewer components under the hood.
Should You Buy An Ultra-Thin Watch?
If you’re an individual who always dresses like James Bond or Michael Corleone from The Godfather, I think an ultra-thin watch is the ultimate partner for you. This is purely because ultra-thin timepieces can easily hide under the cuff of your suit, showing off class and elegance whenever you pull back your shirt slightly to see your beautiful watch on your wrist.
If you live somewhere extremely hot, or suits are just not your style, these ultra-thin watches can be handy, too. Slimmer timepieces are very comfortable to wear as they sit very well on the wrist and often feel like you’re not wearing anything.
If you’re a watch enthusiast, you would definitely appreciate ultra-thin watches. The research, the engineering, and the craftsmanship are just second to none.
Our Top Picks For Ultra Thin Watches
Here are our picks for the best ultra-thin watches you can get today.
The Mido Baroncelli line is Mido’s dress watch collection and has the thinnest case in their collection. The Heritage Gent model really shows the elegance of the watch with its well-polished dauphine hour and minute hands, beautiful blue second hands, and a paper-white dial.
It comes in a 39mm stainless steel case, an open case back to showcase its automatic movement, and just a mere 7.3mm thick. You’d also have the option to opt for a leather strap or a stainless steel bracelet.
An automatic movement, a date function, and a sapphire crystal for just over $1000, it is definitely one of the best affordable ultra-thin watches you could get.
Hamilton is well known for being the most featured watch brand in pop culture. From movies like Indiana Jones to Elvis wearing it, it’s no wonder that Hamilton is one of the most popular Swiss watch brands. The Jazzmaster is no exception. One of the models from the Jazzmaster collection was also actually featured in Kong: Skull Island (2017), worn by Houston Brooks.
This Jazzmaster has a stunning sunburst grey dial with vintage-looking stick markers and a date window at 6. Encasing the automatic movement is a 40mm stainless case and is only 8.45mm thick. The thin case with a leather strap will definitely wear comfortably on the wrist and certainly make a great companion if you’re ever stranded on Skull Island.
You can get the Jazzmaster Thinline for $1,025.
Junghans is most famous for their minimalistic, Bauhaus-style watches and is one of the few German brands on this list. The Meister Handaufzug, which also translates to “Hand Wound”, is the thinnest watch in the Junghans brand.
The watch has a plain white dial with dauphine hands and line markers. On the surface, the timepiece looks very simple and very minimalistic, but the more you look at it, the more details that you’ll get. Applied polished markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9, a small seconds hand at 6 on an inwardly-curved surface really makes the watch more alive.
Completing the package is a 37.7mm stainless case that is just 7.3mm thick. It features their beautiful in-house hand-winding movement and is also showcased on the caseback.
The Junghans Meister Handaufzug can be yours for $1,400.
Another German brand on this list is Nomos, and their style of watches is definitely a unique one. Imagine a minimalistic design but with a sprinkle of quirkiness, which I really do adore.
The Minimatik Midnight Blue has a similar look to the Junghans as it also has a small second hand at 6 with an inwardly-curved design. But with Arabic numerals and a splash of color. The playful red second hand, contrasting with the midnight blue dial, really makes the watch more fun. It’s a dial that the more you look at it, the more you’ll get immersed.
The Minimatik has a 35.5mm stainless steel case, which is a great unisex size and with a thickness of 8.9mm. Powering the watch is their in-house automatic movement with a power reserve of 43 hours. It’s a great everyday watch, and if you share your watches with your missus, this is the one. You can find it for $3,800.
Cartier has been killing it lately, not only in the jewelry game but also in the watch game. They have stayed true to their original designs but also modernized the movements of their watches, making it timeless and reliable at the same time.
The Drive Extra Flat follows the trend of Cartier’s signature big Roman numerals on their markers with blued hands and a sapphire blue crown. What’s more unique is the rounded square case and the sunburst silver finish on the dial that gives it a more modernized look.
With their in-house hand winding movement, Cartier is able to fit it in a 39mm wide and 6.6mm thin stainless steel case. You can easily fit this watch under the cuff and wind your watch, which brings you back to the 50s.
This stunning timepiece from Cartier comes with a retail price of $6,450.
