I was born in the digital age. My passion for gadgets began with electronics and precision made modern tools. Newer was always better, and something old had merely nostalgic value. I am not one who is particularly interested in taking pictures with vintage cameras or driving classic cars (though I can greatly appreciate them visually). I like state-of-the-art and fresh. Tantalize me with innovation and novelty. At the same time I thrive in the watch world where tradition and classic techniques are often valued more than novel design or technology. How does all this affect my taste and appreciation for watches like this 1966 Chronograph? That is a good question.
Girard-Perregaux is a solid name in high-end watch making. They produce their own movements in Switzerland that are even used as base movements for other brands (even MB&F). Their movements are pretty spot on, but what does that mean in a world where it takes a nice movement and nice design to sell an expensive watch? Girard-Perregaux (in the US at least) is a bit of a collector’s secret or underdog watch maker. The brand is working hard to assert itself in the world of fashion, style, etc… but it is not always easy. Why? Well because for years they were a watch lover’s watch brand. Playing more mainstream requires a different way of thinking. The straight-forward purist mentality of selling good watches isn’t enough anymore. Which is sort of a shame because we are then subjected to a load of lifestyle marketing – but that is another conversation.
Girard-Perregaux makes a good watch. Details are taken into consideration carefully, and everything from comfort to legibility is often without issue. What I like about them is that when you buy the watch – assuming it fits your personality and size – you can be more or less sure they considered enough details to make you feel that a higher-power in Switzerland approved the watch before it was even meant to be put on a customer’s wrist. I can’t say that with all brands (which means you need to investigate each of their pieces carefully as designs can vary). With GP, you get a decent experience for your purchase price – and that is a lot to say.
Girard-Perregaux watches are however very conservative in their design. If you love traditional restrained looks you’ll love them. If you are looking for edgy avant-garde design, then they offer a bit less. That isn’t to say they don’t offer some wild stuff, but their primary focus has been on fluid, non disruptive design. Lovers of classic design are looking for precisely that. This 1966 Chronograph is a perfect example. What you see before you is the 2012 version of the Girard-Perregaux 1966 Chronograph in a 42mm wide case. This is 2mm up from the other 1966 Chronograph. Let me first discuss the differences between the two models.
The original 1966 Chronograph is 40mm wide with baton style hour markers. It also has a subsidary seconds dial on the right of the face, while the larger 42mm wide version has the subsidiary seconds dial on the left of the case. Don’t ask why, as I am not sure. The 42mm wide model also features Arabic numeral hour indicators. Most people will choose one or the other because of the size. Personally, 40mm is too small. I am not saying that it’s TOO small for a watch, just too small for my tastes. While 2 extra millimeters might not seem like a lot, it adds enough to the case to make it look happier on my wrist.
In fact, I found myself appreciating classic looking watches a lot more when new versions started to come out in not-so-classic sizes. Vintage “dressy” watches are sized from about 34mm -38mm wide. Today that looks petite or feminine, and I never found myself appreciating them for their overall design. Apply a similar design to a more modern masculine size and I start to pay much more attention. Girard-Perregaux was correct to offer a larger size option of the 1966 Chronograph in my opinion, offering more people an opportunity to appreciate the design.
While the 1966 Chronograph looks like a dressy or formal watch by today’s standards, it is actually a sport watch at heart. The dial is imbued with a tachymeter scale for measuring the speed of objects, and a chronograph is traditionally not a complication you’d need at a black-tie dinner. Though it might be useful during meetings. In today’s world this is a much classier timepiece in design. Perhaps because modern sport watches look so much different. Girard-Perregaux of course dressed up the 1966 collection to make them more luxurious. You have an 18k pink gold case, and a chic looking thin alligator strap. All that is nice, but you should understand the origins of the design as a tool watch.
The dial represents a quality design that is a few generations old. Features like the blued steel hands are not just for color, but are there to help separate the chronograph hands from the main hour and minute hands… though the added blue color is nice. The slick looking dial is highly refined with nicely recessed chronograph subdials and a beveled date window. The print is immaculate and the applied 18k pink gold hour indicators with a brushed finish are perfect in their execution. Note that the brushed finishing for the hour indicators is far superior to say a polished finish when it comes to legibility. Overall it is a well-done dial rendered using lessons that the watch industry learned a long time ago (certainly prior to 1966). What Girard-Perregaux is doing is ensuring they are well-emulated in this historic looking design, and they do it well.
The relatively thin case sits nicely on the wrist, and I like the polished bezel that appears very elegant. The rear of the watch has a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback window with a view of the movement. Inside the watch is the in-house made Girard-Perregaux caliber 3300-0057 automatic chronograph movement. I am really happy it is an automatic as I prefer them to manually wound movements. The movement has a power reserve of 46 hours and operates at 28,000 bph. The automatic rotor is done in 18k pink gold. The movement finishing is very attractive, and you can see under the decoration that this caliber was designed to be a reliable work horse versus fancy looking showpiece movement.
Little details such as a case-fitted thin black alligator strap finish off the watch. Thin, form-fitting alligator straps are not only good looking, but incredibly comfortable and secure watches to your wrist nicely. There is little to complain about in a watch like this. I could ask for lume, or more than the 30 meters of water resistance, but then again Girard-Perregaux doesn’t tout this as a sport or diver’s watch. For that you can look at something like this version of the Girard-Perregaux ww.tc (reviewed here). The 1966 Chronograph 42mm is a handsome and very capable watch. Those looking to add a classic looking chronograph of a high-pedigree to their collection won’t be disappointed. Price is $30,900.