Girard-Perregaux Vintage Pocket Watches Hands-On

Girard-Perregaux Vintage Pocket Watches Hands-On

According to Girard-Perregaux, the brand's beginnings started in the late 18th century. I believe the Girard-Perregaux name began being used during the 19th century. Clearly one of the older watch brands, Girard-Perregaux has an interesting history and collection of vintage pieces with its name on them.

In New York recently, I sat down with Girard-Perregaux to see some watches I had not yet been able to get my hands on. Though I soon learned these were vintage pieces. While I am intrinsically more interested in new things, I felt that the unique beauty and craftsmanship of these Girard-Perregaux pocket watches merited some discussion - and pictures.

We will not go into much detail in regard to these specific pieces too much. I more wanted to offer a visual glimpse of what "used to be" when it came to high-end watches. One thing you'll notice is how each of these pocket watches includes copious amounts of hand-decoration (aside of course from the movements). This comes in the form of engraving, stone-setting, painting, and inlaying. The good news is that work like this can be found today, but not in exactly the same form. I do wish that some of the brands would from time to time create brand new piece unique models that feature more historic decoration techniques and styles.

The most important piece in the collection for Girard-Perregaux is the gold pocket watch with a three gold bridge movement. This now iconic look of higher-end Girard-Perregaux movements is an aesthetic borrowed from their own history - and pieces like this prove it. The movement is gorgeous, and you'd never know it by merely looking at the dial.

My favorite pocket watch came in the form of a tiny golden book. This masterful and creative stylized pocket watch opened up to reveal a hand-painted portrait of a woman (clearly royalty), which also doubled as access to wind the watch. A flap opened up on the "cover" of the book to reveal the small watch dial. In the pictures it is hard to appreciate how small this book-style pocket watch actually is. It is small enough to be worn as a pendant. I wonder if a work like this was specially commissioned, or if Girard-Perregaux came up with the designs themselves and shopped it around to interested parties.

Other pocket watches include one with a 24 hour dial (which is quite humorous to see in Roman numerals), and those with two timezones on the dial. One thing I really appreciate about each of these pocket watches is that no matter how decorated and fanciful they may be, they still take into great importance legibility and utility. Brands like Girard-Perregaux and others like it invest heavily in their own histories by finding old watches and restoring them. Girard-Perregaux like many other brands also has a museum near their manufacture dedicated to preserving and displaying these works. If you are in La Chaux-de-Fonds (and the surrounding area) with nothing but watch lust in your heart, I recommend you check it and other museums out.

  • Kris C

    I’ve never really had much of an interest in pocket watches, they just aren’t my thing. They are quite lovely though, in a fancy-boy kind of way. I’d be happy to put them on display, but that would be about it.
    That 3-bridge movement really is amazing. Those must be some of the juiciest jewels I’ve seen in a movement at the centre of each bridge.

  • vmarks

    A product like this is really about a few things: preservation of a company’s history, honor and respect for great craftsmanship, and the thing which attracts us to mechanical watch-works in the first place – the ingenuity that goes into making an intricate piece of machinery accomplish a task beautifully. It’s in line with the same reason watchmakers used to make automatons. 
    Preservation of company history is so important. Even in a short period like 4 decades so much information can be lost, especially as a company changes owners (not talking about G-P here) – whole company archives can just vanish if great care isn’t taken to preserve records, documentation and past products.

  • MarkCarson

    Speaking of the 24 hour roman numeral dial, notice that ‘4’ is ‘IIII’ yet 14 and 24 all use the “IV” form for the low order digit. Once again, ‘IIII’ is an oddity for representing the number 4 on watches and clocks. And while traditional at this point, still ‘wrong’ in my eyes, ha ha.


    They’re gorgeous – I think the pocket watch should be revived as a fashion accessory

  • DougCarnahan

    I was really hoping for a video at the bottom of all of that.

  • raduk_o

    Well , well… I buy old vintage watches for basic restoration , I am not a watchmaker and i am not quite qualified to get into a really rare vintage old pieces like Girard Perregaux , Lets say that is a hobby for me. Anyway , I’m posting here due to i came across to one of this wonderful timepieces ( this 24 hour dial and movement one … ) and trying to do some research on it after a month conclude that the only other one in existence is in the Girard Perregaux museum , ( im not so naive in thinking that is the only two in existence… but at least documented …) So , the thing is that due I’m not even near to be able to restore it to it’s working condition, I want to sell it to someone who can. If there are here someone interested , please let me know , and I can send pics. the watch is complete, but not working . No Glass and the dial is not in great condition.