Girard-Perregaux: Behind the Brand
We live in an increasingly digitalized age, a considerably mobile-centric world, distracted by the virtual and cybernetic. If a watch is no longer essential for telling the time, why should someone wear one? A man who would be well placed to answer this is the much-respected CEO of Girard-Perregaux, Mr Antonio Calce.
“A timepiece is above all a real work of art, a concentration of expertise and the result of the ultimate in high-end manufacturing”, he says. Yes, a watch may not be as essential these days as they were in decades past, but the ownership of such a beautiful “piece of art” is not to be sniffed at.
There are a great many watch manufactures in existence, all expertly fine-tuning exceptional pieces of delicate machinery, all paying homage to their history and heritage, what it is that sets Girard-Perregaux apart?
The long history of the brand, well known as one of, what Calce calls the “founding brands of the watchmaking industry”, gives them a legitimacy not always echoed by watch producers eager to play up their heritage in search of sincerity. This history gives Girard-Perregaux “the luck to draw our inspiration from the huge pool of expertise that is our manufacture and our heritage”.
In the late 18th century a brilliant watchmaker and jeweler from Geneva, Jean-François Bautte, began producing his first watches. Together with his craftsmen, he produced watches and clockwork figures as well as jewelry and music boxes. The craftsmanship and care lavished on the finishes went on to form the basis of the Girard-Perregaux manufacture, renowned for its highly sophisticated finishes. Jean-François Bautte excelled in “shaped watches”; watches produced in the shape of miniature musical instruments, insects and even a watch shaped like pistol that diffused perfume. He was also one of the first producers of ultra-thin watches, which became one of his specialties. Truly a visionary, he quickly acquired international renown for his high-quality timepieces, establishing the Girard-Perregaux manufacture in 1791.
But it’s not just looking to the past that motivates the fine watchmakers of G-P. Innovation is at the heart of everything the brand creates; establishing a research and development department in the 1950s, and striving constantly to design and construct more elaborate and advanced watches. As Antonio Calce says, “we have always innovated with over 80 patents in our history. It is essential for a brand like Girard-Perregaux to place it at the heart of its strategy”.
Unusually for a fine watch brand, the manufacture of Girard-Perregaux groups together all the crafts necessary for producing a watch under one roof; from the creation of a calibre to the final finishing touches. It is a unique attitude for a watch maker, and guarantees the high quality of the resulting timepieces; supervised start to finish by the finest craftsmen.
Celebrating your 225th birthday would be enough to go to anyone’s head, but Girard-Perregaux are celebrating their anniversary year in typically restrained and tasteful style. In 2016, Girard-Perregaux will release a selection of watches as a tribute to its rich heritage, including the magnificent fine watchmaking piece, the Esmeralda Tourbillon, in reference to its 19th century pocket watch. This year, Girard-Perregaux is also introducing the 1957 model that adopts the aesthetic codes of the 1950s Gyromatic watch whose movement made an impression, allowing the winding system of self-winding watches to be simplified. A new version of the famous Laureato launched in 1975 also makes its entrance with revamped aesthetics while at the same time respecting the design codes that established its reputation. The updated 1966 collection unveils a special anniversary edition recalling Girard-Perregaux‘s timekeeping excellence. The design of the 1966 is the star of the celebration and an exceptional model has been devised in 225 unique pieces with a dial that retraces 225 years of the watchmaker’s history. Calce remains enthused by his vision of the future for the luxury watch market, describing expectations for the coming years as “prosperous, thanks to the many people who show respect for the quality and craftsmanship of beautiful objects. We are seeing a real return to traditional values”. Long may it last.