Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement crowns twenty years of Constant Escapement development with the brand’s Neo implementation of GP’s signature Bridges in an open design destined to forever wonder. The watch not only shines from a mechanical point of view but also amazes it with a revealing, well-finished open design.
Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement has a familiar feel due to all the brand’s recognisable elements: the legendary bridges in the modern Neo implementation, the dial with the specific elements of the Bridges Collection. Any GP fan will recognise the architecture and design language started in the 19th century.
A large case wearing small
The Neo Bridges comes in a 45 mm grade 5 titanium. Although the dimensions are quite large, to accommodate the constant escapement complication, the case wears smaller as expected due to some construction tricks – the sides of the intricately formed case taper inwards, both towards the sapphire crystal ‘box’ as well as near the sapphire caseback and the lugs which curve sharply downwards.
The case is adorned with a brushing that extends up to the end of the lugs. Even the caseback engraved with the name of the brand and the serial number suffered the same brushing treatment. The exception is the front of the watch, where the bezel and the front of the lugs were polished. The crown has a robust construction, allowing a facile set and winding. The crown is decorated with the GP logo in negative etching.
Due to the lightness of the titanium and the clever architecture, my wrist easily accommodated the large timepiece. It ears like bliss, unexpectedly well – as always, a sign that a watch must be tried on before having a look at the numbers on paper.
A revealing open dial
As mentioned previously, the Neo Constant Escapement presents a series of elements already well-known in the Girard-Perregaux watches. Under the large box crystal lies the entire beauty of the calibre GP09200 and its silicium blade.
The time-telling is assured by a circular rail track positioned on the flange with printed white indexes and applied three-dimensional indexes with a SuperLuminova insert. Two large dauphine-style hands with an open design and a generous SuperLuminova surface indicate the minutes and the hours, while the central seconds use a long hand with a blue lacquer tip and counter-balance in a “bridges” design.
The left side of the dial shows a linear implementation of the impressive 7-day power reserve obtained through the large symmetrical two-barrel design and regulated by the impressive constant force escapement with a silicium blade.
The Neo Constant Escapement employs an ultra-modern approach to achieving constant force. The movement on this watch uses an ingenious silicium blade that ensures the amplitude of the balance remains uniform irrespective of the amount of energy stored within the barrel.
The Neo Constant Escapement features a ‘fifth wheel’ connected to the gear train. The fifth wheel transfers energy to two escape wheels, each fitted with three teeth, matching the frequency of the movement (3Hz). Energy is received from the escape wheels alternatively ie not simultaneously. Thereafter, the energy is sent via a rocking lever to the buckling silicium blade.
The Constant Escapement exploits the ‘elastic and bi-stable’ properties of the buckling silicium blade. Six times thinner than a human hair, the blade engages with a lever that serves an impulse to the balance wheel. This precisely choreographed performance features 20 sequences per oscillation. It’s a highly inventive arrangement that delivers constant force and ensures the amplitude always remains consistent. The symmetrical shape of the blade and the positioning of the escape wheels either side of the balance wheel ensure the forces act upon the centre of the regulating organ to bestow a smooth rotational motion, free of any impediment.
The silicium blade – the manufacturing process
The making of the silicium blade takes place in a laboratory setting. A large silicium crystal is cut into very thin discs, termed ‘wafers’. A technique called ‘photolithography’ is used to impart geometric shapes onto the wafers.
- The silicium wafer is bonded to a silicium support courtesy of an oxidation layer. The depth limit of the material can be ascertained during the subsequent etching phase.
- Whilst rotating the wafer at high-speed, a liquid polymer, called ‘photoresist’, is applied to the surface. The centrifugal action caused by rotating the wafer displaces surplus liquid leaving a smooth, thin and uniform layer of the resin material.
- A mask, formed in the shape of the escapement spring, similar to a stencil, is positioned on top of the wafer and then everything is subjected to an intense treatment of UV-light. A chemical reaction then takes place and, thereafter, a special solution is used to remove any residues of the photoresist.
- After it is cleaned, the surface of the wafer reveals a series of escapement springs. These are cut from the wafer using an etching process called DRIE (Deep Reactive Ion Etching). The technique, effectively 3D printing in reverse, removes the silicium and resin, micro-layer by micro-layer, until it reaches the aforementioned oxidation layer.
