The pursuit of creating ultra-thin watches is decades old, but the effort has heated up in recent years. Audemars Piguet, for example, debuted a perpetual calendar watch — one of the most complex movements around — that came in at just 6.3mm. Around the same time, Piaget blew minds with its 2mm hand-winding watch, the thinnest mechanical watch in the world. Subsequently, Bulgari broke three world records with the Bulgari Octo Finnisimo Tourbillon Automatic, which is simultaneously the world’s thinnest tourbillon and automatic watch (and, as such, the thinnest automatic tourbillon).
While they’re fun examples of how much watchmaking can be crammed in a small space, this super slim philosophy has been applied to a greater number of watches that, while a bit thicker than those record holders, still retain the svelte design and packaging that make ultra-thin watchmaking so appealing while remaining realistically wearable. While there’s no set definition of what makes a watch “ultra-thin,” these mechanical timepieces come in at under 9mm in height. Some are even a fraction of that.
Christopher Ward C5 Malvern 595
At just under 6mm thick, Christopher Ward’s C5 Malvern 595 is one of the thinnest watches you can buy under a grand. Despite its diminutive size, though, it still features all the finishings you’d expect from a top-notch dress watch, like a domed, opaline dial, double-curved sapphire crystal and a transparent case back.
Movement: ETA/Peseux 7001 hand-winding
Hamilton Jazzmaster Thinline Auto
Most super-slim watches under a grand rely on a hand-winding movement to keep the overall case thickness down, but the Hamilton Jazzmaster manages to pack automatic winding and still come in at just under 8.5mm in height and $1,000 in price. The Jazzmaster Thinline is available in a handful of different dial colors, each with shimmering sunray finishing, and pairs its slim case with a set of old-school sculpted lugs.
Movement: ETA 2892-A2 automatic
Junghans Meister Driver Handaufzug
Like the Christopher Ward C5, the Junghans Meister Driver’s svelte case was made possible by the slim, hand-winding Peseux 7001 movement. Where it differs, though, is in its Art Deco design, a nod to the Speedometers the company made back in the early 20th century.
Movement: ETA/Peseux 7001 hand-winding
Nomos Tetra Neomatik
At just 7.3mm thick, Nomos’s dressy, square Tetra is incredibly thin for any timepiece, let alone an automatic. That’s thanks to Nomos’s in-house DUW 3001 caliber, a super-flat movement that’s only 3.2mm thick. The clean, Bauhaus-inspired dial design and delicate lugs are the perfect accouterments to the Tetra’s minimal proportions.
Movement: Nomos DUW 3001 automatic
Drive de Cartier Extra Flat Steel
The Drive de Cartier debuted initially in 2017 as a gold model, but at SIHH 2018, the brand finally brought it out in stainless steel, dropping the price to under $6,000 but retaining the attractive squircle case design and 6.6mm thickness. Inside, the watch is a Cartier-branded version of the 430P caliber from Piaget, Cartier’s corporate cousin and a pioneer of crazy-thin watch movements.
Movement: Piaget 430P hand-winding
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin
The Master Ultra Thin is about as timeless as you could imagine, featuring a date-free shimmering silver dial, dauphine hands and a small seconds sub-dial at six o’clock. The 896/1 automatic movement inside is under 4mm, and it’s based on a tried-and-true movement design Jaeger has been making for decades.
Movement: Jaeger-LeCoultre 896/1 automatic
LU Chopard XP
Chopard’s watches generally tend to skew more classical, but the XP is a decidedly modern take on the ultra-thin dress watch. The clean dial is finished with vertical brushing, giving it the look of raw metal, while the numerals and hands have been treated in an eye-popping blue. (A cashmere strap is also a unique addition). The scant 7.2mm case houses an in-house automatic movement from the brand that comes in at just 3.3mm thanks to a micro-rotor design.
Movement: L.U.C 96.53-L automatic
Bulgari Octo Finissimo
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo is one of the most distinctive watches out there — and also one of the thinnest at 5.15mm. The in-house movement itself is just 2.23mm. It comes in an expanding range of versions from those with stainless steel or titanium cases to a 2019 ceramic model, as well as those with solid or skeletonized dials. The bracelet option offers a look quite unlike anything else, and its striking angular design is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist.
Movement: BVL 138 automatic
Piaget Altiplano 910P
Debuting late in 2017, the Altiplano 910P had a very short reign as the world’s thinnest automatic until the debut of the Bulgari Octo Finnisimo Tourbillon Automatic in March 2018. Still, the Piaget is an incredible piece of watch engineering (it also doesn’t cost six figures like the Bulgari). Piaget was able to make the watch so incredibly flat by using a peripheral rotor (a ring that surrounds the movement) and by integrating the baseplate of the movement into the actual case design.
Movement: Piaget 910P
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-Thin
The classic shape of the Royal Oak is iconic, and its sleek lines are even more enticing in ultra-thin guise. While the ultra-thin variants have existed in the greater Royal Oak lineup for some time, this year the brand released it in a mix of platinum and titanium. That may seem like an odd duo, but the rugged, brushed look of the titanium mixed with the polished look of the platinum bezel and end links offer up a unique take on two-tone design.
Movement: Audemars Piguet 2121 automatic
Vacheron Constantin Historiques Ultra-Fine 1955
When it first launched in 2010, the Historiques Ultra-Fine 1955 was the thinnest mechanical watch in the world, clocking in at an impossibly-thin 4.13mm. Other watches have eeked their way to even slimmer proportions, but the Historiques remains a beautifully restrained timepiece. At just 1.3mm thick, the in-house caliber 1003 hand-winder inside is a gem, too. It was first released by the vaunted watchmaker back in 1955.
Movement: Vacheron Constantin 1003 hand-winding