Girard Perregaux celebrates 225 years of history with a series of “unique” watches. The collection is said to be special for its unique dial decorations in relation to historical events. Standing ovations were also given by the brand to itself for its maiden use of the emblematic Pont d’or (that bridge) above a Microvar balance wheel. While the press kits make the watches sound way better than they look, we are here to bare our uncensored views of the collection.
There is nothing particularly wrong about the collection, just as there is nothing eye catching about it. Now let’s take a look at the watch in question, the Girard-Perregaux Place Girardet. At first sight, we thought that we were handling a tourbillon piece, but on scrutiny, the moving piece on the dial turns out to be a regular balance wheel and not a tourbillon complication.
But that’s not the main point. We are not sticklers for tourbillons, but the lingering association with watches (usually lower end), that try to pass off a balance wheel as a tourbillon just leaves a bitter after taste. No doubt the watch is extremely well made and well finished, looks good and almost darn awesome. But putting a balance wheel on the dial side is not something jaw dropping, not when the 21 jewel Chinese movements have already been doing that since Chairman Mao’s time. We exaggerate, but you get point.
Anyone familiar with marketing luxury watches and the new age “every watch has to have a story” will know how much bull there is when it comes to pitching luxury products. Which of course writers like us are exceedingly thankful for, grateful that we have the opportunity to service the community with bull filtering. So, this 225th Anniversary collection is supposedly part of a commemorative effort that remembers significant milestones in history. Not just in the Manufacture’s history, or in horology’s but also all of humanity for the past 225 years.
Nothing wrong with the history bit, we are all nerds and history buffs one way or the other. In fact, we love the concept of returning to the roots, exploring a brand’s DNA, playing up the icons, and developing from that DNA. But, free associations with random historical events as a commemorative piece is not the most novel or even desirable way to do it. The association with Place Girardet, a location in La Chaux-de-Fonds where GP hails from is weak. As an example Montblanc uses their tie ups with the mountain’s height (4810 meters) and its pens effectively, but that’s Montblanc with pens. GP does not command the same demand for their watches as Montblanc their pens, for them to fully develop this concept. While we love the concept of using timepieces to commemorate historical events, even if it is not the most novel but we have weak feelings with how it is being executed here.
The watch comes in at a list price of S$ 46,800. While more superior than most mainstream watches in finishing and quality of manufacture, we find that the brand has great difficulty holding up in this competitive landscape. Especially when pit against similarly priced models like Montblanc’s 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim. Both watches have the same dial configuration, but with trade offs. The Montblanc has arguably lower quality finishing but it has a functional tourbillon, while the other with a cosmetic balance wheel but good finishing. Alternatively, one can consider a major upgrade in terms of complications for the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph (S$ 62,000) for a 20 percent premium in price: tourbillon plus a chronograph. Therein lies the challenge for the lesser known brands, against a new competitor with a value threat. While we are not the most impressed by the Girard-Perregaux Place Girardet, we think they are doing a great job with some of their other homage models, like the 1957 Gyromatic and the Laureato which are not only more sensible but also comparatively more affordable.