Girard-Perregaux Laureato 2016 - Back to old school sports watchmaking from the 70s
I really like the new path that Girard-Perregaux have decided to embark on. Anniversaries are moments when a manufacturer wants to show what it can really do and 225 years in business represent an important milestone and the perfect occasion to re-launch the brand’s image. Girard-Perregaux start their 2016 by becoming yet again that special brand that I had fallen in love with, the company led by Luigi Macaluso that had created exceptional complications, classic chronographs and sport three-counter timepieces which are quite sought-after both on the second-hand and NOS – New Old Stock – markets.
When you talk about “Il Laureato“ (The Graduate), everybody automatically thinks that you are referring to the legendary movie starring Dustin Hoffman, but it is also the name that inspired one of Girard-Perregaux’s biggest successes. In the 70s the Italian watch-market dictated the rules of trend, it inspired the creation of the Girard-Perregaux Laureato, the Royal Oak and of also of the second sport watch designed by Gerald Génta; the IWC Ingenieur.
These three timepieces fitted the profile of the perfect stainless steel-made sport watch and the Laureato soon became an icon that featured two product concepts that are still quite popular today, namely a bracelet that is integrated with the case and the stainless steel/gold combo that has survived till the mid of the 80s to then take root on some markets among which is the North American one. In the 70s, Girard-Perregaux were also among those Swiss manufacturers that had invested in quartz calibers and in mechanical calibers alike, somehow making them the most “Japanese-oriented” Swiss manufacturer that offered an integrated choice of both quartz and mechanical high-quality calibers.
In the following years, the Laureato integrated complications, new calibers and even a new H-mesh bracelet – something that I will cover soon in an another article -. The Girard-Perregaux Laureato has then embarked on some sort of an hormonal development that was pushed by trend changes and that has made it lose its original meaning. I grew up with EVO and R&D01 watches, for a couple of years I even owned a Laureato EVO Oracle Racing, a wonderful sport watch with perfect finishing but miles and miles away from the original one. Girard-Perregaux have had a great idea to re-enact the path of history because the 70s have represented an important decade in the field of watch-making when the manufacturer played the role of the main character in the world of sport timepieces.
The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato is the exact contrary of the marketing and co-branding concepts that boomed at the end of the 90s and that is their way to remark the fact that they are a noble haute horlogerie manufacturer. The new dimension of the case goes back to a classic and reasonable size of 41mm and the octagonal and slightly convex bezel has also been resized and it is neither as convex as on an EVO3 nor as thin as on the original timepiece.
Unless the manufacturer were aiming at crafting a new ultra-thin version of the Laureato in the future, maybe even sporting a manual winding caliber, this is a choice that I totally agree with as it would have made no sense to entirely mimic the original proportions of this timepiece. Same thing goes for the dial with its Clous de Paris design pattern that has never been abandoned during the years but probably never really crafted in the right way, simply take a look at the design of a Laureato Crono Olimpico’s dial. The pattern design is now more visible and deeper than in the past and it is a central element of the new Laureato’s personality and character, much more than on the original timepiece or on an Olimpico. Moreover, the Clous de Paris pattern design with its perfect geometric shape perfectly fits a three-hands since it exponentially enhances the perception of value if compared to a smooth dial.
One of the details I really appreciate is the slight polished chamfer of the case that goes up to the clasp of the strap, it is almost imperceptible but that is enough to match the polishing of the bezel that, otherwise, would tend not to entirely integrate with the general style of the watch. The second detail I like is a bit more complicated to describe with words as it refers to the comfort of wearing this watch, both from an aesthetical and touch-related point of view. Gerard-Perregaux have worked hard to craft a stainless steel watch that is nice to the eyes when worn and that also integrates perfectly well with the user’s wrist. In my specific case I can say that I was very lucky because the two models that I tried on in Basel didn’t need any adjustments and the Girard-Perregaux Laureato with the blue dial fitted me perfectly. From the picture, the only one taken outside the photo set, maybe you won’t be able to fully see the beauty of the ocean blue colour but you can clearly see that the artisans of La Chaux de Fonds have been able to create a fascinating timepiece alright. Nothing new on the mechanical side, the Laureato is equipped with the GP3300 caliber running at a frequency of 4Hz and the real novelty of this collection is actually not the introduction of a new caliber.
The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato is a one-off collection of 225 timepieces that, I assume, are equally divided between the two versions. The retail price totals 15,000 euro, a price that sets it in direct competition with a Royal Oak and an Overseas. Girard-Perregaux have used a different approach from their competitors and this is the manufacturer that, most likely, has pushed the references reduction operation to the extreme and is now able to offer a simple and well defined high-quality selection of timepieces that is geared towards a limited audience despite the claim “Watches for the few” is no longer present in the brand’s marketing strategy. A limited edition release of 225 unique pieces also contributes to influence the retail price and the potential collector’s value of this watch that, in the future, could even contribute to a price increase, unless this is simply a launch strategy to test the audience’s response to then permanently insert the Laureato in the collection.
(Photo credit: Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting by Entropik)
Gaetano C @Horbiter