Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon with three gold Bridges pocket watch, which is re-launched this year, is a contemporary reissue of the very same model awarded a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889.
This extraordinary creation is Girard-Perregaux’s latest step in the perpetuation of a tradition begun in the 1860s by La Chaux-de-Fonds watchmaker Constant Girard-Perregaux. After devoting lengthy research to the tourbillon, in 1884 he patented a movement with three arrow-shaped bridges neatly arranged in parallel. This completely revolutionary architecture was recognised in 1889, when the timepiece was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
The masterwork became the Brand’s iconic piece, continuing to receive awards and distinctions for many years at international exhibitions; to such an extent that the company was declared ineligible for awards in 1900 for being unmatchable. The watch left a profound mark on the history of the watchmaking art, not only thanks to its beauty but also to the aesthetic yet functional approach to the design of its movement.
In total, Girard-Perregaux produced more than sixty Tourbillons up to the start of the 20th century. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 1970s that the Manufacture took the decision to embark on the production of a series of pieces identical to the 1889 original. This highly ambitious project meant relearning the methods required to produce antiquated components and readopting long-abandoned techniques. When the Brand unveiled the very first piece in 1982, it received a suitably rapturous response.
Now, in 2010, more than ten years after the production of the last Tourbillon pocket watch, the Manufacture has unveiled a new expression of this unique savoir-faire. The result of more than a year’s work by a talented watchmaker, this magnificent creation is a window onto the past, revealing genuinely exceptional craftsmanship.
A real icon of both the Girard-Perregaux Brand and Swiss Haute Horlogerie, the pocket watch’s movement is distinctive not only in its construction, but also in its unrivalled finishes.
The Tourbillon cage is in the form of a lyre, which since the 1880s has been recognised throughout the watchmaking world as the signature of the Girard-Perregaux Brand. Its 92 components are produced, finished, assembled and adjusted with the precision and skill required for such small-scale work. As was commonly the case with high-quality watches in the 19th century, the model is equipped with a Guillaume-type bimetallic balance which compensates for variations in temperature to ensure greater rate precision. The highly complex balancing procedure requires painstaking and intricate work to achieve the ideal setting for the balance, independently of any variations in temperature.
Constant Girard-Perregaux equipped his Tourbillon with a pivoted detent escapement. This mechanism has, of course, been reused on this model, in spite of the difficulties its production and adjustment present: its total length is no more than 8.5 millimetres, and the gold detent spring has a thickness of just 0.04 millimetres. Highly accurate and requiring no lubrication, it adds to the technical sophistication of this timepiece. It also features a very rare safety device: an anti-tripping pin situated on the balance spring prevents the detent from being released a second time in the event of a shock. The rate precision is guaranteed by a part which is highly complex to produce and position due to its small size: 1.85 millimetres in length, 0.07 millimetres in diameter.
The technical subtlety of this piece is also evident in the barrel, which incorporates Maltese cross stopwork enabling only the period in which the force of the mainspring is at its most uniform to be used. This ensures optimal rate precision throughout the watch’s life.
The movement comprises a total of 249 components, which are pre-assembled, disassembled, adjusted, checked, dismantled and decorated, one by one, before being finally assembled. This magnificent architecture is the result of meticulous adjustment and numerous checks. As was customary in the 19th century, its operation was then checked by an independent external testing body, which awarded it the title of chronometer based on its exceptional results: the average rate variation over 15 days was no more than 0.1 second per day.
The mechanical excellence of this timepiece is matched by fine attention to the aesthetics, which instantly evoke the Girard-Perregaux tradition: the design uses the exact configuration of three parallel, arrow-shaped bridges, and the finishes are unique in themselves.