The Chopard L.U.C collection is Chopard’s more elegant and dressy collection. In fact, it is the thinnest watch yet at just 3.3mm thick. They were able to create such a thin movement with the help of two coaxial barrels and a small self-winding mechanical movement. Not only is it thin, but it has a respectable 58-hour power reserve as well.
Protecting the movement is a 40mm stainless steel case along with a fabric strap. The design of the dial shows a resemblance of the blue virgin wool of the strap; it has this sort of dark blue jeans-textured dial. Along with the complex dial are the tastefully added rose gold touches of the numerals and hands, showing off a much more sophisticated look than the first glance would suggest.
This version of the L.U.C XP retails for $7,525.
Vacheron is one of the oldest watch brands in the world and is often regarded as part of the holy trinity of watches.
The Patrimony is one of the classiest and most elegant watches that you can find. At first glance, it’s just a three-handed watch with simple stick markers and hands. But with the introduction of their proprietary pink gold it brings the watch to another level.
The pink gold 40mm case contrasted with the deep blue sunburst dial is stunning to look at. Featuring a manual winding movement, they were able to make the watch as thin as 6.79mm. If you’re after a no-nonsense dress watch with an alligator strap for $22,100, this is it.
Remember I mentioned the holy trinity in the 7th point? Patek Philippe is one of them, too. Don’t let the recent boom in popularity of integrated sports watches hide the fact that Patek Philippe can make a proper dress watch.
The Golden Ellipse 5738R is the 50th anniversary of the release of the Golden Ellipse line. The watch shows off an ebony black sunburst dial matched with applied hour markers and sleek, slender hands that are also made from rose gold.
What’s also rose gold is the 34.5mm x 39.5mm rectangular case that really gives off the classic, vintage vibe. Inside the case is a Calibre 240 self-winding movement with a power reserve of 48 hours and a 22K gold off-centered micro-rotor. With the help of this, Patek Philippe was able to make the watch just 5.9mm thin.
You can find the Patek Philippe Golden Ellipse for $36,670.
Audemars Piguet completes the holy trinity alongside Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Unlike Patek, Audemars Piguet embraces the integrated sports watch trend and evolves the Royal Oak into an ultra-thin case.
The Royal Oak is probably one of the most iconic sports watches in existence with its iconic hexagonal-shaped bezel and integrated bracelet design. This particular Royal Oak is called the Jumbo and pays tribute to the original Royal Oak back in 1972 with its blue dial that they call “Bleu Nuit, Nuage 50” and “Petite Tapisserie” for the waffle-patterned dial (a bit too fancy, don’t you think?).
Despite being called a Jumbo, it is actually not as “jumbo” as you think. It has a 39mm stainless steel case and a thickness of just 8.1mm that is made possible with the help of their in-house Calibre 7121 self-winding movement.
Even though this version of the Royal Oak comes with a retail price of around $35,000, its popularity has skyrocketed its price in the secondary market to close to $95,000.
Bulgari has just recently started to compete in the watch game, but boy, did they knock it out of the park with this one. As a jewelry brand, they focused more on fashionable watches and used third-party movements, but these days, they have really advanced into a proper watchmaker.
The Octo Finissimo has a really Avangard sort of overall design with a hexagonal inner bezel design and an integrated bracelet look. The ash gray dial contrasting with the black 12 and 6 numerals make the watch really simple and legible. The dial also has an interesting small second hand positioned at 8, which is an unusual position.
The star of the show is definitely the movement that pushes the boundaries of watchmaking. It combines beauty and technological advancement to achieve this new milestone in the world of horological complications.
With a 5.15mm thick and 40mm titanium case (and bracelet), the watch wears like a dream. The Octo Finissimo Automatic achieves this by using a platinum micro-rotor that is automatic winding, and you can enjoy the beautiful movement from the caseback.
This version of the Octo Finissimo retails for $15,900.
Breguet is one of the oldest watch brands and has provided a lot to the history of horology. A few honorable mentions that they created the first tourbillon and one of the most memorable hands on the dial, also called Breguet hands.
Today, they have maintained the overall dial designs of the extinct pocket watches and implemented them into modern case designs and movements. The Breguet Classique Extra-Thin 5157 is no exception.
The iconic blue Breguet hands, the silver guilloche dial, and Roman numerals are all part of Breguet’s DNA. Making it even more luxurious is the 38mm rose gold case and an impressive 5.4mm thin.
