background/report: dating back to 1791?

Constant Girard and the Perregaux watchmaker family are the name patrons of Girard-Perregaux. Constant Girard started of as a watchmaker in La Chaux-de-Fonds and later married a sister of Henri Perregaux, eventually becoming Girard-Perregaux. But both were from the 19th Century, so where does the “since 1791” come from?

Logo and Tagline over various decades

In recent years it has become fashion to claim back roots to as early as possible within the watch industry to make up a great and long heritage. What counts in my view that there is a consistent and uninterrupted history of producing watches.

When Girard-Perregaux started to put “1791” back on the dials a few years ago, many people wondered if GP would just follow that same fashion. But then the 1791 has been present in the brands tag line for a very long time. The tag line itself changed again and again over the years but the 1791 has consistently been present.

Consistency however is not only coming from the Tag Line 1791, but there is great consistency in keeping the heritage of Jean Francios Bautte, but let’s take one step back and look how this all came about.

Constant Othenin Girad
1825 – 1903

Constant Othenin Girard started his watchmaking career in 1845 as an apprentice and worked with his partner C. Robert until 1850. In 1852 he founded the Girard & Cie. in La Chaux-de-Fonds and soon after in 1854 married with Marie Perregaux, the sister of Henri Perregaux, an established chronometer watchmaker. In 1856 they founded the Girard-Perregaux manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

So should it then not be “since 1856”?

Henri Peregaux
1828- 1893

Yes and No. Girard-Perregaux is only one half of the history and we need to include Jean-Francois Bautte into the equation. Bautte was born in 1772 in Geneva and started to work as a case maker and watchmaker. In 1791 (!) he started to make his own watches. The business was passed on within the family and eventually in 1906, the Bautte firm, now called Rossel & Fils was taken over by Girard-Perregaux.

Jean-Fancois Bautte

So is it legitimate to root “Girard-Perregaux” back to 1791? Even though the name Bautte had disappeared at that time and Girard-Perregaux was a well established brand name at the time of takeover, it made no sense to rename the brand but the works of Bautte became a historic part of GP and as such dating back indeed till 1791.

The Girard-Perregaux family tree

In the end, it honestly doesn’t matter whether a manufacture dates back to 1791 or 1856, what counts is that the brand values its heritage and keeping a consistency worthy of its own heritage all the way into today’s collection.

A 1950s box: “Founded in Geneva 1791”

A 1960s box: “Established in 1791”

So yes, Girard-Perregaux: “Fine Watches since 1791” or as currently “Haute Horlogerie since 1791”!

A dial from the 1940s with “1791” and another from 2016 again with “1791”
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