Artistic crafts for the wrist: Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
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La Esmeralda is a legendary tourbillon pocket watch that blended extraordinary precision with several artistic crafts and that was presented at ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1889. For its 230-year anniversary, the now independent manufacturer celebrates with a series of wristwatches showing its expertise in haute horologerie and artistic crafts. Today, we have a look at the anniversary piece paying a tribute to this masterpiece: Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition.

La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

A bit of history presented by Girard-Perregaux

During the 19th century, ‘Universal Exhibitions’ were held, showcasing the latest technological advances of their day. Various nations would participate and the most meritorious exhibits won prizes, medals and distinctions. While other countries would also go on to host world expositions, Paris proved a particularly popular venue for such events, hosting the ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1855, 1867, 1878 and 1889.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

In 1860, Constant Girard, a brilliant watchmaker who spent most of his life dedicated to the field of chronometry, created a tourbillon chronometer equipped with three nickel silver bridges. Later, in 1867, Constant entered the Observatoire of Neuchâtel competition where his watch won first prize, setting a record that remained unchallenged for many years. Again, in 1867, the same watch won a medal at the Exposition Universelle, Paris. What differentiated Constant’s work from that of his peers was that he didn’t restrict his efforts to technical details alone but also expended much effort refining the architecture of his movements. In particular, the famous three bridges he employed on his watches were not merely functional, but also designed to be visible and attractive. Over time, the design of the arrow-shaped bridges became increasingly stylised, encompassing numerous facets. Furthermore, the three bridges were ennobled, transitioning from the nickel silver found on the early pocket watches to the now famous golden bridges. A legend was born.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

Constant would visit Paris again in 1889, entering another pocket watch for the ‘Exposition Universelle’. The renowned watchmaker unveiled the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, a pocket watch housed in a sumptuous pink gold case, measuring 56mm in diameter and fitted with a detent escapement. The case was elaborately engraved by Fritz Kundert, an acclaimed artisan based in the ‘Neuchâtel mountains.’ In September 1889, the watch received a diploma and gold medal at ‘Exposition Universelle’. After the event, a famous watch and jewellery retailer, Hauser, Ziwy & Co, which operated ‘La Esmeralda’ stores in Paris and Mexico, was tasked with selling the prize-winning watch.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

The watch, ultimately called ‘La Esmeralda’, was sold to Porfirio Diaz, then president of Mexico (1830-1915). In 1970, a descendent of the president offered the Manufacture the opportunity to purchase the watch and it now forms part of the Maison’s museum collection.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

While La Esmeralda was a highly precise pocket watch, its charms were not merely restricted to its engraved case and golden bridges. For instance, it was fitted with a sumptuous white grand feu enamel dial. Moreover, Poire Stuart hour and minute hands, featuring a filigreed design, contributed to the watch’s elegant mien. Finally, the savonette case, incorporating a hinged dust cover, was beautifully engraved with three horses. However, despite having extensive archives, Girard-Perregaux can find no record regarding the significance of said horses. Indeed, the horses have now become known as the ‘equine mystery’.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

As Girard-Perregaux celebrated its 230th anniversary, the Manufacture unveiled La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition, a wristwatch employing the Maison’s legendary watchmaking know-how as well as encompassing an array of artistic crafts, executed to an exceptional standard. This latest creation re-interprets the design of the legendary 1889 ‘La Esmeralda’ pocket watch and references many of its extraordinary refinements. However, it is not a facsimile of what has gone before, but a tasteful homage to Constant Girard’s prize-winning watch of yesteryear. It is perfectly in tune with the expectations of a modernday audience but respects La Esmeralda and seeks to capture its eternal charm.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Girard-Perregaux, remarks, “La Esmeralda is unquestionably our most famous watch and as the current custodian of our Maison, I am always mindful that we should treat such a legend with due reverence. This year, the Manufacture is celebrating its 230th anniversary and we were keen to ensure this milestone did not pass by unnoticed. Already this year we have unveiled several fabulous watches, however, La Esmeralda “A Secret” Eternity Edition is, without doubt, the most ambitious creation we have released to date. It draws upon our vast knowledge of Haute Horlogerie, in particular tourbillons, embraces several types of artistic crafts and, at the same time, honours the history of La Esmeralda, a watch that continues to exhibit lasting appeal.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon "A Secret" Eternity Edition

