April 28, 2020
by Ariel Adams
The demand for a particular luxury timepiece is often more closely connected to current brand or model popularity, than, say sheer quality or value. Today, I review a watch that is part of an underdog collection within a very popular category, namely “integrated bracelet sport lifestyle watches” (often in steel — though this is not a steel watch). It is dominated by models such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. One model family that is very much a modern and historic member of integrated bracelet sports lifestyle watches is Swiss Girard-Perregaux. Today on aBlogtoWatch, I check out a less-discussed member of this family: the Girard-Perregaux Laureato. This particular model is an exotic option, produced from titanium and 18k pink gold.
Girard-Perregaux originally debuted the Laureato collection in the 1970s, when this product category arguably first took form. Luxury watch brands wanted to produce timepieces that rich men could safely wear while doing a number of sporting activities, such as swimming, boating, etc. In many ways, the watches were pinnacles of mechanical timepiece-making in an era in which the quartz watch movement was about to take over. For a number of good (in addition to the trendy) reasons, watches like the Laureato — which are comfortable on the wrist, distinctive, and durable enough for light sport activities — have become very popular. To a large degree, watches like this are causal enough to go with today’s more popular casua-luxury lifestyle than yesterday’s more buttoned-up notion of luxury fashion (that was better suited to traditional dress watches).
Integrated bracelet sports watches like this now come at all price points, but luxury seekers wanting something with high visibility, but also practicality, really don’t seek anything under $10,000 in price point. With these prices come very well-finished cases and bracelets, as well as attractive and thin in-house-made automatic movements. They also tend to be best represented by authentic and historic watch specialist brands that specialize in applying the artisanship of yesterday into the wearables of today.
What allows so many watch enthusiasts to glance past Girard-Perregaux when discussing watches in the luxury sports lifestyle watch category is simply related the brand’s quiet period when it comes to marketing. Owned by the Kering Group (which also owns Ulysse Nardin and Gucci), Girard-Perregaux is currently without a dedicated leader (the brand currently shares a CEO with Ulysse Nardin – the capable Mr. Patrick Pruniaux) and has not really invested in too many new products or marketing lately. The brand isn’t going anywhere, and they still make watches, but a lack of real marketing volume allows them to be a sleeper. That doesn’t mean they don’t make some nice watches; and the brand is worth a close look for sure.
Put the Lauraeto on a table next to a Royal Oak or Nautilus, and the appeal becomes immediate. It isn’t that the Laureato is a better or worse design, but rather that it is a third flavor. It isn’t a Gerald Genta design, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still have a lot of beauty to it. The actually curvaceous case is contrasted with an eight-sided angular bezel, and the masculinity of the dial, in my opinion, makes a bigger statement than what Genta came up with. (He never liked what dials, apparently.) For more than enough people, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato flavor will be what they prefer between the great icons of this model category. There is room for many watches in this category, but what is important is for collectors to ensure they know what they are paying for.
aBlogtoWatch’s Zach Pina reviewed the all-steel version of this 42mm wide Girard-Perregaux Laureato watch in 2018. This, however, is the Laureato 42mm reference 81010-26-232-26A in titanium and 18k pink gold. The watch is designed to be light and rarefied in its combination of materials. It also expensive, costing double the price of the comparable watch in steel. I’m not here to comment on why the watch costs that much more, but you’ll certainly be among the few kids on the block who have one. So if you want rarity in an increasingly popular watch category area, get something in titanium and gold, as opposed to steel.
I do like that Girard-Perregaux was able to make a very lightweight watch that still uses traditional metal materials. That said, I do feel that for this price point, the brand should have been more generous with the gold. For instance, the center links in the bracelet are wrapped with gold, as opposed to being entirely gold links. Again, this probably was done to save weight, but I can’t help but feel that most consumers would actually have preferred that the links be entirely solid gold. Other gold elements on the watch include the bezel and the crown. Girard-Perregaux makes this same Laureato 42mm titanium and pink gold watch with a blue dial, as opposed to this gray-colored dial.
