Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges
Angus Davies reviews the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges, an interesting example of high-end watchmaking.
This detailed review of the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges includes live images and specification details.
The time has come to wave my daughter goodbye and wish her well as she embarks on five years of study at university. It signals a new period in her life.
As Isobel departs the relative safety of our home, new opportunities await her. She will become immersed in an unfamiliar world, doused in fresh water, taken from an alternative font of knowledge, and exposed to new experiences she has never sampled before.
The very notion of change is not without risk. Just as in nature, we have to accept that our young have to leave the nest and find their own way in the world. Risk is inextricably linked with this change, but to quote Pierre Corneille, ‘To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory’.
It is this suggestion of risk which came to mind when I first saw the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges at Baselworld 2014. Its bold aesthetics are quite distinctive and, on the face of it, eschew tradition in favour of modernity.
Girard-Perregaux is very much part of the watchmaking establishment having an enviable history harking back to 1791. Part of its rich history is the company’s legendary Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, first produced in pocket watch form in 1860 and the recipient of a first class award from the Observatory of the Canton of Neuchâtel. Its movement was memorable because of its high precision and the three parallel bridges, visible via its hinged caseback. Two of these bridges spanned the spring barrel and tourbillon carriage, a trait which has continued to feature on numerous versions since.
A contemporary version of the iconic Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges
The Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges of 1860 is very much part of the company’s DNA. To risk its legacy and the maison’s reputation for tradition may, at first glance, have appeared foolhardy.
Nevertheless, in recent years, Girard-Perregaux has shown it is not afraid of taking risks. A perfect illustration of this was the release of the wonderful and groundbreaking Constant Escapement L.M. The ingenuity of this timepiece was widely recognised and the watch gained the ultimate accolade by winning the GPHG ‘Aiguille d’Or’ in 2013.
Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement L.M
In 2014, when the company released its contemporary iteration of the maison’s most famous watch, the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, it may well have proved a step too far for its loyal clientele.
By venturing off piste with the thoroughly modern Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges, Girard-Perregaux showed incredible bravery. However, was this courage misplaced? In my opinion, not a bit of it. The bravery shown in creating this timepiece has resulted in a stunning watch and when presented with the opportunity to get ‘hands-on’ with this exemplar of modern haute horlogerie, I grasped the chance with both hands.
Part of the allure of the Three Gold Bridges has always been the way the volumes of components are accentuated. By creating a three-dimensional quality to the aesthetics, the wearer is drawn ever closer to the dial and invited to examine each surface in minute detail.
The bridges of the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges are radically different from those found on other watches from the manufacture based in La Chaux-de-Fonds. They are made from titanium and brim with modernity. Titanium offers the strength of steel but is 45% lighter. It is widely used in the aerospace industry where these attributes are highly prized. The bridges are sandblasted and then subsequently treated with black PVD.
Whilst the design language of the bridges is very different from the styling employed on the forebears of the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges, they continue to exploit the same notion of ‘volume’. The bridges are skeletonised with a tear-shaped section appearing to have been hollowed from their form. The result is a sense of lightness and an airy appearance.
Girard-Perregaux has clearly had to overcome technical obstacles in order to realise the bridges. Apparently, one of the challenges in executing these bridges is preventing the deformation of the lightweight structures during the manufacturing process. The Swiss watch company has clearly overcome this issue and the result is three stunning bridges, beautifully presented.
The visual connection with the pocket watch of 1860 is clear to see. Three bridges span the dial surface which is also the underside of the mainplate. The mainplate is treated with ruthenium anthracite and sandblasted, exhibiting a muted grey tone and contrasting brilliantly with the black bridges.
The barrel drum resides below noon. It is adorned with the maker’s coveted name and the word, ‘Automatic’, making reference to the convenience accorded by the self-winding movement.
Floating above the centrally positioned bridge are the hour and minutes hands. They are open-worked and feature the same ‘oval-shaped cut’ present at the tip of each tourbillon bridge. These gold coloured hands are incredibly stylish and communicate time in a delightfully poetic manner.
The lower bridge plays host to the tourbillon cage. The Swiss brand has, once again, referenced the past by equipping the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges with a ‘lyre-shaped’ cage. I confess, I did not know what ‘lyre-shaped’ meant prior to writing this artilce. However, after a spot of research, I agree the terminology employed by the maison seems very apt in describing the resemblance to a U-shaped harp, often played in Ancient Greece.
