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background/report: Why Girard-Perregaux still has an edge

To start with the conclusion, yes Girard-Perregaux still has an edge when it comes to creating modern time pieces and maintains its historic DNA and brand philosophy as I was able to see during a recent visit to La-Chaux-de-Fonds. More on the latter at the end of this post.

So lately, I have been focusing a lot on my vintage collection and not very much looked at watches from the current collection or from the recent years. The Laureato I like very much, but there is no real need in my collection right now to add another sports steel watch and the Laureato adaptations such as the “Absolute” are not my style. On the other hand, the more classic collections “1966” and “Vintage 1945” have not really seen any new releases other than some coloured special editions.

Much to my surprise I stumbled over a 1966 with small seconds in pink gold and a sunburst dial in a cognac colour. Although it has been out of production a couple of years, I still consider it current or almost current collection. I had seen this model a few times before but never really paid much attention to it. But when I now did, it is quite clear, that within this watch, there is so much Girard-Perregaux that defines this brand.

There is the attention to detail of the case design. With 41mm, I was worried about the size as my other 1966s are 40mm or 38mm, although there is also the 42mm Chronograph, but that’s a Chronograph. What GP does very well is to make small adaptations of the case for each diameter. The 41mm case has shorter lugs so in the end sits exactly as well as the 40mm case. The 1mm difference is still there and visible on the wrist.

Bur that’s not all. There are a lot of little details that help to make the dial itself not look too big in the overall 41mm diameter. The bezel is kept relatively slim, it even feels slimmer than on the 40mm 1966, but then there a number of design elements that play hand in hand.

First is the wonderful sunburst finishing of the cognac coloured dial. It can turn from very dark gray/brown to almost shiny gold brown. It certainly tones down the dial and makes it look less big. One additional design element is the sharply bent dial edge towards the bezel which reflects light differently than the centre of the dial. It results in the “flat” part of the dial being even smaller. On top of that, the rather long pink gold laser-cut indexes every 5 minutes almost form an extension of the bezel into the dial, but in a very subtle way.

More controversial are the small seconds and the date window. Let’s start with the date window. I think it is perfectly placed at 3, not too centered negating all those claims that the GP Caliber 01800 is too small for the case. It is not. GP uses a different way for the display case back with a rather small sapphire. Would the watch be better without the date? Without cutting a whole into the dial or with a coloured date wheel to match the dial? I personally don’t think so. If I want a date on a watch, then I want to be able to read it. And the current solution is very good in terms of size and readability. And completely without date? I think it would miss an element of interest.

Here comes the small seconds subdial into play. Instead of traditionally placing it at 6, it is placed at 9, right across the date window. It makes a huge difference. And one more interesting design detail is apparent. The Subdial seems placed very close to the centre. Of course, some with less detailed knowledge would try to “blame” the “too small” movement, but that is not the case at all. GP in fact deployed multiple second wheels to allow various placement options of the small seconds and it was a design choice to place it close to the centre. Only when you spend time with this watch on your wrist, you start to understand that it had to be exactly like that for the overall design to be coherent.

Only a manufacture that maintains its edge will go through that thought process and brings all these details together for long-term harmony. One more word to caliber GP 01800. I continue to prefer the GP 3xxx calibers in terms of the overall design of the bridges but the finishing in the 1966 is up to the expected standards. Ultimately, we are all waiting for a new automatic caliber which hopefully will come out in due course.

A few words and some photos in the end from my recent visit to Girard-Perregaux. I visited only the Villa “Girard-Perregaux” what was formerly the Villa Jean Richard. Over the last couple of years, they have done some major renovations turning the Villa into a sole customer presentation place that can welcome visitors from all over the world. Now stretching over T.W.O floors with multiple rooms.

The Villa does not host a “Museum” that plan had to be given up due to security reasons as the Villa cannot be secured as needed if it would permanently house the historic museum pieces. Instead, a very tasteful multi-media installation was put up, going through the history of the brand.

I’m not going to share any inside information here, but what I can say is that with the change of command away from Kering and renewed focus, we can expect some exciting new things from GP over the coming years. At least a lot of interesting projects are on the way.

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