Girard-Perregaux is doing a full-blown campaign to reposition themselves as a go-to brand in haute horlogerie. More important, they are backing it up with some grand initiatives. First, they brought on Dominique Loiseau, an independent watchmaker known for his progressive thinking, to introduce the “Manifesto of Time”.
Additionally, a few weeks ago in Miami during Art Basel, they released the new Hawk series of watches, a (much needed) redesign of the Sports models that includes a diver and chronograph. We gave an analysis of the diver along with an interview with CEO Michele Sofisti here.
Now Girard-Perregaux is showcasing minute repeaters. At SIHH last year, they introduced a minute repeater in the 1966 collection but the mechanics weren’t done by the manufacture. One of the most complex complications to produce, the minute repeater, which chimes out the time in hours, quarter hours and minutes, it’s a delicate balance between music and mechanics. (Girard-Perregaux notes that Loiseau’s complication will surpass the minute repeater in complexity.)
To show brand competency and independence, Girard-Perregaux is releasing another minute repeater in the 1966 family, this one completely constructed in-house! It’s actually done in conjunction with La Fabrique du temps.
Moreover, they up the game, combining a minute repeater, annual calendar and equation of time under one roof. It’s interesting to note that the minute repeater hasn’t often been included with an annual calendar, so this combination is rare.
A lot of companies make minute repeaters, so if you’re going to go down that path, you’ve got to have yours stand out in some way, especially acoustically. Minute Repeaters can (and do) cost upwards of mid-to-high six figures so there’s a lot of competition.
Gilles Cantin & Jean-Luc Borel, Girard-Perregaux watchmakers who worked on the new piece say, “Acoustics are definitely the most important criteria and the most difficult part as it is arbitrary and depends on nothing but the perfect balance of all components.
To achieve full and melodious sound, Girard-Perregaux did tests to optimize distance between case and calibre for the greatest resonance, curved the caseback to allow more air to move and carry the sound and diamond-polished the bottom of the case to, which is thought to minimize acoustic interference.
At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding. The chime has to be pleasing to the ear and loud enough to hear. Cantin and Borel say they rely mostly on, “the ear definitely, even more as we are also musicians. At Girard-Perregaux, always two watchmakers determine the best sound of each minute repeater.” According to the two men, the files are the most important tools to adjust all the components to get everything working in concert, just like an instrument maker would do.
Since there is quite a lot of moving parts in a minute repeater, Girard-Perregaux chose a sapphire crystal case to reveal the calibre at work. All bridges are finished to the max and, in a nice touch, the balance cock is in the shape of a semi-arrow reminiscent of the Golden Bridges, Girard-Perregaux’s award-winning watch design. All engravings are on the caseback are done by hand, not machine—which expresses Girard-Perregaux’s desire to give attention to their artisanal know how and their seriousness about craft.
Without a pretty face, the best sounding minute repeater will fall flat. Girard-Perregaux got this one right by using their Annual Calendar layout, which is truly balanced and pleasing to the eye. The dial background is a silver-plated sunburst décor, with solid gold applique hour markers resting on top circled by pink gold baton hands to match the 42mm pink gold case. The date resides at 1:30, while the month mirrors opposite, and requires only one adjustment per year—which is quite convenient. Completing the picture, the equation of time is at 4:30 and the running seconds at 9:00.
We haven’t yet heard the results of this new offering from Girard-Perregaux though we look forward to hearing if it lives up to the hype.