Girard-Perregaux celebrates 225 years of watchmaking in 2016, and the brand’s enthusiasm for the anniversary was apparent at Baselworld, where it introduced a plethora of new models and collections, like the updated Laureato and the exclusive, ultra-complicated La Esmerelda Tourbillon, among many others. This week, we look at an intriguing new addition to its heritage-inspired 1966 collection, the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Skeleton.
Girard-Perregaux calls the watch “an ode to fine mechanics” and a tribute to the watchmaking philosophy of Jean-Francois Bautte (1772-1837), the Swiss watchmaker and jeweler whom Girard-Perregaux regards as its horological antecedent. (Bautte’s company, founded in 1791, was merged with the company founded by Constant Girard in 1906; thus, today’s Girard-Perregaux firm traces its history all the way back to 1791, well before its founder was even born.)
The movement, dubbed GP01800-0006, is based on Girard-Perregaux’s existing GP1800 caliber, but here all the important components, including bridges and plates, have been painstakingly skeletonized and treated with a galvanic process to give it an anthracite-gray ruthenium finish. This openworked structure — with its chamfered, polished, satin-brushed and hand-finished surfaces — allows components that would normally be invisible to naked eye, including gears, levers, and bolts, to be exposed, on both sides, behind nonreflective sapphire crystals. It also allows for the unusual arrangement of parts that places the balance wheel at 12 o’clock, framed by leaf-shaped hour and minute hands, the watch’s showcase aesthetic feature.
The watchmakers at Girard-Perregaux approached the development of this skeletonized caliber as like “work[ing]… a metal net,” resulting in a design that draws the wearer’s eye to the movement of energy through the gear train, which is rhodium-plated. From the front, the rotation of the seconds wheel, in a subdial at 10 o’clock, as in full view, as are the oscillations of the balance wheel, which beats at 28,800 vph (4 Hz) and features a “Microvar” variable inertia balance exclusive to Girard-Perregaux. From the back, you’ll see the skeletonized, solid gold winding rotor, whose rotations charge the movement’s mainspring barrel with a minimum power reserve of 54 hours. Skeleton movements are known for being stripped down to bare essentials and this one is no exception: it’s composed of a relatively sparse 173 parts, 25 of which are jewels.
In keeping with the legacy of Jean-Francois Bautte, who was one of the earliest inventors of extra-thin timepieces, both the movement and case of the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Skeleton are elegantly slender: 30.6 mm in diameter and 4.16 in thickness for the movement, 38 mm diameter and 9.27 mm thick for the case, which is made of 18k rose gold. The watch comes on a black alligator strap fastened by a rose-gold pin buckle. It will be available in Summer 2016 and priced at $55,400.