A Chrono of its Own: Testing the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Column-Wheel Chronograph

In this feature from the WatchTime archives, we test Girard-Perregaux’s 1966 Column-Wheel Chronograph, powered by the brand’s recently introduced in-house Caliber GP03800. Scroll down to read the complete review, with original photos by OK-Photography.

Two years ago, Girard-Perregaux added an in-house, integrated chronograph model to its 1966 collection. It contains a new movement, the manually wound Caliber GP03800.

Prior to the
 launch, G-P depended on Dubois Dépraz chronograph modules, which it combined with its own GP3300 base caliber. The new movement has a column wheel and horizontal coupling, two elements of a “classic” chronograph. Thanks to its integrated construction, it is just 5.4 mm thick.

The watch itself has a refined, elegant look. The case, made of rose gold, combines angular and rounded shapes. It has several interesting details like the small, flat crown, the contrasting tachymeter track, various dial levels and a long counterweight on the chronograph seconds hand.

The finishing is top-notch: the polished surfaces are flawless and the narrow curved pushers and crown are seated securely in the case.

Girard-Perregaux 1966 Column Wheel Chronograph - angle

The watch is somewhat hard to read. The polished rose-gold hands and markers are difficult to distinguish from the light-colored dial. The thin chronograph seconds hand is especially hard to make out. Add to this the fact that the numerals on the tachymeter track and subdials are very small and that the date ring is set so deep that the opening often leaves it in shadow. It might be a mistake to rely on this watch in critical timing situations.

The user will need some patience operating the chronograph: the pushers need to be pressed with some resolve. The flat, snug crown is surprisingly easy to use and can be pulled out easily with the help of a fingernail. Its deep grooves make it simple to grasp and turn. A quick-date adjustment in the first pulled crown position is another user-friendly feature.

The finishing of the case and pushers is top-notch.

The wearer will also enjoy the look and feel of the excellent finishing and fine texture of the dark brown, semi-rembordé alligator strap. The quality of the rose-gold folding clasp is less satisfying. The bars on the clasp are so delicate that the wearer should take care not to bend them when in a hurry. He should also note that the clasp itself is relatively thin and tends to open much too easily – on our test piece, at least.

The watch is very comfortable to wear. At 89 grams it is extremely light- weight for a gold model and is quite thin, due to its slim movement. The watch hugs the wrist with its curved caseback and thin, flexible leather strap and ergonomically shaped clasp.

The strap is of vey high quality but the clasp tends to open too seasily
The strap is of very high quality but the clasp tends to open too easily.

A glance through the sapphire crystal at the beautifully decorated movement provides ample compensation for its drawbacks. Because the GP03800 has a column wheel, horizontal clutch and slim bridges, the action of the chronograph is visible when the chrono buttons are pushed.

On an electronic timing machine, the watch performed with only fair results. Its maximum deviation was a relatively large 13 seconds. But its average daily gain was just 0.7 seconds.

As a whole, a new owner should be satisfied with this watch because of its new manufacture movement, its attractive design, its superb wearing comfort and high-quality case and strap. The chrono itself stands apart thanks to its classic construction and beautifully decorated components. Its price of $37,700 is high, but in our view, justified.

Girard-Perregaux 1966 Column Wheel Chronograph - back
Because of the movement’s construction, the action of the chronograph is visible through the caseback.

Manufacturer: Girard-Perregaux, Place Girardet 1, CH-2301 La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Reference number: 49529-52-131-BABA
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with 30-minute counter, date
Movement: GP03800, hand-wound, 28,800 vph, 31 jewels, hack mechanism, quick-date adjustment, fine regulator with lateral screw (variable inertia balance), Kif shock absorber, column wheel, horizontal clutch, power reserve = 56 hours, diameter = 26 mm, height = 5.4 mm
Case: Rose gold, curved sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating inside, pressure-fit caseback with sapphire window, water resistant to 30 m
Rate results:

    • Deviations in seconds per 24 hours (With chronograph switched off / on)
    • Dial up
 +5 / +4
    • Dial down +7 / +3
    • Crown up -6 / -7
    • Crown down
 +3 / -4
    • Crown left
 -2 / -9
    • Crown right
 -3 / -1
    • Greatest deviation of rate 13 / 13
    • Average deviation +0.7 / -2.3
    • Average amplitude:
    • Flat positions 322° / 294°
    • Hanging positions 289° / 259°

Strap and clasp: Semi-rembordé alligator strap with rose-gold safety folding clasp
Dimensions: Diameter = 40 mm, height = 11.25 mm, weight = 89 g
Price: $37,700

Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): Fine hand stitching on the strap, but the
clasp on our test piece opened too
easily. 7
Operation (5): The pushers are somewhat stiff, while the crown was surprisingly easy to grasp and pull. The watch boasts both a hack mechanism and quick-date adjuster. 4
Case (10): Elegant, simple design. Excellent finishing 8
Design (15): The combination of angular and rounded shapes gives the watch an unusual look that is enhanced by refined details. 13
Legibility (5): The light color of the dial and the polished rose-gold markers provide little contrast. The deep-set date often lies in shadow. 3
Wearing comfort (10): This model is extremely lightweight for a gold watch. Its shaped caseback lies snugly against the wrist. 9
Movement (20): Girard-Perregaux 
makes this column-wheel chronograph completely in house and provides the movement with extensive decorative finishes. 17
Rate results (10): The greatest deviation is too high, but the very low average daily deviation justifies a higher score in this category. 7
Value (15): Both the in-house movement and the excellent finishing justify the high price. 11

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  1. Karl Watts

    How do you justify that price tag after giving the watch the equivalent of a B minus. Breitling or Omega have chronographs in their collections that blow this watch away at 20 or 30 % the cost

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