Girard-Perregaux has been making alarm watches from the early 1960s till the early 2000s. Not as famous as the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox but still there are some true marvels in the GP Alarm collection.
Right now, I have 5 different references of GP alarm watches in my collection (that doesn’t mean BTW that I only have 5 alarm watches). It all started in the 1950s with Caliber 11, a manual wind alarm caliber based on an AS1475 movement. In those days it was quite common that calibers have been used across different brands as we shall see later as well when we come back to the Memovox.
Let’s start with alarm reference 7742 launched in 1960. Besides the typical 2 crowns, it stood out by the alarm aperture window cut into the dial with a rotating alarm disc rather than using a rotating hand or a fully visible rotating disc as known from most Memovoxes.
The dial is an elegant sunburst dial and housed in a round 35mm case. The watch was available in steel, in gold and gold-plated. There are also some minor variations, like a black versus a blue numbers on the alarm disc and two different styles of hands.
The watch was produced in reasonable numbers and caliber 11 is very reliable, so it is not too hard finding a good example today. There has been an earlier version prior to the 7742 with a similar case (Ref 7114), but deeper sitting crowns and with an alarm hand. Still a gap in my collection.
Getting towards the end of the 1960s, the alarm received an update, mostly with a now fashionable C-Shape case. Reference 9091 still deployed the same manual wind Caliber 11 and the dial layout remains as it was. 9091 was again available in steel, gold and gold-plated with different dial colours. There was also a blue sunburst dial version which I am still hunting. As with the 7742, the alarm crown is the upper crown marked with an “A”.
While Ref. 9091 stayed in production till the mid 70s and was produced in good numbers, GP also came out with Ref. 9490 in 1972 but only around 350 were made over a few years. 9490 is quite different. The alarm disc went in favour of an alarm hand, the case turned cushion as more fashionable in the 70s and we now see a date display as well. Inside we still have a manual caliber but a slight adaption, now Caliber 112, which is a caliber 11 added with a date function.
The case is quite small with 31mm across and 20mm lug size, it can be tricky to find a good strap combination so the watch sits well on the wrist. I found that a thin strap with a 20/14 size works best for me. I have also seen a silver brushed dial in addition to the more common blue dial.
Moving further through time we are ending up in the mid 70s, a time that was struck by the Quartz revolution and also by closer collaboration between various brands, such as GP and JLC, where JLC used the early GP Quartz calibers 35x and then GP actually used the JLC automatic Memovox Caliber 916.
The trick with automatic alarm calibers is the placement of the alarm pin in relation to the automatic rotor. One option is to use a bumper automatic or as with Caliber JLC 916 placing the alarm pin at the case back in the centre of the rotor bearing.
Reference 9443 was again available in steel and gold-plated but the steel seems more difficult to find that the gold-plated version. It was actually released a year before the 9490 but produced in larger numbers. Having found a steel 9443 with blue sunburst dial for my collection was a very lucky find.
As we skip the 1980s, the dark ages of Swiss watchmaking, we then get to the end of the 90s when GP released again an alarm watch, the Traveller II, Ref. 4940 in a 38mm case and a few years after upgraded the Reference to 4935 in a 40mm case.
A great modern interpretation of its vintage heritage, the Traveller II has again an arched aperture window with a rotating disc, but not to set the alarm – the alarm is set by a small central hand – instead displaying a second timezone, making it a true traveller watch. The GMT function and the date are both set in crown position 1, using clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation, a very efficient and clever mechanism.
In the early 2000s then the alarm era ended for the time-being at GP when the Traveller II ceased production. The Traveller II never had an in-house movement and one can only speculate that the push to using exclusively in-house movements along with the consolidation of the collection put an end to the alarm watches. However, maybe one day we will see a new generation of Girard-Perregaux alarm watches.