Three gold bridges span the dial, similar to those fitted to La Esmeralda of 1889. However, on this latest model, Girard-Perregaux has once again made the invisible visible by bringing the horses engraved on the back case of the original pocket watch up to centre stage of this new timepiece. Indeed, two hand-engraved galloping horses form the right and left ends of the barrel bridge and tourbillon bridge. Each bridge is painstakingly finished and features concave bevelling, mirror-polishing, flanks with horizontal ‘traits-tirés’ and rounded off arms. It requires 40 hours to finish all three bridges, while the additional engraving found on the barrel bridge and tourbillon takes an extra 50 hours to complete.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Artistic crafts: engraved and enamelled case

The 43 mm pink gold case showcases a superb engraved pattern visible on the bezel, caseband and lugs. The sides received extra decoration with coloured translucid enamel. Since the case is not a straight surface, the enamelling process is more difficult. Since both sides received this embellishment, it means that the case was fired several times. Multiple firings increase the risk of damaging the previous fired enamel. Enamelling is an art that has a high failure rate and showcases the experience of the artisans.

  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The translucid enamel reveals the superb engraving beneath with all the depths involved. The crown is manufactured in pink gold with engraved GP. Deep groves enhance the grip and offer a facil set and wind.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Haute Horlogerie and artisanal work for a breath-tacking result

The case of the Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition is just an introduction to the dial. Constructed with the principle of the three bridges, as a worthy successor of the original La Esmeralda pocket watch, the dial takes a step further and introduces an unusual take – the upper and lower bridge present horses as micro sculptures.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The upper bridge features a running horse on the right. The bridge received the Girard-Perregaux‘s distinctive ending with chamfered and polished edges. The mid-section was rounded and polished by hand. A chaton fixed with two screws (also finished by hand) holds the jewel for the main barrel. The rhodium-plated spring barrel was decorated with engravings and gilded details. The emotion of the active horse is well transmitted and I love the “frozen in time” silhouette.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The lower bridge presents an even more dramatic action with the horse depicted in a high-speed run. With the tail flapping in the wind, the engraving overflow with emotions of “wild, young and free”. This bridge is keeping the tourbillon via a jewel fixed in the same manner: a chaton hold in place by two polished screws. The tourbillon is constructed in a very traditional way with a lira-shaped cage. A thermally blued “hand” is used for the running seconds’ indication.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The steel lira was hand filed and polished. Blue screws hold the cage together. One can notice the acute angle present for the delight of the connoisseurs. The gold balance wheel is regulated with the help of gold timing screws – a lot of them. That means the chronometric precision is an important factor but also increase the time need to correct set every screw. The timming screws are crucial for the chronometric behaviour in various position.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The time is indicated by two large faceted douphine hands held by the central, largest bridge. The time is hoovering over a guilloché pattern, performed using a traditional rose-engine lathe. This final touch is a trasnlucent Grand Feu enamel that reveals the guilloché. The central opening reveal the main barrel, the gear train and the tourbillon with engraved background.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Combining state of the art technology with traditional watchmaking technics

The back of the watch reminds of the closed-back pocket watches. Back then, the movement was protected by a caseback used to express the wish of the collector: from personal heraldics, name or innitials to full artistic scenes. Girard-Perregaux brings that back in discussion with a hinged full metal caseback decorated with engraved horsed, guilloché and grand feu enamel. This is a piece of art necessitating several artisans working together.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The interior offers another large surface to express the skills of the artisans. In this case, the caseback shows several engraving technics, each with its own specific difficulties. Only this component alone is a piece of art.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Under this cover is visible the back of the Girard-Perregaux calibre GP09600-1506.
The elaborately formed mainplate is made using a CNC-machine and produced to infinitesimal tolerances unimaginable back in the 19th century. However, once milled, the mainplate is finished to the exacting standards befitting the term ‘Haute Horlogerie’. Instead of 45° bevelling, the mainplate is finnished with concave bevelling – this involves creating a curved recess between the surface and flank, catching light wonderfully and transitioning from one shade to another.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

