Girard-Perregaux Manufacture tour, Logo change and the vision for the future – Part 1

Part 1: Rue des Crêtets, the production site for the brand's core collection

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The watchmaker assembly a prototype for testing
Reading Time: 11 minutes

On Thursday, 7th of November, I was invited by Girard-Perregaux to visit their freshly refurbished manufacture. The tour was organised on three different brand’s sites: the manufacture at Rue des Crêtets, the Haute-Horlogerie Department at Rue Numa-Droz and, the final destination of the tour, the Girard-Perregaux villa. I will not be able to explain all the things that I saw but I hope it will offer you a glimpse of how things are done at the La Chaux-de-Fonds brand. The article will contain, in the end, some words about the new logo, the vision and the future of Girard-Perregaux. Image and video-heavy article.

Girard-Perregaux: factory tour
Movement in the assembly phase

Before going into more details, I invite you to have a look at the Girard-Perregaux history on their official Heritage & Duty webpage. A short crush introduction of this article can be seen in this 2017 official video below (available from the same webpage).

The joint manufacture at Rue des Crêtets

The manufacture tour started on the location at Rue des Crêtets. There, Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin share production spaces and lines. During the production, the spaces are well delimited between the brands. The same policy applies to the management and marketing departments, well defined and separated.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A meeting room that serves both brands. As some might have already noticed, the Girard-Perregaux new logo is used.

At the location, I was welcomed by Anna Lundstrom CMO of the Girard-Perregaux (communication and marketing) and Olivia Klay. The Rue des Crêtets serves as the production site for the brand’s core collection.

Where all starts

The first step in the creation of a new watch is the computer design. After the model is digitally created, simulated and tested, a prototype is manufactured. This one is tested in real-life situations but also in advance conditions. Only after a full working and reliable model is achieved, the new piece goes into production.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The first visited was the Development Department: movements, cases, digital simulation and process and aspects related to the development
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The Development Department takes care also of the testing the characteristics of the new products, as part of the development process
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The watchmaker assemble a prototype for testing
 Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The testing facility is used during development but can support the production department, also help in case of issues during the production
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A testing bench: a movement is tested by accelerating wear and ageing
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The testing assemble
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Testing routine and measurements are digitally programmed and measured – a high precision can be achieved
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Another view of the testing apparatus

The R&D development team makes not only the digital design of new movements and cases. The production’s process is part of the R&D. Several tests are done to ensure the best quality in the new products: mechanical, thermal and even X-rays. The new materials for cases and movements are part of the investigations fulfilled by the R&D.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Machines used to manufacture small components

Gears and small parts

An entire room of the facility takes care of the production of small components – like the gears. In a room full of special machines, the gears and other round components are cut from metal roads. The raw pieces are then finished under the microscope.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Pins – working with this kind of components requires attention. Imagine spiling the box all over the place, the batch becomes unusable.
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Milling and CNC machines used to manufacture gears
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
In production: various gears in different production phases and finishes
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
All the components are rigorously verified to ensure the best quality
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A semi-automatic machine used to cut gear’s teeth
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The part specifications on display
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The operator feeds the machine and checks the final part for conformity

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Various gear types
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Various gear types

When machines need human expertise

In the high-quality production, the final touch to a component is done by an experimented human hand. For example, these pins are machined produced and then rectified and checked by an expert.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Rectifying machine
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A closer look at the machine
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Raw components
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A closer look at the machine

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Raw component under the microscope
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Finished component under the microscope

Milling and CNC machines save a lot of time and produce high-quality components:

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Requirements, specifications and parts in different manufacturing stages
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Main plates waiting to be milled from their manufacturing plate
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A modern computerised milling machine – CNC
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Some CNCs need a human operator for feeding and quality control

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Another view of the CNC
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Milled parts
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Inspection of the milled main plate
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Another example of CNC usage: The bridges are milled to a micrometric precise height.
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
CNC machine
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Another type of milling machine
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A multi-head milling/drilling machine
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A set of drilling and milling heads
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
An entire team of engineers create and improves the software controlling all the manufacturing machines and CNCs.

Checks & finishes before the final assembly

After the basic components are made, several operations must be fulfilled before going to be assembled. Some components need to receive and extra finishing step. Other need to be verified against the rigorous specifications.

Checking the milled parts:

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The components produced by milling are checked using an optical model and human experience.

Hand polishing for components:

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Hand polishing is part of the manufacturing process

Spring tests:

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Checking balance springs using the computer
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The spring tester

Balance wheel preparation:

https://youtu.be/kuN9uflIVZg
Machine used to mount and test balance wheel counterweights
https://youtu.be/kuN9uflIVZg
Balance wheel without counterweights
https://youtu.be/kuN9uflIVZg
The weights mounting is a semi-automated process saving a lot of time
https://youtu.be/kuN9uflIVZg
The balance weights are regulated using a precise computerised tool
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Operating the machine requires a lot of patience and agile hands not to bent or damage the balance wheel

Perlage: for some components, the perlage is realised using a specialised computerised machine. After decoration steps, all components go to electroplating (usually rhodium plating).

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Mainplates before and after perlage

Automated processes

Some of the processes can be done fully automatic, like mounting the jewels in their sink. For that, a robot arm is used. This takes the jewels from a tray and precisely fit and press the jewels with micrometric precision.

 

Assembly line for movements and complete watches

The Girard-Perregaux assembly line is ultra-modern and combines the commodity of the machines with the knowledge and experience of the employees. The assembly lines use a robotic machine on which the movements are feed. The movements travel between the assembly stations and each watchmaker is doing its own steps. The movements that passed all the stations go further for hands mounting and encasing. Before being finally put in a case, all the movements are tested by a complex robot.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Final assembly room
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The movements are placed into the holders and feed to the assembly line
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Feeding tower for the assembly line
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Assembly line
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A loaded assembly line: the movements are divided between the working stations
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Each watchmaker receives the movements that are dedicated to its station for certain objective

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Assembly operation is done by experienced watchmakers
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
After each step, the watchmakers feeds back to the movement to the assembly and it is moved forward to the next watchmaker/assembly. In this case, mounting the main bridge.
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Movement assembly

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Movement assembly is a delicate operation that needs a clean and dried environment
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Between the assembly steps, the watchmakers test the function to observe that everything is OK.
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Mounting the bridges requires several mini screws

Testing the movements is a process that requires a lot of time. This time can be shortened by using a specialised robot that can test the movement using precise sensors. The chronometry is, in this way, fully automatic tested.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The biggest and scary winder I have met

The hands of time the watch

One of the final operation done for a watch is attaching the hands. This are manually inserted. Some of the hands need to be manually bent to follow the top crystal curvature. The watchmaker does this operation with exceptional precision gained in the years of experience. The hands’ movement is tested between each step.

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
An almost complete watch – the 1966 Collection with calibre GP03300-0030
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Chrono-hand placement on a Laureato Chrono
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Hands mounting on Laureato
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Between the steps, the watch functionality is tested
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Bending by hand the chronograph seconds’ hand

Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The final inspection before casing
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The final step is to mount the calibre into the case
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Before closing the case, the watch is checked for dust particles
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Preparing the top crystal
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
A fully assembled Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
The final check
Girard-Perregaux: manufacture tour
Completed watches

 

The Haute Horlogerie Department will be presented in the second part of the article.

 

Girard-Perregaux Manufacture: Rue des Crêtets visit Gallery

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