Girard-Perregaux Cosmos Infinity
The Girard-Perregaux Cosmos Infinity is the latest creation from the esteemed Maison. Housed in a 47mm titanium case, this remarkable watch features a tourbillon and includes both terrestrial and celestial globes. Mark McArthur explores this ethereal composition in close detail and shares his thoughts.
Once one moves away from a classic three-handed watch, a chronograph or a world-timer, things have the potential to go wrong very quickly. For example, imagine the mess if you tried building a 47mm watch that combined a tourbillon, a celestial globe and a terrestrial globe with an exposed escapement and skeleton bridge work. The potential for the whole plot to look like a parts-bin special – or descend into an epic blingfest – is significant. It’s a testament to Girard Perregaux that they’ve not only pulled this off but in so doing produced a watch that’s a serious piece of high-end horology.
The Girard-Perregaux Cosmos Infinity is a limited edition of eight watches. The model is part of the brand’s Infinity series, a range of classic GP watches all featuring onyx dials. It shares some of its genes with the more understated Infinity-themed Laureato, 1966 and Vintage 1945 models as well as the recently unveiled, Free Bridge watch.
Onyx is an unusual choice for watch dials, let alone for crafting into tiny terrestrial and celestial globes. It’s a silicate mineral and tough to work with because of its softness and propensity to scar easily. Making watch dials from onyx is a challenge. Black enamel would have been a far easier option for GP, but it wouldn’t have provided the intense depth and richness that onyx delivers.
The two globes on the Cosmos Infinity’s dial are hand-painted onyx too. Each is a mere 15mm in diameter. Imagine the size of paintbrush you need to paint each globe with its features – and bear in mind on the terrestrial globe you can see not just Italy, for example, but Sicily too. You can’t quite make out Messina’s Ristorante Alberto, but you could almost persuade yourself… The terrestrial globe isn’t just there to be beautiful, it tells you what GMT is with its equatorial band, engraved and filled to show the hours.
The paint involves suspending gold dust in lacquer and layering it up, fractions of a millimetre at a time, with a single-haired brush. The artist keeps the globe steady with a special brass holder that fits to the North Pole. The celestial globe features 12 constellations all picked out in the same gold paint. There is a point for each star, lines linking them and the symbol for each constellation next to it. Facing you, at midnight, will be the very constellation you can see outside at midnight.
With the level of precision one needs to paint spheres this small with so much exacting detail (it takes more than 30 hours), one imagines the GP atelier swear-jar probably funds the staff Christmas party in some style.
Once finished, each sphere is screwed down and held within a brushed steel ring. One measure of a watchmaker’s craft is how well they finish the areas you’ll never see. In this instance, even the recess in which each ring sits, screwed tightly down, is engine-turned. On the basis of that sort of obsessive detail, the back of the dial has probably got a reproduction of the Sistine Chapel engraved on a sliver of meteorite.
The level of watchmaking is no less exacting. Why would GP make it easy? The globes are both anchored with a pivot at their bases with motive power coming in via a gear system at their tops. While the terrestrial globe cycles around once every 24 hours, the celestial sphere turns in 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds; the length of a sidereal day. Looking at the face of the Cosmos, even a careful observer wouldn’t be able to tell – but you’ll know.
The dial which displays the current time, should you look at your Cosmos Infinity for such a mundane reason, is as clear as they come. Again, it would have been so tempting to frou-frou it up but it’s just a simple, read-at-a-glance 12-3-6-9 dial with Super-LumiNova filling. Being able to read the hours and minutes so easily does, of course, give you all the more time to look at the rest of the dial. And you’ll be doing a lot of that.
At the top of the dial, there are painted striations that echo the movement of the stars across the night sky.
Appropriately, the whole plot sits underneath its own equivalent heaven – a thick, domed sapphire glass that’s almost reminiscent of an astronomical telescope lens. The case and crystal together are just over 22mm in height (just slightly thinner than two Rolex Daytonas stacked on top of each other), so you might think this was a step too far. It’s not. The dome of the sapphire throws the two globes and the tourbillon bridge into relief and the perspective from the side is remarkable. You get to play Chronos, looking at your very own universe in miniature.
There’s no crown to distract from the dial’s near symmetry – or to add to the already substantial 47mm case. Instead, flip the watch over and you’ll see how GP has managed winding and adjustment. There is one fold-out winding bow and three setting bows or “bélières”, one for each globe and one for the time itself. There’s a lovely detailed touch in that the winding bow is set into a recess into the caseback crystal so as not to distract from the movement beneath. On the ‘standard’ Cosmos, this is sandblasted for contrast. On the black onyx Infinity it’s left clear to allow as much light through, bathing the movement.
While you have the watch dialside down you can view the rest of the caseback. The movement can be appraised via a rear-mounted, semi-circular domed sapphire crystal. You get to play chthonic demigod, and see the night-side of the world and the constellation overhead at midday. There’s also a splendid view (probably better than the dialside) of the GP09320-1440 movement’s tourbillon.
It says something about the rest of the watch that the tourbillon is the element you probably notice last. It’s certainly not insignificant though. The cage of the tourbillon sits beneath a titanium GP Neo bridge which is black PVD-treated, sandblasted and incorporates hand-bevelling. The balance beats happily at 21,600 vph (3 Hz), so there’s plenty of time to enjoy watching it orbit in its three-arm lyre-style cage.
With a 47mm case and a 22.2mm depth, including a heavy domed crystal, this could have been a contender for Hockey Puck of the Year. But it’s not. GP has milled the case from Grade 5 titanium. It’s the sort of stuff you make airframes from, so it’s a useful combination of both lightness and strength. It transforms the Cosmos Infinity from being an exercise in weightlifting to a still substantial, but absolutely wearable, watch.
It almost seems a shame to buckle one of these watches on and wear it – although that’s exactly what it’s designed for. It feels more appropriate, perhaps, to mount it on a stand in your study, orrery-style, and just sit and look at it with a glass of malt in hand.
- Model: Girard-Perregaux Cosmos Infinity
- Reference: 99292-21-652-BA6F
- Case: Grade 5 titanium; diameter 47 mm; height 22.20 mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and exhibition caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds on the tourbillon
- Movement: Calibre GP09320-1440; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 52 jewels; power reserve minimum 57 hours; components = 368
- Strap: Black alligator with black and pink gold-coloured stitching, glossy effect between the scales. Paired with a triple folding buckle in titanium.
- Price: CHF 274,000 (world price as at 29.10.2020)
- Limited Edition: 8 pieces