Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial
The Tourbillon is the complication par excellence; the one, where the skills of a watch-maker are put to the test and it is also the complication that brings together, for a brief moment, big and small manufactures, because this is where the concept of serial production leaves room for the abilities and genius of master watch-makers. Tourbillons abound on the market, but if you investigate a bit further, you will find out that there are very few brands that design, build and decorate their tourbillons in-house.
To say that the tourbillon has become a commodity among complications is perhaps excessive, but truth is that the crafting techniques to manufacture tourbillons on a higher scale have made them more accessible to a wider audience. A few days ago, I released an article about a tourbillon retailing at an exceptionally competitive price without sacrificing anything in terms of quality and touch and feel. In that case, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon, the brand certainly hit the spot with its idea of a timepiece crafted in a less noble metal like steel.
Also belonging to the same group as Ulysse Nardin is Girard-Perregaux with its flagship tourbillon on golden bridges. Girard-Perregaux is also one of the very few brands that not only continued to believe in the tourbillon even in the darkest periods of Swiss watch-making, but it also steadily invested substantial resources to refine and re-define it like a very few other big names in the watch-making industry did (Greubel Forsey or Jaeger-LeCoultre, for instance).
Girard-Perregaux's Tri-Axial Tourbillon is a test of power; the complication with which the brand decided to show its muscles by proudly placing on the gaming tables its entire archive of skills. In 2014 the brand had already demonstrated its "savoir-faire" when it presented the first Tri-Axial and the year 2017 confirms yet again that Girard-Perregaux firmly believes in this variant of the complication with the launch of the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial.
At first glance, the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial is an evolution of the 2014 Tri-Axial. During those days in Basel, what had struck me the most, while I was busy taking tons of photos, was the concreteness of that complicated timepiece. It radiated a hypnotic feeling, because the cage rotating in the space on three different axes at the same time is a show of micro mechanics in itself capable of fascinating even those who have little interest in the world of watch-making.
Moreover, this timepiece represented a proof of aesthetic concreteness for the simplicity and the purity through which the dial was able to communicate its mechanical complexity. Our eyes are naturally attracted to the "carousel" located under the sapphire crystal bubble at 3 o'clock inserted within a setting, where everything else is of a disarming cleanliness: the de-centralized hours dial in the top right corner, the power reserve at the bottom and the applied strong and easily recognizable GP logo. An incredibly balanced setting that is both rich and satisfying or, as our American friends would define it; ‘compliant’.
The Girard-Perregaux Bridges Tri-Axial Planetarium.
The new Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial is not just the continuation of that 2014 project. A lot has changed in Girard-Perregaux over the past three years, from the CEO to the management and the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Tri-Axial Planetarium is definitely the result of different choices if compared to those that gave us the previous Tri-Axial.The original spirit, however, has remained intact, while the bar has been set higher by looking for new ideas to capture the attention of fans and collectors alike.
Two complications have been added to an already existing one, so the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial now includes also two astronomical complications linked to time reading; the so-called "exact" moon phases, requiring an adjustment every 122 years, and the day-night indication. The latter is hosted within the hand-decorated globe that fills the second big bubble on the sapphire glass after the one dedicated to the complex mechanism that moves the regulating organ.
The Girard-Perregaux GP09310 calibre.
Girard-Perregaux is famous for crafting excellent calibers and it also boasts a long string of successes in the production of complicated calibers; the reference point being with no doubt the 1889 Esmeralda Tourbillon with Three Golden Bridges that was awarded the gold medal at the Paris Universal Exposition. In a Girard-Perregaux timepiece, technique has a predominant aesthetic function and is not, as it happens on other timepieces, entirely devoted to the overall design or even functional to it.
This concept is quite evident and brought to an extreme on the Neo Bridges, but it is also quite predominant on the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial, where the movement itself encompasses the whole space and it seems to literally "explode" from inside the case. The Tri-Axial Tourbillon assembly features 36% of the components of the GP09310 caliber (388 components in total). The balance wheel and the spiral are mounted inside a lyre-shaped case and it performs a complete turn in a minute.
The case is inserted within a second structure, which performs a complete rotation in 30 seconds and this second structure is, in turn, inserted within a third structure, which performs a complete rotation in 2 minutes. This 140 gram micro-structure that requires a good part of the time needed to assemble (and adjust) a Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial is designed to minimizing the effects of gravity force on time measurement precision.
We do not know to what extent it does so and it would be interesting to find that out so as to give justice to the skills of the master watch-makers from La Chaux de Fonds and also to satisfy our curiosity. As I mentioned above, the GP09310 caliber includes two additional complications that give this timepiece that sense of dream that was missing from the first Tri-Axial; a globe entirely hand-painted for the day-night function and the astronomical and precise moon phase. The two bubbles emerge from a dial which is nothing else but a plan depiction of meridians and parallels with a perceptible sensation of movement (and three-dimensionality) even without charge.
The aesthetic transformation is also evident on the case-back; years ago, the three golden bridges were represented on the dial or on the case-back, but without a solution of continuity with the remainder of the design. The bridges on the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial are not applied as a simple trademark, but they are rather concealed and integrated within the large 48mm rose gold case. Simply look at the base of the globe; the bridges are present, but they are integrated within the general concept of the watch, where you can quickly switch from aesthetics to a seamless technique; and this contributes to the “wow factor” on the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial.
My personal opinion.
In a scenario, where the Laureato is the brand's new hero, it is equally reassuring to see that Girard-Perregaux continues to create dreams too. Watches like the Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial are the concrete proof of Girard-Perregaux’s history. A Laureato represents a phase of the brand’s life; its most recent phase, but a complicated timepiece like this one, on the other hand, feeds the imagination of an enthusiast and brings them closer to the brand by inevitably revealing all the other collections of the brand and this concept is something that brands are fully aware of.
The Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial is well-inserted within the niche it belongs to, but it is also unique, because it is a Tri-Axial and it was crafted by a manufacturer that has been engineering tourbillons for more than 130 years (the tourbillon was patented by Breguet in 1801, the tourbillon on three bridges, on the other hand, is from 1884). Moreover, Girard-Perregaux has been able to mix its watch-making skills with decorative art; an ability unknown to most people that defines a Girard-Perregaux Bridges Planetarium Tri-Axial as yet another proof of prowess in haute-horlogerie and as an art item in the broadest sense of the word.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®