Girard-Perregaux is a manufacture rich in history, whose roots stretch back to 1791 with the works of Jean-François Bautte in Geneva. Now based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Girard-Perregaux has often struggled to achieve the sort of brand identity enjoyed by other top-tier watchmakers like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, in part because their modern collections lack a consistent and accessible model to serve as a company emblem. The Laureato is meant as Girard-Perregaux’s answer to that – and the Royal Oak – and following the model’s revival, a slew of variations have culminated in the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic we’re discussing today.
Girard-Perregaux’s original Laureato came out back in 1975, but it has been discontinued and re-launched a number of times since then. The modern company has become better known for haute horology pieces like their Three Bridge Tourbillon (hands-on here) and their Constant Escapement (hands-on). But as fine as such pieces are, they are priced in a realm beyond the grasp of most consumers. In an attempt to make the brand more accessible, Girard-Perregaux celebrated their 225th anniversary in 2016 by resurrecting their Laureato sports collection.
This new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic seems to be a combination of two previous models, one cased in black ceramic we covered here, and another with a skeletonized dial that we’ve also covered here. Is this watch just an amalgamation of previous designs, or is it more than the sum of its parts? In order to define itself as an important timepiece, it should follow in the footsteps of the historic Laureato models and offer something unique and different for the brand.
The first Laureato was launched back in 1975, and it was a quartz watch. In fact, it was the first quartz watch to oscillate at 32,768Hz, which has now become the industry standard frequency. Accuracy was the brand’s main goal for this model, and it proudly proclaimed “Quartz Chronometer” on the dial. A mechanical Laureato wasn’t introduced until 1995 with the caliber GP 3100, an ultra-thin self-winding movement with a height of only 2.98mm. By way of comparison, Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak was fitted with the thinnest full-rotor automatic caliber in the world when it was introduced in 1967 (the AP caliber 2121), a collaboration piece with Jaeger-LeCoultre which clocks in at 3.05mm. So both iterations of the Laureato were significant timepieces in their own right, pushing the boundaries of accuracy on the one side and engineering tolerances on the other. What does the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic bring to the table?
Skeletonization is hardly a new discipline in watchmaking, but the execution here is very well-done. The bridges are black PVD treated and satin brushed to match the tone of the case, with chamfered edges throughout. The barrel is exposed to show the mainspring at about 2:30 on the dial, with “GIRARD-PERREGAUX” etched in gold across the traversing bridge. The balance wheel beats away at 12 o’clock behind a “GP” logo in steel, which I feel may be a tad redundant with the company branding already displayed in full across the barrel. The rotor is in 18ct pink gold and has also been skeletonized so as to not obstruct the view of the movement through the sapphire exhibition caseback.
Dominated by sapphire instead of titanium, the case is constructed so as to maximize the view of this movement, itself based on the principle of transparency. It rises vertically from the instance, before shifting the angle to pay the heart of the watch, like a protective dome. The caseback crystal is also convex, meaning that, when seen from the side, the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton is a band of grey metal with a matt look achieved by lace brushing, framed by two sapphire protrusions.These scratchproof, complex and chemically pure crystals so reveal the arrangement of the GP 9400-0011 caliber, a profoundly revisited variant of Calibre 9400. This restructuring mainly consists of skeleton functioning that essentially entails eliminating the baseplate. Almost as if the ground had vanished beneath its feet, the motion finds itself suspended between two layers of air. Particular critical anchor points stay, but the opaque and strong supporting structure has disappeared. A closer look shows the screws holding the openworked, polished and beveled bridges, driven far into the arrangement of the caliber. They are similar to the abutments of a suspension bridge, offering profound anchorage in addition to an impressive technical demonstration.The inherent part of the movement baseplate, which is solid on Calibre 9400, is replaced here by 2 bridges. The latter are just identical to those on the other hand: a first in a construction based on visible bridges. These two bridges are the counterparts of the gear-train bridge (at the center) and the tourbillon bridge (at 6 o’clock).In the natural and eagerly awaited extension of an eminently sporting chic set, the Laureato once again demonstrates the strength and relevance of the layout of this iconic watch, born in 1975.
Some legibility is always sacrificed on skeletonized dials, and this is no exception. Nevertheless, the broad pointed hands each feature a long strip of luminescent material and contrast well against the black bridges of the movement underneath, which combined with the “floating” indexes make this timepiece readable. One minor aesthetic gripe of mine is that the minute hand isn’t quite long enough to reach the minute track, which doesn’t particularly harm legibility but feels a tad clunky from a design perspective.
The movement powering this watch is the GP01800-0006, a much thicker descendant of the GP 3100 at 5.40mm. The balance of this movement oscillates at a modern 28,800vph or 4Hz, and offers a 54 hour power reserve. A discreet small seconds indicator is also included at 10 o’clock. Like the previous models, this watch is 42mm wide and 10.93mm thick, which should wear quite well. The sapphire crystal over the dial is coated with an anti-reflective treatment on both sides, and the watch is waterproof to 100m.
Aside from the skeletonized dial, the other major feature of the Girard Perregaux Watches Replica Laureato Skeleton Ceramic is the use of an all-ceramic case. Ceramic is certainly very interesting as a watchmaking material, and we’ve gone into depth about its properties previously. In a nutshell, it offers very high scratch-resistance, low weight, and is hypoallergenic, in exchange for being brittle and prone to shatter if struck hard enough. The case and bracelet are alternatively polished and satin-brushed to provide some visual and tactile contrast to the all-black palette. So if this latest Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic watch is largely defined by the extensive use of ceramic and skeletonization, where does that position it against other Laureato models, and against the competition?
Octagonal bezel, Genta-designed (or -inspired) watches are almost their own market segment these days, with numerous takes on the theme by Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, IWC with its Ingenieur, Bulgari with the Octo collection, and others. Some of these even feature black ceramic or diamond-like carbon (DLC) coated cases for a similar aesthetic. But fewer competitors feature geometric bezels, black ceramic or DLC cases, and are skeletonized; the only other model I know of is Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Skeleton reference 102469. So with regards to the competition, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic is rather unique and well positioned.
Ever since the Girard Perregaux Cat’s Eye Watch Replica Laureato returned at Baselworld 2016, it’s been evident that this is the model that the brand is investing its future in. Last year was once the Laureato really took off following the GP team introduced 34 new developments to the rapidly expanding collection. At SIHH this season (that GP returned to this past year), while we did not get to watch as many new Laureato looks, we did get to view the addition of a new complication to the famed sports model using the Laureato Chronograph. It’s a definite next step in developing the line to compete with some of the more iconic models in this crowded sector of the watch industry, especially the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (that we covered a boatload of brand new releases for here) and also the Patek Philippe Nautilus. And while the Laureato has not had the cultural signoff that we have seen the Royal Oak and Nautilus have in recent years (from being name-dropped in countless hip-hop songs to appearances on the wrists of some number of television and film celebrities, the luxury sports watch world is definitely having its pop culture second), it’s the background to back this up continuing expansion. If you return to the early 1970s when the market for a sporty, regular watch was becoming apparent (thanks, Gérald Genta), the Laureato was the next watch published — following the Royal Oak — out of this growing school of design.Just like last year’s new releases, the Laureato Chronograph comes in a variety of sizes and materials to appeal to a broad customer base. You have the option of a pink silver or gold steel case in 38 mm or 42 mm and also the choice of three different dial colours (silver, black, black and dark blue). Irrespective of these variations, all of the new models are distinctly familiar as the Laureato — that the polished octagonal bezel, Clou de Paris hobnail dial, and interlinked bracelet are present and accounted for.
