Time to push the envelope and look at what I would call the “Holy Grails” of all time of Girard-Perregaux. In the title, I have made a deliberate constraint and look at only wristwatches. Pocket watches are a very separate category and we may look at them, another time. So “Holy Grail” watches are something exceptional, of particular horological achievement or historic connection. This is very much my personal list of grails.
My list is not purely based on horological complications, otherwise you could expect to see hyper-complicated creations like the recent Cosmos or the Opera watches. My grails combine complication and aesthetical design and day-to-day practicality, i.e. wearability. You may also notice that there are no vintage wristwatches in the list. Although I could think of a number of vintage grails, from what I have chosen for this list, we need to accept that the grail category had been pushed much further in the last 30 years. So let’s dive into my list of grails, ordered as my personal Top 5.
Top #5: Constant Escapement L.M.
I truly admire the Constant Escapement. A real breakthrough new innovation on solving the long standing problem of constant force escapement in a very new and innovative way. To read more about the technical details of the Constant Escapement, you can ready my previous background/report. However, it was still not an easy decision to add the CE into the Top 5 grail list. Why? It is a very large, maybe even too large watch. The first version came in a 48mm White Gold case and the second generation in a 46mm case.
Yes, it needs a large case to house and view the complicated mechanism, but I would still prefer it smaller and not combined with the small dial. Nevertheless, the Constant Escapement must be in the Top Grail list for its achievement of solving the horological problem in a new and innovative way. My favourite version is the white gold in 46mm, but I’m very hopeful that we will soon see a third generation in a smaller case.
Top #4: WW.TC Tribute to John Harrison
Next up in the holy grail list at #4 is the WW.TC Tribute to John Harrison. The only of the holy grails that is (already) in my collection. The combination of a hand-painted enamel dial with the world time complication and the tribute to one of the greatest clockmakers of all times, has to land this watch in the holy grail list. Limited to only 50 pieces and released in 2011, this is a watch that rarely is seen and even rarer to acquire. When timing was right and I managed to find one for my collection, there was no time to hesitate. A holy grail of Girard-Perregaux watches and for now my signature watch.
Top #3: 1966 Minute Repeater
Moving on to the Top 3 it is becoming increasingly more difficult to decide on an order. The 1966 Minute Repeater is my choice for number 3. I have picked this enamel dial time-only minute repeater with the repetition as the only complication. I believe the minute repeater stands on its own, no need to combine it with a tourbillon or a perpetual calendar or similar. The movement is really stunning with a three-dimensional depth. This unfortunately is a watch that I not yet had the pleasure to handle in person. I only had handled the Minute Repeater with golden bridge tourbillon. The sound of the GP repeaters is rich and loud. My only tiny complain would be a little bit the rhythm, which is a tiny bit too fast for my liking.
Top #2: Chronograph 90170 Rattrapante
When coming to the top 2 of holy grails, it was almost impossible to decide which one would be better than the other. Both #1 and #2 are the ultimate holy grails when it comes to Girard-Perregaux. In the end, I had to make a decision and I only put the 90170 into second place as the three-golden-bridge tourbillon is – besides being a holy grail – also the signature of Girard-Perregaux. However, the Chronograph a Rattrapante 90170 is a very special watch from GP that is really hard to find. When released it sold out rapidly and anyone who managed to get one holds on to it at any cost. The movement is a vintage Venus 175 that was meticulously reworked and decorated by GPs Haute Horlogery department. I never have been able to put my hands on one and even the GP museum does not have one, however, my friend __schen__(check him out on IG) has somehow managed to get T.W.O of them and kindly agreed that I can use his photos. A real holy grail of a watch regardless of the name on the dial. I hope to come back to the 90170 in a more detailed report in due course.
Top #1: Three-Golden-Bridge Tourbillon
I already have given away that the three-golden-bridge tourbillon is the Number 1 Holy Grail wristwatch from Girard-Perregaux, but the question is which one. The latest white gold version of the La Esmeralda comes to mind for example or some special editions of the Vintage 1945. For me, the classic 41mm in white gold with the arrow-head bridges is my top holy grail. The case is relatively understated and the focus here really is on the three bridges. Not much additional decoration like you have on the La Esmeralda and most appreciated a very usable size of only 41mm. This watch is combining heritage, hand-polishing craftsmanship and horological complication in a damn attractive package. Top #1 of Holy Grail wristwatches of all times!