Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Deeper Loupe: Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” Hands On Review

In designing the benchmark caliber featuring a unique layout, Constant Girard-Perregaux’s act of artistry is perhaps the first expression of restrained horological pompousness, pioneering the concept of dramatising functional mechanics.

Dec 28, 2018 | By Jonathan Ho

The original gold medal winning 1889 Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda pocket watch.

In 1889, the Jury of the Paris Universal Exhibition awarded a gold medal to Girard-Perregaux for a masterpiece. It featured a calibre defined by its three recognisable gold bridges and a rarely attempted pivoted long detent escapement, ensconced within a formidably Fritz Kundert engraved gold case. The watch was eventually named “La Esmeralda”, after the Mexican retailer who famously sold the La Chaux-de-Fonds masterpiece. Prodigiously, the gold medal winning masterpiece has become the foundational cornerstone for technical provenance and aesthetic codes which has been forever associated with Girard-Perregaux.

Thus on their 225th anniversary, Girard-Perregaux unveiled their wristworn SIHH 2018 Esmeralda Tourbillon, a contemporary interpretation of that legendary “La Esmeralda” Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges pocket watch. Its this provenance which defines the La Chaux Fonds manufacture and with it, the modern incarnation of that historic legend – the Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” with a completely hand-engraved, hunter-style case reminiscent of that ancestral gold medal winner.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” – Photography: Jonathan Ho

Deeper Loupe: Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” Hands On Review

While the tourbillon is often associated with its inventor, it’s important to note that Constant Girard, co-founder of Girard-Perregaux was himself, such a great artisan that his tourbillon, equal parts art and mechanical science is recognised by horological scholars as a unique creation – that while famed Girard-Perregaux three-bridges tourbillon does follow traditional horological conventions, where it departs is the essence of Ernest Guinand’s (famed Le Locle master watchmaker) and Auguste Frether’s (tourbillon specialist) genius really shines – easily identified by their distinctive A-shaped frames, Girard-Perregaux’s tourbillons could be fitted with various escapements but mostly fitted with pivoted detent escapements.

The “box crystal” triple sapphire which gives a panoramic view of the Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” calibre. Witness the exquisite finishing on the components – Photography: Jonathan Ho

In designing the benchmark caliber featuring a unique layout, three arrow-head parallel bridges support the moving parts of the movement, Constant Girard-Perregaux’s act of artistry is perhaps the first expression of restrained horological pompousness, but in one stroke (or three), he pioneered the concept of dramatising mechanics, what was once a purely technical mechanism was now artistic. In 1867, this “minimalist” (but really symmetrically ordered) layout won its first timekeeping award from the Neuchâtel Observatory; patent filed on 25 March 1884, it would not only define his first revolutionary movement and pocket watch but set the tone for the manufacture for over 200 years.

All 80 components of the famous lyre-shaped tourbillon carriage are likewise hand-polished, and in addition to the exquisitely identifiable Girard-Perregaux tourbillon, the other components are entirely hand-finished. The upper mainplate is hand-engraved to highlight the radiant guilloché motif; the barrel is satin-brushed, chamfered and also engraved with a spiral motif; as well as the lower mainplate adorned with a Côtes de Genève motif and concentric circular graining. Finally, even the plate bearing the movement number is straight-grained with hand-polished angles.

The Secret in La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret”

The La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” draws its namesake from an age-old horological innovation – the hunter or “secret” case-back, a cover protecting the back of the watch, promoting a special sense of privileged intimacy with the wearer; while the interior is engraved with the inscriptions “Tourbillon” and “La Chaux-de-Fonds”, leaving enough space for personalisation by the future owner.

The hand-engraved pink gold case is the work of approximately 200 hours of patience and unwavering concentration: horse, flowers and “oves” motifs which made the 1889 heritage pocket watch such an iconoclast. Of special note: the mid case bears engraving cuts which are identical to its celebrated ancestor.

Hands on the latest La Esmeralda

The “à Secret” is the latest La Esmeralda Tourbillon to bear the name and is essentially the wristwatch incarnation of the original. Its magnificence is amplified by the 44mm 18k pink gold canvas which holds the competent cuts of a single artisan. Where it excels is how, relative to  the series production La Esmeralda Tourbillon, there’s a direct reference to how the novelty is perceived, with and without the imposing engraved case. Every inch of the unique La Esmeralda “á Secret” is covered with the motifs emblematic of the original, elevating an otherwise exemplary work of high horology into the rarified air of sculptural mechanics.

An automatic GP09400-0014 calibre with 60 hours power reserve is wound by camouflaged micro-rotor, ingeniously hidden under the barrel and in essence (given its position), directly winding the mainspring rather than transmitting the “turns/winds” via gear train as in other automatic movements.

Movement architecture follows Girard-Perregaux conventions where each iconic bridge holds aloft the barrel at 12, the gear train and mainwheel with hours and minute hands at 3 and with the final bridge bearing the signature tourbillon; the wrist presence of this unmistakable timepiece is greatly magnified thanks to the highly domed triple sapphire crystal providing a panoramic view of the movement.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “à Secret” Price and Specs

Movement Automatic calibre GP09400-0014 with 60 hours power reserve
Case 44mm pink gold with 30 metres water resistance
Strap Alligator leather
Price S$366,000

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