Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison

Girard-Perregaux pays a gracious tribute to John Harrison with the release of the Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison. Angus Davies reviews this limited edition watch equipped with a second time zone indication.

This detailed review of the Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison includes live images and specification.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

John Harrison is one of the most prominent names in the annals of horology. The Englishman, born in 1693, was responsible for creating timekeepers suitable for use at sea. Whilst clocks already existed in the late 17th century, they proved unsuitable for maritime use.

Further to a major naval disaster near the Isles of Scilly in 1707, when over 2000 souls were lost, the need to accurately establish longitude adopted huge significance. A few years later, the British Parliament passed the Longitude Act 1714 and the Board of Longitude was formed.

The Board of Longitude offered a prize of £20,000 as an inducement to any individual who could invent a device capable of determining longitude to a specified degree of accuracy. Attracted by the prize on offer, Harrison spent the rest of his life developing marine timekeepers.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

John Harrison (1693 – 1776)

Girard-Perregaux, a Swiss watch company with a penchant for making timepieces suitable for intrepid travellers has released a gracious tribute to John Harrison, 300 years after the Longitude Act was passed. The limited edition model, restricted to a mere 50 pieces, is presented in an 18-carat pink gold case and refers to the historical figure on the southern hemisphere of its dial.

I was a tad surprised that the historical Swiss maison had sought to acknowledge the work of my compatriot as the company has a rich history all of its own. However, I am glad they have chosen to honour the ingenuity of this exceptional man. I have read about Harrison’s work on many occasions and have a profound respect for his innovative spirit.

The dial

The styling of the Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison shares much in common with the Traveller Large Date Moon Phases but supplants the power reserve indicator in favour of a 24-hour second time zone.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The references to John Harrison and Greenwich, home of the Royal Observatory, are ubiquitously shown.

An artistic representation of the earth, marked with lines of longitude and latitude, delivers a textured surface on which various dial details are presented. The prime meridian, the reference point for all of Harrison’s calculations is shown in arcing form, located in the left portion of the dial, running from north to south.

The hours are marked with a combination of applied luminescent gold circlets and triangular shaped batons with truncated tips. The luminescent treatment also extends to the golden hour and minutes hands.

Where this dial composition excels is the masterful use of differing heights. For example, the relative difference between the heights of the two date discs, used for the large date display, is minimal, making them appear as if they are presented on one flat plane, aiding legibility. In contrast, the texture of the dial and the raised profile of the hour markers accentuates the difference in depths, delivering a three dimensional quality and a palpable sense of luxury.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The nocturnal sky of the moon phase indication is very detailed with its metal plating and numerous grey shades bestowing a sense of realism. A small seconds display frames the moon phase indication.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Adjacent the small seconds display is an additional subdial, indicating the prevailing hour in a second time zone. The positioning of the two subdials, side by side, confers a sense of balance. The left flank of the second time zone display overlaps the edge of the neighbouring subdial with a golden border, heightening visual interest.

The second time zone is marked with a 24-hour scale, proving useful when determining day or night. Girard-Perregaux has chosen to depict a map of Western Europe in black against a grey coloured sea as the background of this display. Great Britain is marked in red, once again, referencing Harrison and his country of origin.

This prestigious timepiece tastefully employs pink gold, textures and numerous dial details to glorious effect, but never at the expense of readability.

The case

The generously proportioned case measures 44mm in diameter. Interestingly, the height of the watch, 12.10mm, seems less than the specified dimensions suggest. This may be partly explained by the sinuous lines of the case band which exhibits a convex arc on its upper surface and recessed vertical surfaces between the lugs and the crown.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

A sense of neatness is also granted with the crown protectors which almost align with the vertical flank of the crown, but not quite. The wearer is still able to grip the crown easily, owing to the exposed sections of the grip adjacent the dial and case back.

The push piece located at 4 o’clock adjusts the second time zone indication. The vertical plane of both the push piece and crown are highly polished and contrast with the adjacent brushed surfaces. The bezel is the only other area to receive highly polished treatment.

An aspect of the watch design I particuarly like is the tidy interface between the brown alligator leather strap and the case. There is an absence of any gaps to disturb the flowing lines.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Six screws retain the case back and a sapphire crystal reveals the self-winding movement. The words “Longitude Act 1714” are engraved on the case back, together with the individual reference number from the limited series.

The movement

The Girard-Perregaux GP03300-0093 is automatic, has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz), contains 35 jewels and delivers a minimum power reserve of 46 hours.

Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison - watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The finish of the movement is typical of the high quality synonymous with the Girard-Perregaux name. Blued screws, bevelled bridges, Côtes de Genève and spotting on the main plate are all admirable details which illustrate the time-consuming fastidiousness of this watch company.

Closing remarks

I always admire those individuals who invent fresh solutions to overcome problems which have flummoxed others. It is far simpler to follow and adapt an existing concept than pioneer new technology. Harrison was clearly ahead of his time and is an individual deserving of Girard-Perregaux’s tribute.

Girard-Perregaux is no stranger to innovation. Historically, this watch company has been very creative. In the 1860s it released the legendary tourbillon with three golden bridges, a revolutionary timepiece at the time. More recently, the ingenious Constant Escapement L.M showcased a silicon blade centre stage, advancing the cause of precision further and gaining numerous awards in the process.

The Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison may well not be the brand’s most innovative watch but it remains incredibly handsome and highly desirable. In my opinion, its greatest strength is the dial. The large date, using patented know-how, is very legible, fooling the wearer to think both digits shown share a common level. Despite the dial incorporating numerous flourishes of detail, it remains simple to read, with all functions unambiguously delivered.

With several references to Harrison and the Longitude Act 1714 appearing on this watch, the Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison may well appeal to proud British citizens or lovers of horological history. Alternatively, with its stylish aesthetics, high quality construction and the added utility of a second time zone indication, there are other justifiable reasons for considering this watch.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Girard-Perregaux Traveller John Harrison
  • Reference: 49655-52-133-BBBA
  • Case: 18-carat pink gold; diameter 44.00mm; height 12.10mm water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback. 
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; large date; moon phase indication; second time zone
  • Movement: Girard-Perregaux Movement, GP03300-0093, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 35 jewels; power reserve 46 hours minimum. 
  • Strap: Brown alligator leather strap supplied on an 18-carat pink gold deployant.
  • Limited Edition: 50 pieces

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