With each passing year, the Lunar New Year season becomes more important to the watch industry as a whole. While limited-edition models themed around the classical Chinese zodiac remain the core of this early-year release season, brands have begun to use this time of year to debut broader collections, as well. Girard-Perregaux has seized on this opportunity for 2023, debuting both a standard production model and a limited-edition variant in its high-impact Laureato Absolute Light collection with an aesthetic appeal that stretches far beyond the confines of the Lunar New Year festivities. The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the limited-edition Laureato Absolute Light & Fire add rich, deep color to the transparent spectacle of the Laureato Absolute Light series, delivering its most striking clear-cased references to date with a look that sheds the usual thematic trappings of Lunar New Year releases.

Both the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the Laureato Absolute Light & Fire measure in at 44mm-wide and 11.56mm-thick, overall. Both variants also maintain the sleek, angular silhouette of the standard Laureato Absolute, with stylistic hallmarks like the Laureato’s distinctive octagonal bezel and sharply tapering case side chamfers rendered in dramatic clear material (calling this a true integrated bracelet design is a matter for debate, however, as the integrated lug assembly is crafted separately from black PVD-coated titanium). From here, however, the Absolute Light & Shade and the Absolute Light & Fire diverge starkly.

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The Absolute Light & Fire is by far the bolder of the pair in initial images, with a deep, heavily saturated crimson tone made possible by its proprietary YAG case material. Developed by Girard-Perregaux specifically for this design, YAG is a new polycrystalline material with broadly similar material properties to sapphire, but with the capability to hold darker, more richly saturated colors. This gives the Absolute Light & Fire its only real visual tie to the Lunar New Year celebration, as well, as deep red has associations with joy and prosperity in Chinese culture and is especially tied to the Lunar New Year. However, unlike many commemorative designs launched surrounding the holiday, there’s nothing explicitly tied to the new Year of the Rabbit or broader Chinese culture here, which should help it to find a broader enthusiast base. By contrast, the regular production Laureato Absolute Light & Shade is a subtler, more reserved affair, with a main case body in metalized sapphire in a smoky medium gray shade. While this does mute some of the visual spectacle of the clear sapphire case in images, this may well be an excellent compromise between drama and wearability on the wrist. Both variants are fitted with sapphire display casebacks and offer an underwhelming 30 meters of water resistance.

While Girard-Perregaux may offer markedly different cases for the Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the Laureato Absolute Light & Fire, the skeleton dial designs for the two models are nearly identical in images. Both models share the same set of sweeping, open skeleton bridges, with flowing curves that taper outward towards the bezel. There’s an impressive thoughtfulness and attention to detail in this layout in photos, with brightly polished anglage that contrasts dramatically against the radially brushed upper bridge surfaces in initial images. All of this naturally draws the eye towards the dial’s triune focal points. First is the 12 o’clock balance wheel, featuring a minimal arcing balance bridge across a ring-shaped aperture that gives a nearly unimpeded view of this oscillating component at work. Likewise, the 5 o’clock mainspring barrel is naturally framed by the surrounding bridges and features a signed openworked layout that allows it to function as an ersatz power reserve indicator. Most importantly, however, the convergence of the skeleton bridges points back toward the central handset. Girard-Perregaux does help these blunted, skeletonized alpha hands to stand out against the skeleton backdrop by virtue of their lighter-hued material, but the overall design still suffers many common skeleton dial legibility pitfalls in photos. This is also the only visual departure between the two models’ dials, as the Absolute Light & Fire adds a bright red lume fill to the handset. The outer chapter ring also deserves special mention, as this component is deceptively complex. This scalloped form rises and dips at five-minute intervals, forming polished peaks at each hour marker before receding into curving brushed troughs. It’s a visually dramatic (if difficult to read at a glance) way to incorporate an hours scale into the overall visual theme, and one that should react dynamically to changing light angles on the wrist.

Girard-Perregaux pairs both the Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the Absolute Light & Fire with its in-house GP01800-1143 automatic skeleton movement. Aesthetically, the rear view of the GP01800-1143 largely continues in the style of the skeleton dial, with the addition of a sinuously curving signed skeleton rotor. Performance-wise, this movement is solid if unspectacular, with a 54-hour power reserve at a 28,800 bph beat rate. Both variants are fitted with an integrated fabric-effect strap in black rubber.

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Although the watch industry’s annual swath of Lunar New Year releases may be in full swing, Girard-Perregaux transcends the clichés of the season to deliver a pair of genuinely charismatic transparent designs with the Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the limited-edition Laureato Absolute Light & Fire. Only 18 examples of the Laureato Absolute Light & Fire will be made, and both watches will be available through authorized dealers in April 2023. MSRP for both the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Light & Shade and the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Light & Fire stands at $99,600 USD as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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