The exquisite brilliance of the three bridges supporting the tourbillon, the gear train and the barrel is the fruit of an entire month’s meticulous work. The surfaces of the bridges, as well as the screws, are polished to obtain a uniform lustre, without even the slightest imperfection. The gold bridges and their nickel-silver supports are drawn together to achieve a perfect contour and an identical finish on all the components. Each angle is filed and polished, sometimes up to five times in succession. The recesses housing the screws are treated in the same way. Displaying a particularly delicate and spectacular finish, the arms of each bridge are curved to produce an arched surface. The gold settings, which are screwed to each bridge to house the jewels, are held in place by two slim washers for a more refined effect than that offered by classic screws. Each component of this part is polished to symbolise unparalleled quality.
The same care goes into the decoration of each and every component of the Tourbillon with three gold Bridges, even though some are actually hidden by others. This tradition of decorating parts which are not visible is considered a sign of respect that characterises Haute Horlogerie. Of the visible components, the mainplate and the nickel-silver barrel are guilloched with a snail finish to produce a spiral groove.
In the tradition of Girard-Perregaux’s classic pocket watches, the dial is made from white enamel. Indicated by long, blued steel hands, the hours are marked by Arabic numerals, while the minutes are indicated by a minute scale running around the edge of the dial. The small seconds are indicated at 6 o’clock on an offset dial which also features a minute scale.
The solid pink gold case is in the hunter style, and incorporates a hidden mechanism which opens the cover on the dial side: pressing the push-piece on the crown opens the cover allowing the time to be read instantly. The movement is protected by two covers, one of which features an engraved decoration of striking finesse. The other is completely blank. This is to enable the future owner to choose the engraving and guilloche decoration which will complete the piece. Customised to the owner’s taste, this remarkable creation is unique, in accordance with the finest watchmaking tradition.
Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon with three gold Bridges movement, manual winding
Movement dimensions: Diameter: 45.00 mm; Height: 10.00 mm
Number of components
Complete movement: 249 components
Tourbillon cage: 92 components
Jewelling: 20 jewels
Power reserve: 32 hours (locked by Maltese Cross stopwork)
Barrel: Nickel silver drum with guilloche and hand-engraved finish, with 5N pink gold galvanic coating in the engraving
Escapement: Pivoted detent with gold spring; hand-honed, bevelled and drawn out; rounded-off arms and bevelled counterpoise with polished sink, Hand-honed gold escapement wheel, rounded-off arms
Balance: Bimetal Guillaume compensator with anti-tripping pin, 16 gold compensation screws – 2 gold setting screws
Frequency: 21,600 vibrations/hour (3 Hz)
Balance spring: Breguet with anti-tripping safety pin, Phillips terminal coil
Main plate: Nickel silver, hand snailing, polished corners, circular-grained and bevelled recesses
Bridges: Three gold arrow-shaped bridges; bevelled, rounded-off and hand-polished (inspection under 10x magnifier), 3 gold settings held by screw-in washers
Gear trains: Gold wheel plates, bevelled and mirror-polished on both faces Pinions with polished wing faces and stems,Wings polished on wooden wheel, Burnished pivots, with polished and domed pivot ends
– One rotation per minute
– Upper and lower cages bevelled and mirror-polished on both faces
– Cage balanced with 2 gold screws
– Escapement bridge, wheel bridge and detent bridge bevelled and polished
– A/R hand engraved
Heads bevelled and mirror-polished
Screw ends polished and domed
Steel parts: Drawn out and bevelled
Hour and minute; Small seconds at 6 o’clock
Average daily rate variation: 0.1 s/day
Bolt mechanism enabling time setting (at 4.30 on the dial side of the bezel)
Secret mechanism actuated by the coaxial push-piece on the crown for opening the dial side cover
Hand engraving on the inner cover
Case dimensions: Diameter: 60 mm; Height: 20 mm
Crown: Gold, fluted, with built-in coaxial push-piece for opening the time cover
White enamel on copper base with enamel painted Arabic numerals
Overlaid enamel small seconds counter at 6 o’clock
Breguet-style blued steel hour and minute
Blued steel small seconds