The Laureato dial is a favorite of mine, and it starts with the Clos du Paris pattern textured dial and bold applied hands and hour markers. I like the Nautilus face the least, but I also like the most modern Royal Oak dials where the hands and hour markers have been pleasantly modernized. I like how obvious it was that Girard-Perregaux made an entirely bespoke date wheel just for this watch and dial color.
Girard-Perregaux makes the Laureato in a number of sizes, 42mm-wide being the second largest (the biggest being 44mm, but not as a basic three-hander). The next step down is 38mm-wide. I actually feel the collection might benefit from a 40mm-wide version, as well. The 42mm is very wearable and comfortable, but I think some people might find it looks a bit oversized if worn mostly with short sleeves. Personally, I’ve been quite happy with the size and beefier proportions of this 42mm-wide case (water resistant to 50 meters). Remember that it wears large, given the wide lug structure. Over the dial of the watch is a typically excellent (in shape and AR-coating) for the GP brand, domed sapphire crystal. My only thought for Girard-Perregaux is to design a new crown that feels a bit less visually heavy. The crown is great for the fingers to operate, but it does look about 10% too large at times to my eyes.
Inside the watch is the in-house-made Girard-Perregaux caliber GP01800-0012 automatic movement. This is an old-school watch in looks but contemporary in operation, with a self-winding movement that operates at 4Hz (28,800 bpm) with 54 hours of power reserve. I must commend Girard-Perregaux on the nicely domed caseback that offers an especially lovely view of the movement though the sapphire crystal. The movement offers the time and date as the complications.
The watch bracelet is a bit more simple in design than your average Genta bracelet, but it is satisfying, nonetheless. Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato bracelet is timeless but slightly less distinctive than a Gerald Genta. That is OK because the overall package with the case and dial are easy to recognize as a Girard-Perregaux. The bracelet is light and comfortable, being mostly in titanium, with a discreet and unremarkable folding butterfly-style deployant clasp.
Compared to competition from the other Swiss luxury houses Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin (with the Overseas collection), Girard-Perregaux has the most affordable option — in steel. That makes it s a good choice for the value-conscious who want a quality timepiece in a “$10,000+ package.” To many people, the Laureato will be the best of them, but in a lot of ways that evaluation comes down to design preferences alone. Few can deny that today the Girard-Perregaux brand is well-known but not particularly in high demand. That isn’t a huge problem, though, as GP can get its mojo back by turning on the marketing tap once again. Until then, the Laureato can be the “other” major Swiss luxury lifestyle sports watch with an integrated bracelet. While it won’t have the same value appeal as the steel version, this titanium and 18 pink gold model has a lovely color palette, masculine looks, and is lightweight — a rarity that does have value to collectors seeking prestige over showing how trendy they can be. Price for the Girard Perregaux Laureato 42mm titanium and 18k pink gold reference 81010-26-232-26A is 23,700 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Girard-Perregaux website here.
>Model: Laureato 42mm titanium and 18k pink gold reference 81010-26-232-26A
>Price: 23,700 Swiss Francs
>Size: 42mm-wide, ~11mm-thick, ~50mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As one of the great traditional luxury sports lifestyle watches with an integrated bracelet, but with an uncommon and compelling combination of materials.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch collector interested in owning an underdog model in an otherwise popular segment, but who also has the money to show off just how distinctive they want to be.
>Best characteristic of watch: Wrist appeal and comfort is very high, as is quality and design of the dial. Case has elegant shape to it and movement is modern in its operation and very attractively decorated.
>Worst characteristic of watch: As a more quiet brand these days, Girard-Perregaux won’t have the marketing sway to attract as many customers as the Laureato deserves. Oddly high price premium for titanium metal and some 18k pink gold over the steel variant. Bracelet deployant clasp should be more original given watch’s price point.