- The silicium support and oxidation layer are removed using a ‘stripping’ process. Thereafter, the wafer is subjected to thermal treatment, a step that creates an oxidation layer onto the silicium components. This improves the component’s mechanical resistance and endows it with a specific colour, in this instance, the hue appears to transition from blue to purple. Each escapement spring, with its buckling blade positioned centre stage, is carefully detached by hand from the wafer.
- The resultant escapement spring is 120 microns thick, while the blade is a mere 14 microns wide. By comparison, a human hair is typically 50 – 90 microns in thickness.
- When making conventional hairsprings, it is possible to fit 500 pieces on a single wafer. With the Constant Escapement, a wafer can only accommodate 30 escapement springs, heightening productions costs.
Beauty in every detail
Girard-Perregaux Calibre GP09200 is a fantastic and complete spectacle. Besides the ingenious construction of the constant force complication, the movement also received exceptional decorations. The symmetrical design can be followed on the watchmaker’s side (from of the watch, the dial) but also on the back. The Neo Bridges can be observed on both sides of the constant escapement complication and feature a combination of matt finishes with hand-executed polished edges.
The silver-toned gear train makes a strong contrast with the black PVD and anthracite NAC components. Contrast only enriched by the colourful jewels and the silicium blade. As an architectural detail, the design of the Calibre GP09200 was thought and executed to follow the roundness profile of the silicium blade. So, instead of having those acute angles and sharp edges that are so loved by the purists, the view of the movement is more organic, almost floral. And, I would rather say, a lovely change in style from tradition…
Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement follow the success of the Constant Escapement L.M. that won the ‘Aiguille D’Or’ at the GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève) in 2013. But GP not just reiterated an unusual piece: added 13 new patents to the movement with a simplified construction to 266 components (instead of 280), moved the time display to a central position, and manufactured a timepiece that is easily wearable and enjoyable as a daily watch.
Girard-Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement Technical Specifications
Reference 93510-21-1930-5CX – GBP 84’700 /CHF 95’000 / USD 99’600 / EUR 105’000
- Reference: GP09200-1153
- Hand-wound mechanical movement
- COSC-certified Chronometer
- Diameter: 39.50 mm (171/2’’’)
- Height: 7.40 mm
- Frequency: 21,600 Vib/h – (3 Hz)
- Number of components: 266
- Number of jewels: 29
- Power reserve: min. 7 days
- Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, power reserve indicator
- Material: titanium
- Diameter: 45.00 mm
- Height: 14.80 mm
- Glass: sapphire anti-reflective ‘box’
- Case-back: sapphire crystal
- Dial: ring displaying suspended indexes with luminescent material (blue emission)
- Hands: skeletonized, rhodium-plated, ’dauphine’ type with luminescent material (blue emission)
- Water resistance: 30 meters (3 ATM)
- Material: black rubber strap with fabric effect
- Buckle: titanium triple folding buckle with micro-adjustment system
Since 1791, Girard-Perregaux has been embracing the rhythm of ever-elusive time. Cradled in the Jura mountains in the heart of La Chaux-de-Fonds, it is a pioneer in the world of Haute Horlogerie: an independent Manufacture which has retained this status for over two centuries, successfully keeping all production in-house and passing down exceptional horological skills throughout the generations. The preservation of this savoir-faire, along with a sincere passion for beauty and for the art itself, has remained the key to Girard-Perregaux’s ability to continuously innovate. Always seeking the perfect balance of beauty and functionality, fans of fine watchmaking will instantly recognise the house signatures, such as the iconic octagonal bezel of the Laureato and the legendary Tourbillon with ‘Three Gold Bridges’. From seeking to create industry references in timepieces to making the invisible visible through the art of precision engineering, Girard-Perregaux never ceases to change the course of time via pieces that are the first of their kind. This place at the vanguard of horological innovation is solidified by over one hundred recorded patents for original designs, like the movement of three arrow-shaped bridges, registered in the USA in 1884, as well as prizes like the ’Aiguille d’Or’ in 2013 and distinctions like the Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889. Rooted in its heritage, Girard-Perregaux is driven by the instinct to always look ahead, embracing new technologies, utilising state-of-the-art materials, and finding inventive ways to bring joy by reimagining iconic shapes. To this end, Girard-Perregaux has remained a human-sized Manufacture, and in 2022 became part of an independent collective of Haute Horlogerie Manufactures alongside sister Maison Ulysse Nardin.