The tourbillon cage is made of titanium and consists of 80 components, yet has a total mass of only 0.25 grams. This lightweight characteristic proves helpful, parsimoniously consuming energy and, by default, ensuring a healthy power-reserve of at least 60 hours. The tourbillon is equipped with a small seconds hand and makes one complete revolution every 60 seconds.
Interestingly, the tourbillon shows that Girard-Perregaux has not eschewed Swiss craftsmanship. The tourbillon employs high-end finishing synonymous with haute horlogerie, including bevelled edges. Moreover, the elevated specification extends to a screwed balance wheel equipped with gold regulating screws and a balance spring featuring a Philips terminal curve.
Seldom does a dial demand so much explanation, however, rarely does a dial proffer so many exquisite details to convey.
The scale of the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges is significant, measuring 45mm in diameter with a case height of 14.45mm. The use of traditional 18-carat pink gold provides a divergence in character which somehow complements the neoteric persona of the dial treatment. This ying and yang design approach works wonderfully.
Further to the launch of the Neo-Tourbillon at Baselworld 2014, Girard-Perregaux launched a second version in a DLC titanium case. Whilst this younger sibling is handsome, I don’t feel it has the same visual impact of its older, nobler brother resplendently presented in 18-carat pink gold.
Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges, DLC titanium case (Ref. 99270-21-000-BA6A)
The case masterfully blends polished and satin-finished surfaces. Nothing appears excessive, but likewise there is sufficient warmth to invite amorous tactile encounters.
In relation to the case, the pièce de résistance has to be the design of the glass-box sapphire crystal. The Neo-Tourbillon shuns a conventional bezel. Instead, the sapphire crystal proffers a wide-screen view which nearly traverses the full diameter of the case.
The profile of the sapphire crystal is slightly domed at the centre. As the caseband arcs downwards towards the lugs, an increasing portion of the lateral surfaces of the sapphire crystal can be seen. These in turn accord the wearer with an alternative and fascinating view of the bridges and tourbillon at play. This design element is ingenious and allows the observer to appreciate the ‘added-value’ imparted to the Neo-Tourbillon. Indeed, if this was my watch, I could easily envisage spending much time exploring each facet of the timepiece’s composition with loupe in hand. Quite simply, this watch grants numerous fascinating views to enjoy.
When the Girard-Perregaux GP09400 caliber was launched at Baselworld 2014 it represented a new chapter in the history of the company. This calibre, whilst doffing its hat to the original Three Bridges movement, wa totally redesigned.
A micro-rotor is positioned directly below the barrel drum, located at noon and is constructed of white gold.
The maison has also enlarged the barrel drum, equipping the GP09400 caliber with a larger mainspring which helps augment the power reserve. The barrel drum dispenses with customary teeth and instead a gear is placed above it in order to transmit energy to the geartrain. Interestingly, this gear is skeletonised, and features six angled spokes, a trait it shares with other gears on the movement.
Whilst modernity is the dish of the day, Girard-Perregaux has not forgotten to include some of its favourite ingredients. For example, the gears are circular grained, engraved and beveled. The aforementioned bridges on the dial may appear modern, but they still feature bevelled and hand-drawn edges.
Spanning the rear of the movement, and clearly visible via the exhibition caseback, is an arrow-shaped bridge, presented in black and, once again, repeats the ‘shape of a lyre’. The watchmaking company continues to draw on inspiration from the past and suffuse various historical details into this thoroughly modern movement.
It is very easy to become comfortable, residing in a cosseting bubble and avoiding potential risks. However, progress demands experimenting, taking chances, sampling new technologies and embracing new experiences.
This is the advice I freely provided my daughter last weekend as we discussed the future which awaits her. She will no doubt have to venture outside of her ‘comfort zone’ and strive to form friendships with other students from diverse backgrounds.
It is when I look at the Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges I am reminded of the advice I have imparted to my daughter. The Swiss watch company has taken risks, but in so doing, it has created a stunning watch which deserves success. It masterfully fuses the optimism of modernity with the wisdom of the past and by embracing change, Girard-Perregaux has, once again, shown it is at the vanguard of haute horlogerie.
- Model: Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges
- Reference: 99270-52-000-BA6A
- Case: 18-carat Pink gold; diameter 45.00mm; height 14.45mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds on tourbillon
- Movement: GP-9400-0001, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 35 jewels; power reserve minimum 60 hours; 245 parts.
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap, presented on an 18-carat pink folding buckle.
- Price: Price on Application