The decoration of this movement are almost absurd (in the good way…). From the integration of the Girard-Perregaux bridge design to the carefull selection of what and how to embelish. Of course, the “bridges” are made in gold with an exceptional finish. The steel gear train received extra atention: skeletonisation, polishing, acute angles – remarkable details. The perlage and the waves (not Côtes de Genêve) are subtle and pleasent.

Côtes de Genêve

The details present on the movement powering La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” are breathtaking and fully justify the relatively high asking price. The combination of powerful computer aided design, ultra precise cutting machines and the skilfull hands of the Girard-Perregaux artisans created a wonder.

  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition
  • Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Colours to fit the personal preference

Girard-Perregaux offers the choice of several enamel colours that could adorn this masterpiece (green, light blue, red a.s.o.). So a more personal touch can be given. I think it is possible to have other shades as well, but the price tag will skyrocket for this special request. The colours are stunning and highlight the beauty of this rare piece.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

On the wrist and final words

Meeting the Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition was an experience that I would love to repeat as soon and as often as possible. A magnificent presence on the wrist. even if relative large, the weight of the complex heavy gold case is not a burden for the wrist. I would rather say it is a mather of personal taste and habit – I usually stop at 41 mm diameter, but I would make an exception every day for this one…

Girard-Perregaux really excelled with this wristwatch: exceptional execution of a daring idea. Paying a tribute to your history and heritage is always a beautiful gesture, but here, the manufacturer did a tour-de-force and depicted all the good stuff that its artisans are capable of.

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition Technical Specifications

References:

Functions

  • hours and minutes, small seconds on the tourbillon, tourbillon

Movement

  • Calibre Number: GP09600-1506
  • Mechanism: self-winding mechanical
  • Total Diameter : 32.00 mm (14 1/4”’)
  • Height: 7.68 mm
  • Frequency : 21,600 Vib/h – (3Hz)
  • Number of Parts: 323
  • Number of Jewels: 31
  • Oscillating weight: white gold micro-rotor
  • Power Reserve: min. 50h

Case & Dial

  • Case material: pink gold, engraved and enamelled
  • Diameter: 43 mm
  • Case-back: enamelled secret cover reveals a sapphire crystal
  • Dial: hand-guilloché, enamel with a sunray motif
  • Water resistance: 30 m

Strap

  • Strap material: alligator leather
  • Buckle: engraved pink gold triple folding buckle

Price

  • CHF 427’000 / 449’000 € / £346,000 / $447,000 / CN¥3,325,000 / HK$3,524,000 / ¥56,034,000

About Girard-Perregaux
Founded in 1791, Girard-Perregaux is one of the oldest fine watchmaking manufactures still in operation and is appreciated by those in the know. Indeed, the firm’s history is dotted with exceptional creations that skillfully blend aesthetics and functionality. These models include the iconic Laureato, born in 1975, as well as the legendary Tourbillon ‘With Three Gold Bridges,’ a watch that made the invisible visible, transforming bridges from just a technical element to an integral part of the timepiece – a first in watchmaking. Girard-Perregaux’s place at the vanguard of horological innovation is confirmed by over one hundred recorded patents together with numerous prizes and distinctions. It remains one of the few watchmakers to retain Manufacture status for over two centuries by mastering all the required horological skills in-house and making watches infused with a notable degree of authenticity. While Girard-Perregaux respects its heritage, it continues to look ahead, embracing new technologies, state of the art materials, and fresh takes on iconic shapes.
As of 2022, Girard-Perregaux and sister Maison Ulysse Nardin have formed an independent collective of high horology Manufactures.

https://www.girard-perregaux.com/

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