Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille is known as much for its elite fanbase (which includes high-rollers like Rafael Nadal and Jay-Z) as it is for its highly-engineered, exorbitantly priced timepieces. Its latest stunner is the 2022 RM-01UP Ferrari, which at just 1.75mm thick—a little more than two credit cards stacked—made history when it dropped this summer as the thinnest mechanical watch ever made. Limited to 150 pieces and reportedly priced at a cool $1.9 million, the RM-01UP Ferrari surpasses a long line of previous contenders for the title, from the 2020 Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept (2.0mm thick, $440,000) to this year’s BULGARI Octo Finissimo Ultra (1.8mm thick, $450,000). As impressive as these pieces are, however, they all have two things in common: extremely limited availability and astronomical prices. The good news? Casio’s digital A700W-1ACF is nearly as thin as those grails and costs just $34, putting a razor-thin timepiece within anyone’s reach.
The race towards ever-thinner watches has heated up in the last few years, but it’s been going strong for more than a century, beginning in 1903 when Edmond Jaeger (co-founder of Swiss luxury watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre) invented the Caliber 145, the thinnest watch movement the world had ever seen. Like athletes and yacht owners, watchmakers are competitive people, and they love nothing more than doing something better—even infinitesimally better—than the competition. After the Caliber 145’s debut, the industry’s brightest minds immediately began dreaming up new designs for ever-thinner cases and movements, and they haven’t stopped ever since. Some 120 years later, Richard Mille’s RM-01UP Ferrari is in the lead, but, watchmakers being who they are, a new contender can’t be far off.
With a square case measuring 6mm thick, the humble Casio A700W-1ACF may not be in quite the same league as the Richard Milles and Piagets of the world (building an ultra-thin mechanical watch is much, much more complicated than thinning down a digital one) but it’s remarkable nonetheless. In a sea of chunky G-Shock Mudmasters and burly Pro-Treks, the horological equivalents of hard-wearing mountaineering boots, there’s something to be said for the comfort, subtlety, and easy wearability of the A700W-1ACF. And while the world’s thinnest mechanical watches tend to be time-only, the Casio A700W-1ACF is packed with features, from a 1/100-second stopwatch to a perpetual calendar and, of course, an LED backlight. Good things come in slim packages.