As with every object located on earth, a watch is subjected to several forces. Together with magnetic fields, the worst enemy of an escapement is gravity, a force strong enough to deregulate a watch if it remains constantly in the same position. Brice Goulard of Monochrome Watches writes that in order to counteract this undesirable effect, a well-known watchmaker named Abraham-Louis Breguet created the tourbillon. This was a perfect ally to pocket watches but the time of wristwatches came and the efficiency of the single axis tourbillon declined. For this reason, we now have some multiple axis escapements and one of the most stunning is made by Girard-Perregaux and comes with 3 axis, and last year, GP brought a new visual appearance to its Tri-Axial Tourbillon.
The goal of a tourbillon is (on paper) quite simple: it aims to counter the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage, to negate the effect of gravity when the timepiece (and thus the escapement) is stuck in a certain position. This was especially efficient on a pocketwatch that was always worn in the same position. But when it comes to a wristwatch, which is an object that constantly moves with its wearer, the usefulness of a simple axis tourbillon is limited. For this reason, some crazy watchmakers (considering the level of difficulty in order to create such escapements, we can easily argue that these people have a mental disorder) have created double-axis tourbillons, like the Jaeger-Lecoultre Spherotourbillon, or worse, triple-axis tourbillons (quite a rare bird), as did Vianney Halter with his Deep Space Tourbillon and of course, Girard-Perregaux with the Tri-Axial Tourbillon. Sorry, Mr. Newton, but some guys in the cold Swiss mountains have found a solution to the problem of gravity.
We already reviewed this watch, one of Baselworld 2014’s most desirable timepieces, but now GP comes with a more modern and cleaner edition of this superb watch, with new materials and a new dial. The massive case (48 mm x approx. 20 mm, due to the ‘bubble’ around the tourbillon) is now made of 18k white gold. The dial is also totally new, and even if the layout remains the same, the materials and the overall feeling are now more pure and modern. The mainplate is partially skeletonized with an open grid in a silvery white finish. Both the minute track and the power reserve are indicated by a sapphire disk suspended on the top of the dial. The main dial for the hours and minutes now has a simple, silver sun-burst finish instead of a Clou-de-Paris guilloché.
What doesn’t change is the superb and highly complicated movement, with its very unique escapement. In the Girard-Perregaux tri-axial tourbillon, the cage of the balance wheel rotates on itself but it also rotates over a vertical axis and over a horizontal axis, so the regulation system is never in the same position. The tourbillon cage rotates in a classical 60 seconds, like most tourbillons, and beats at 21,600 vph or 3Hz. The whole cage is integrated into a second structure that rotates over a vertical axis in 30 seconds. The last structure that comprises the others performs a full rotation in two minutes over a horizontal axis. This escapement mechanism includes 140 parts, and weighs just 1.24 grams.
The movement boasts 60 hours of power reserve. It comes with a very impressive level of finishing, with lots of internal angles on both the bridges, the plate and the wheels. The look of the movement has also been changed, with a dark coating on the mainplate, in order to match the more modern and cold theme. The bridges that holds the wheels on the back of the movement are GP’s signature and a reference to the historical pocketwatches created by the brand.
The Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial Tourbillon in white gold remains extremely appealing and one of the most complicated watches we’ve recently seen (the assembly of the escapement alone takes 160 hours – and we’re only talking about the assembly and not the finishing of the parts). It is available in 10 pieces only, at a price close to 450,000 euros.