Dominated by sapphire instead of titanium, the instance is built so as to maximize the view of the movement, itself dependent on the principle of transparency. It climbs vertically from the instance, before changing the angle to cover the core of the watch, such as a protective dome. The caseback crystal is also convex, meaning that, when viewed from the side, the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton is a band of gray metal with a matt look achieved by lace brushing, framed by two sapphire protrusions.These scratchproof, complex and chemically pure crystals so reveal the structure of the GP 9400-0011 grade, a profoundly revisited variant of Calibre 9400. This restructuring chiefly consists of skeleton working that essentially entails removing the baseplate. Almost as though the ground had vanished beneath its feet, the motion finds itself suspended between two layers of atmosphere. Certain indispensable anchor points stay, but the opaque and solid supporting structure has vanished. They’re similar to the abutments of a suspension bridge, offering deep anchorage as well as an impressive specialized demonstration.The underlying part of the motion baseplate, which is solid on Calibre 9400, is replaced here by 2 bridges. The latter are just identical to those on the dial side: a first in a structure based on visible bridges. Both of these bridges are the counterparts of the gear-train bridge (in the center) and the tourbillon bridge (at 6 o’clock).In this natural and eagerly anticipated extension of an eminently athletic chic set, the Laureato once again demonstrates the strength and relevance of the design of this iconic watch, born in 1975.
Among its own collection though, this model is a harder sell. The existence of both skeletonized and ceramic models makes the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic seem an iterative release rather than anything truly new. And unlike the landmark versions of 1975 and 1995, this version doesn’t push the envelope of either accuracy or engineering tolerances. I would have loved to see a high-beat movement or a clever escapement technology at play here, to make this model feel more like a pillar in the collection and not just a new color scheme against an exposed movement. Nevertheless, it can’t be denied that there are few other options out there for the rare consumer who demands the unique combination of traits on offer here, and as a package the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Skeleton Ceramic appears both attractive and wearable. Although with an asking price of $36,600, this piece is up against some strong – albeit different – competition. girard-perregaux.com
The last notable timepiece which GP debuted this week was that the Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton, which is the first skeletonized take on the brand’s recognizable three-bridge tourbillon structure. GP has held a patent on the three-bridge tourbillon arrangement since 1884, which makes it one of their brand’s most iconic design motifs. The first Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges was released back in 2014, and the brand has been developing the lineup ever since. The caliber has a white gold micro-rotor and uses exactly the same caliber as the original Neo-Tourbillon. It’s a highly intricate watch that is representative of the brand’s history more so compared to Laureato is.
Girard-Perregaux has fitted with this emblematic case using its in-built chronograph movement, driving two counter and small seconds as well as a date display. As well as guaranteeing impeccably accurate timekeeping, it’s distinguished by its comfy power reserve and the particularly smooth activation of its own pushers. Its horological qualities are complemented by exemplary completing including “Côtes de Genève”, chamfering and directly graining.The Laureato is characterized by a polished octagonal bezel fitted in an integrated case, meaning without a lugs or loops; and by its alloy bracelet forming a natural extension of this case and representing a first design element inside its own right.This metallic bracelet is distinguished by broad satin-brushed H-shaped links in addition to domed and polished interlink components. When worn out, this bracelet reveals the most significant quality of an incredibly soft, supple texture. It makes the Laureato perfectly comfortable on any wrist.By definition, the Laureato is adorned with a dial bearing the “Clous de Paris” hobnail theme, a set of small raised pyramids occupying the watch face and grabbing the light. Sporty because of its sturdiness, chic due to its meticulous information, it’s made as much for grand occasions as for relaxed daily wear. Its flexibility stems from intense reflection on the fundamentals of ergonomics, quantity and fashion, giving rise to a wide collection of chronograph versions.The Laureato adjusts to the rough design of the various subdials and pushers characterizing the Laureato Chronograph. The exterior of this Laureato instance has evolved to incorporate a crown shield (shoulder), a curve obviously imposed from the pushers themselves. The latter is octagon-shaped like the bezel, making protuberances that the Laureato Chronograph integrates with natural ease.