SIHH 2019 saw exhibitor brand Girard-Perregaux release a surprisingly nice collection of new products mostly focused on the Laureato collection. These pieces mainly fall into the new Laureato Absolute collection — which, for the purposes of 2019, are black-coated titanium-cased with gradient black-to-blue-dials. It’s a somber color palette that ends up looking spirited and mysterious, thanks to overall clean looks, comfortable wearing experiences, and very legible dials. One of the best new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute watches is the Laureato Absolute Chronograph reference 81060-21-491-FH6A, which I discuss in this hands-on article.
Let me first defend the Laureato for a moment because I think it is a collection that gets an undeserved jab for being a Royal Oak copycat. That’s not really fair, especially given that the Laureato has been around for about as long as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. They both came around the same era in the early 1970s, and it was before the Royal Oak or any of these watches were even hot. Each of these timepieces was trying to be a high-end sports watch, and to be distinctive, there was an emphasis on shedding the typical purely round look of a case most common at the time. Watches with case and bracelets that had more angularity were popular for about a decade — and it’s not uncommon for some of them to look alike or share common design language. It’s one thing if Girard-Perregaux mimicks a popular watch by a competitor decades after its success, but I think, in the 1970s, it wasn’t clear how any of these timepieces would do, and it would have been impossible to predict the success of luxury sport-style watches in today’s wrist-watch market landscape.
If the Laureato reminds you of a Royal Oak, then so be it. If you can get over that, you have at your disposal a very competent and attractive men’s sports watch that will also cost you less than a Royal Oak. Perhaps that is a conversation best left for another time. Going back to the Laureato, Girard-Perregaux is understandably eager to tweak the range as much as possible in order to attract collectors and timepiece enthusiasts. What makes the Laureato Absolute Chronograph most novel is the case size, which is 44mm-wide. That adds to the existing Laureato cases sizes of 34mm, 38mm, and 42mm-wide.
Girard-Perregaux uses a new strap and dial, as well as the larger, black-coat titanium case for the Laureato Absolute Chronograph. The strap attaches in a new way, which, in my opinion, makes the watch very comfortable to wear. That was the first thing I noticed about the timepiece, in addition to how legible the dial is. You can thank the light-color lume paint on the otherwise black hands, and the matching hour markers, for this high level of contrast. The dial feels like the hands and markers almost float against the black and blue void of the watch face, itself.
Notice interesting dial details, such as the inset hour markers that give the watch a sort of “sandwich dial” look. The dial is otherwise devoid of extra elements, colors, and textures that would otherwise take away from its attractive purity and sense of utilitarian focus. This is really a black watch for the blue-watch era that we seem to live in today. Note that around the dial is a small blue ring under where the sapphire crystal is attached.
At 300 meters water-resistant, capped with an AR-coated sapphire crystal, the 44mm-wide case is on the thicker side at 14.6mm, but wears extremely comfortably. The titanium case construction also helps prevent the timepiece from feeling too heavy on the wrist. One of the interesting quirks about the Laureato Absolute is the branded strap which reads “Girard” on one end and “Perregaux” on the other. This caused at least a few people to compare the collection to Breitling (who has used branding similarly in the past). I actually feel that, while wearing this watch, the branded rubber strap would help give the watch personality — even if, from a strict minimalist standpoint, the branding isn’t necessary there. In a world where personalty not only helps to sell watches but also helps keep them on people’s wrists, I am not bothered in the least by the brand’s name on the strap. That said, if you otherwise love this watch, but can’t handle the strap, no doubt Girard-Perregaux can likely do something for you.
Inside the Laureato Absolute Chronograph is the existing in-house-made Girard-Perregaux caliber GP03300-1058 automatic chronograph movement. The movement offers the time, date, and 12-hour chronograph operating at 4Hz with 46 hours of power reserve. The movement — not visible through the caseback — is otherwise nicely finished, and has proved itself by being featured (very similar versions) in many other Girard-Perregaux timepieces, including other versions of the Laureato Chronograph (such as the 42mm-wide and 38mm-wide variants).
I have smaller wrists, and the beefy 44mm-wide Laureato Absolute Chronograph was very comfortable on my wrist. I don’t think people who are interested in smaller watches will feel that the more durable case and special colors of the larger Laureato Abosolute are worth it over the smaller 42mm- or 38mm-wide versions (in steel or gold, and not offered in a black color as a chronograph) if that is your thing. Likewise, I feel that people less interested in the traditional-looking Laureato watches might find new interest in the collection with the larger and sportier looking Laureato Absolute watches. So, this collection for Girard-Perregaux isn’t just about offering something new, but I think it gives a whole pool of people who wouldn’t otherwise be Laureato customers have a reason to discover the timepiece family. Price for the reference 81060-21-491-FH6A Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Chronograph is 12,900 Swiss Francs. Visit girard-perregaux.com for more information.