I met Stefano Macaluso perhaps some 10 years ago over lunch in La Chaux de Fonds, while on a visit to the Girard Perregaux factory. I caught up with him again for lunch, this time in Singapore a few days ago. Here is a peek into what we talked about.
It is always interesting and a true delight to chat watches and divers subjects with people who know their business and whom we have known for a while. Conversation flows easily, and we jump from topic to topic with ease. The conversation during the lunch was diverse indeed…from the addition of Ulysse Nardin to the Kering Group, which Girard Perregaux is also a relatively recent acquisition to the technical manufacture process of the GP Constant Force Escapement, and the Tri-axial Tourbillon to the GP design and aesthetics.
Perhaps the Tri-axial is a good place to start. We covered the watch in a bit of detail in this article published after SIHH 2014. The watch was being passed around the lunch table, and I remarked, as we did in the article, that the watch shares some visual cues with the new Harry Winston triple axis tourbillon.
While the Harry Winston Tri-axial Tourbillon is sourced from Complitime, a division of Greubel Forsey, the Girard Perregaux is totally designed in house. The concept for the triple axis tourbillon with a fast moving tourbillon is interesting, and possibly unique for the time being. The Thomas Prescher, which is probably the first triple axis tourbillon to be offered in the market in BaselWorld2004 and the Harry Winston have slower spins.
The first cage, quite alike a traditional single axis tourbillon runs at the familiar 1 minute a revolution. This tourbillon sits within a second tourbillon which spins at a rate of 2 revolutions a minute. This fast rate makes an interesting visual treat. And the both these cages sit within the third tourbillon which takes 2 minutes to complete one revolution. Totally mesmerising. A window is opened at the case side, not only to view the tourbillon from another angle, but also to allow light to enter so as to make it more visible even from the dial side.
Constant Force Escapement LG
The discussion turned to the Constant Force Escapement. And to the concept, which was introduced in 2008. I was at the launch conference where Gino Macaluso, who had initiated the exploration which concluded in the totally new escapement. The watch’s full name is Girard Perregaux Constant Force Escapement LG, in honour of Gino, LG for Luigi Macaluso. Gino is the short name for Luigi. We covered this watch in some detail here.
The concept of the totally novel escapement was exciting then, as it was in 2013 when a watch bearing the escapement was introduced in BaselWorld 2013. GP had by 2012 moved from SIHH to BaselWorld.
The discussion with Stefano focused on the triple bridges of the escapement, a gentle design cue to the most famous of GP’s creations of the Tourbillon with Three Golden Bridges.
Stefano alluded to the fact that the idea of using a silisium foil which vibrating blade came when one of the GP engineers was getting bored during a business travel and started to play with his boarding pass…flicking it from one curved position to the other on the opposite side. The idea came that this movement of the boarding pass could be the basis of a constant force. And the idea developed to the vibrating blade. We discussed the use of silisium, and its manufacture. And how the silisium parts are grown in a nanotech lab. We also discussed the nickel butterfly wings which transmit the energy of the vibrating blades to the escape wheels.
Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges
The Tourbillon in Three Golden Bridges is a landmark of haute horlogerie. The three bridges had been existance in pocket watches historically. Click here to see a pictorial report of one such historical triple bridge tourbillon in the Esmeralda Pocket Watch. The design has been updated and put into a wrist watch under the elder Macaluso, and the design pushed more avant-garde with the three sapphire bridges. But this latest iteration of three titanium bridges, with a sleek, modern bridge design, reminescent of a rail bridge was introduced this year in BaselWorld 2014.
Stefano touched on the challenges to the design, as it had to retain the traditional elements of the three bridges, yet incorporate more modern lines, and how this has to be reflective of the steel rail bridges which it takes its inspiration from. This more modern design also necessitates the redesign of the hands and the tourbillon cages.
We have always admired the way design is done in GP. The case design is always very proportional and visually pleasing. Perhaps testament to the fact that the initial design of the cases, were done by Gino who not only had the design flair of an Italian, but also as a trained architect.
In no other watch is this design flair more apparent than in the Sea Hawk.
And the WW-TC
Kering Group and Ulysse Nardin
I then asked about the recent acquisition of the Ulysse Nardin by the Kering Group. In 2008, the Kering Group, formerly known as PPR (parent of Gucci) went into a partnership with the Sowind Group. At that time the Sowind Group was controlled by Gino Macaluso and is the holding company for Girard Perregaux and Jeanrichard. Gino suddenly passed away in 2010 at the age 62, and in 2010, Kering took control of Sowin. The group was smart enough to retained Stefano as Director of Product Development.
Stefano alluded that his father, Gino had long considered Ulysse Nardin as a sister company to Girard Perregaux. GP making more elegant, classical watches, and UN, making avant garde and perhaps more edgy products. Both marques now joined together by Kering’s acquisition. Stefano sees great synergies between the two brands.
We also talked a bit about cars, the other passion of Stefano (and of Gino). The family owns many vintage cars, and race them. All too soon, dessert was served, and lunch was over. Many thanks to Stefano for the wonderful discussion. And to The Hour Glass Singapore for hosting the lunch and making this possible.