August 26, 2016
by David Bredan
There is something uniquely special about a nicely executed, simple chronograph. At a time, when everything has to be explained, scrutinized and analyzed, every once in a while, it just feels sweet to be able to lean back and enjoy the perks of a job done well. Once you cut the whole “’70s vintage-inspired” malarkey, that is what you end up having with the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph watch. Let us now explain, scrutinize, and analyze.
I do genuinely wonder, is there any serious watch lover out there, today, in mid-2016, who’d suddenly get uncomfortable in their trousers because an old brand re-released a vintage-inspired watch with a new case and size and movement? Sure, there are numerous highly desirable classics out there that would make a huge splash if they were faithfully re-done today with modern manufacturing technology… But the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale, as far as I know, is not based on any specific one of them. And that’s a good thing.
Just look at the trends of recent years: first, starting at the very dawn of the new millennium, there was the big watch craze, when a solid 10-15-year period of watches becoming ever larger and larger began. Then, more recently, we have been seeing vintage watch prices skyrocket to mind-bending levels, and with them, the release of, by now, innumerable vintage re-releases and vintage-inspired new-old watches from most major brands.
However, because the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale was not, to my understanding, designed as an accurate tribute to any one specific vintage chronograph by Girard-Perregaux, it could concentrate on being a nice, timeless-looking watch in the here and now, as opposed to trying to make very, ahem, anal-retentive fans of this or that particular vintage reference happy.
So. Sized at a highly immoral 42 millimeters wide, the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale was designed with those aforementioned big-watch trends in mind, keeping it on the wearable, but more up-to-date side of things. If you want a fantastic vintage-inspired (duh!) chronograph at 38 millimeters, you need not look further than the El Primero Original 1969 (reviewed here) anyway.
The Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale will be available as four different references, including white- or black-dialed versions, each available on either a stainless steel bracelet, as seen here, or on brown or black alligator straps, respectively. No gold-cased version has been released yet.
The case of the Competizione has in fact been inspired by GP chronographs of old – particularly the Club Italia – but, since it is so much larger and not designed to be a close tribute to anything specific, we need not sweat little historical details but can instead focus on enjoying this nicely balanced, perfectly round case and its long, gracefully curved lugs.
Speaking of lugs, they really are rather long, which makes the 42-millimeter case have more presence on the wrist. Aesthetically, they do work brilliantly, though, as they make the dial appear to be smaller, inching it towards a more traditional look, saving it from being yet another large, bold, sports chronograph.
Considering the design of the dial – more on that in a bit – the only thing that stands out a bit from the case design are the piston pushers of the chronograph, flanking the large, and in fact a bit sharp, GP-marked crown. I understand that it would have been a further diversion from original designs, but looking at the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph I tend to imagine how some more massive-looking screw-down pushers would have complemented the design…
Piston pushers are cool and all, but they are more of a safe bet as far as design choices go, often found on much more conservatively styled watches. It does not look out of place, and is very much down to personal preference, but I would have enjoyed seeing a more robust-looking set of screw-down pushers. It also arguably would have helped raise the rather shabby 30-meter water resistance rating to something more from the 21st century – even luxury chronographs, and especially on a bracelet, should sport a 100-meter rating, allowing one to not have to worry so much about water entering by the pushers or seals elsewhere.
We already mentioned the long, curved lugs, which do make the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph wear rather large when compared to some other 42-millimeter-sized watches – but 42 millimeters remains a relatively modest size, so everyone – even those with a wrist as small as mine at 6.75″ – should have no problem getting a comfortable fit. As any quality-made steel watch on a steel bracelet, there is considerable heft to the Competizione Stradale, an authentic match to the more classical design.
The bracelet is impressive in its simplicity: a three-link design with polished outer, and brushed inner links. When on the wrist, the outside of the links feels perfectly smooth to the touch, a most appreciated, sensible choice to go with the sportier case and dial design. While the larger surface on the outside and inside of the links are buttery smooth, the inner, shorter edges of the links (the sides which fall in between the links on the “underside” of the bracelet) are rather sharp. It is nothing irritating, let alone dangerous, but I wish every last angle and edge of the bracelet were as smooth as its larger surfaces.
What is irritating though is that when I took the bracelet off the Girard Perregaux Competizione Stradale, I had to find that for some hard-to-justify reason the holes in the lugs have been drilled to a spot so close to the case that it is literally impossible to fit a leather or NATO strap of any kind to it. The endlink’s design may have necessitated this, but then it would have been more than thoughtful from GP to add an extra hole inside the lugs that would have allowed for the fitting of a strap. This also means that the strap and bracelet options of the Competizione Stradale are not interchangeable.
The double-folding clasp is thin and is beautifully integrated into the bracelet itself – no protruding element to annoy you, the links merge seamlessly in the center, with a subtle, engraved GP logo and the two small pushers marking the location of the bracelet’s opening. No protruding clasp is a plus when desk diving, but is a minus for the lack of a micro adjust – you can operate with half-sized links to get the perfect fit and that’s it.
The crown has a threaded, screw-down design – a weird choice for a watch with a mere 30-meter WR rating. Fortunately, the crown is easy to unscrew and tighten, even when the watch is on the wrist – in case you realize the time needs to be adjusted after you have already put it on. The large crown with its fluted edge adds both a sportier, as well as a somewhat flashier look to this timeless chronograph – I quite like how it works with the classical, round case, and it makes we want those screw-down pushers even more.