Despite the traditional and vintage looks, powering the watch is their immaculately finished in-house self-winding movement that you can admire on the open case back and with a power reserve of 45 hours.
The watch can be yours for $19,800.
Another German brand on this list is A. Lange & Söhne, and they are quickly rising to become one of the best-finished watches in the world. They were once close to being bankrupt, but thankfully, in 1990, Walter Lange (great-grandchild of the founder of the company) decided to re-establish the company and re-registered A. Lange & Söhne.
The Saxonia Thin has one of the simplest looks with just simple hour and minute hands and stick markers. But the dial. Boy, oh boy, let me tell you that it is a treat to your eyes. The dial looks exactly like the millions of stars from the night sky and is meticulously hand-drawn on the dial with each single star.
Just as beautiful and impressive as the dial is the finishing of the manual winding movement that is displayed on the open case back of the watch. The Saxonia Thin has a 39mm white gold case and is just 6.2mm thick, and it perfectly contrasts with the deep dark blue of the dial.
The Saxonia Thin comes with an approximate retail price of $29,000.
JLC is well known for being the watchmaker’s watchmaker, and for very good reason; until this day, they still live up to the name. My personal favorite piece of history from JLC is that they are a huge part of the reason that made the Royal Oak and Nautilus so popular today.
They were trying to create an integrated bracelet design sports watch with a thin and comfortable case, but they were incapable of doing so at that time. JLC, being the watchmaker’s watchmaker, came in to create an ultra-thin movement for them to make it possible. Impressive.
What’s more impressive is the Ultra Thin Squelette’s thickness of just 3.6mm thick. Back in 2015, they were the thinnest mechanical watch, and it still is one of the thinnest today. What’s crazier is the calibre 849, which is used in the Squelette, was often used in the world’s thinnest watches back in 1975. Very impressive.
The Squelette really shows off the engineering marvel of the calibre 849, with the watch having a skeletonized dial. And they definitely should show it off. Encasing the movement is a 38mm white gold case that makes it even dressier and elegant, and hiding it under the cuff couldn’t be any easier.
As the name suggests, it was never really made to be an actual production watch because the watch is absurdly thin – just 2mm, which is thinner than 90% of most watch movements. One of the biggest challenges to make it possible is to make the watch stay flat, as when the watch is strapped on the wrist, the watch will tend to bend. This was back in 2018.
Fast forward to 2020, voila. Nothing is impossible. Piaget actually made it happen and made it a production watch, and more impressively, it is customizable. You can actually change the color of the subdial, the movement plate, the hands, and the strap. This makes it super unique as it is close to impossible that you bump into someone wearing this watch, let alone the exact same configuration.
The watch also offers a skeletonized dial but has the looks straight out of an exposed robot, with gears and wheels fully exposed on the dial. It’s definitely an Avangard look. To combat the problem of the rigidity of ultra-thin watches, a high-tech cobalt alloy is used for the 41mm watch case.
The hand winding movement 900P-UC is fused with the case to make the watch possible. The watch came with an approximate retail price of $450,000. Unsurprisingly, this was the thinnest watch in the world in 2020 but has recently just been beaten by the next brand on this list.
2 years after Piaget released the thinnest watch, someone just had to break the record for being the thinnest watch, and who else but Richard Mille can break this unbelievable record? With the insane innovation and determination that Richard Mille’s team has, they have created the RM UP-01 Ferrari watch with a thickness of just 1.75mm.
The watch design is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It looks straight out of the future. It has a rectangular titanium case, a Ferrari logo, a power reserve indicator, and an exposed movement. This watch really packed both technical prowess and aesthetics, and I think Richard Mille really knocked it out of the park with this one.
However, with something like this, the price tag can definitely make your wallet as thin as your watch. It is limited to 150 pieces and is worth $1,888,000.
Watchmakers have spent years and maybe decades researching and creating ultra-thin watches for enthusiasts to enjoy an elegantly understated but also luxurious timepiece for us to enjoy.
With the recent technological developments, watchmakers can use this to their advantage to further improve on creating the thinnest watch. People often take ultra-thin watches for granted and I certainly hope that people understand watches like these are incredibly difficult to come by from this article.
It’s great to see watchmakers pushing the boundaries and limits of watchmaking, and we, as watch enthusiasts, will always appreciate it. More competition leads to more innovation, and that leads to cooler watches being made for us!