Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon Titanium DLC - The "Dark Side" of the Neo Tourbillon
Although Girard-Perregaux haven't invented the tourbillon watch itself, they were among the first manufacturers to adopt it and further develop it, and that's why the brand from La Chaux de Fonds is strongly linked to the history of haute-horlogerie. In the last two centuries, the manufacturer has striven to achieve a constant improvement of this type of complication while still keeping an eye on traditional assembling, decoration and regulation procedures. On the other hand, other brands have followed a completely different path that involves adopting new technologies and strategic decisions (I personally think that some of them are highly debatable) that have allowed the price and prestige of tourbillon watches to drop (it seems like many people are not aware of it.)
The three bridges appearing on the dial are the manufacturer's historical signature and the signature of its haute-horlogerie department and, when you find them on a watch, it clearly means that, somewhere on its dial, there is a cage containing a tourbillon. During the first year of life of Horbiter, I was lucky enough to witness in person the crafting of a tourbillon watch in the Girard-Perregaux workshop and I can confirm that it was a truly unique experience. The Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon (with Three Bridges) is the avant-gardist vision of a manufacturer that speaks directly to the heart of watch fans; those fans belonging to the radical wing of haute-horlogerie traditional values. Despite everything, a traditional brand like Girard-Perregaux is well aware that it cannot get stuck in time and that it needs to explore new routes and gives its clients an idea of what path it needs to embark on in the near future. It is a very difficult task, as the company will need to please both its new clientele, whose average age has dropped due to the strengthening of its presence in the emerging markets, and its most loyal, traditional and competent aficionados.
The first step towards this new direction was taken during Baselworld 2014 when Girard-Perregaux launched the first version of this tourbillon (I wrote about it last June). The year 2015 represents an evolution of that thought and an additional step towards the future; in both models, the focal concept revolves around the mainstream timepieces of the collection, namely the classic three-bridge-watches that have been put through an aesthetic and technological reinterpretation process. The latest version – the Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon Titanium DLC - is quite an interesting novelty, since it breaks the historical equation that traditionally links together Girard-Perregaux tourbillon timepieces and precious metals.
The daring but still balanced design of this version is taken to the extreme; the three skeletonized bridges in titanium featuring an arch-like design, microbillè finishing and PVD coating are coupled with a DLC treated titanium case. Like in the original version, they connect the two sides of the main plate, which also features an opaque gray finishing, while towering above the three intersecting rings, the last one of which hosts a one-minute tourbillon enclosed in a titanium cage. What looks like a simple movement at first sight, is actually the result of the assembling of 245 different parts that are linked to each other to form smaller sub-assemblies and thus improve the efficiency of the movement. Thanks to this specific type of architecture, the Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon Titanium DLC features up to 60 hours of power reserve and servicing and maintenance processes, which are usually long and expensive when it comes to tourbillon watches, are made easier. The GP09400 caliber used for this watch would deserve an article of its own if we aimed at better understanding what has really changed if compared to the original caliber and the change in weight of the technical evolution that is probably less visible in the new version and thus more difficult to fully appreciate but is, nevertheless, as interesting as the above-mentioned aesthetic revolution.
The case measures 45mm while the cage of the tourbillon measures 14.44mm and it features 80 components weighing 0.25gr, the upper and lower parts sport a “trait-tirès” motif. The balance wheel features screws for adjusting the inertia and it is coupled with a balance spring with Phillips terminal curve. Thanks to these characteristics, at least on paper, the Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon Titanium DLC represents a state-of-the-art one-minute tourbillon.
During those short moments in which I was lucky enough to wear this timepiece, I experienced the same sensations as when I had worn the gold version back in 2014. It looks as if the three bridges are hoovering in the air; a perception that is accentuated by the convexed glass that follows the arch-like design of the bridges and that almost reaches the edge of the crown while almost “invading” the circumference of the case at 12 o'clock and at 6 o'clock. This is an haute-horlogerie complicated watch where the glass surface/case surface ratio is taken to the extreme, so it is needless to say that no bezel exists on this timepiece. The perception of lightness is coupled with the real lightness of the titanium metal used.
The Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon Titanium DLC is crafted in a very limited number of pieces and it retails at a price set above 100,000 euro. I am not in a position yet to gain access to the exclusive world of tourbillon watches' owners, so I can't really say if I would choose it among the many existing ones (some of them crafted by the classic brands and some of them crafted by independent manufacturers). However, I can definitely say that I like it and that I wish this type of design weren't confined to haute-horlogerie collections only but that it were gradually adopted by other classic collections too.
(Photo credit: courtesy pg Girard-Perregaux; Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter