July 17, 2013
by David Bredan
Girard-Perregaux is a manufacture with an expansive and respectable history that spans 222 years and counting. The Tourbillon Bi-Axial Tantalum and Sapphire Limited Edition watch is a beautiful addition to the Tourbillon Bi-Axial collection, which in our opinion is one of the most interesting and under-appreciated highly complex watch. This one comes in a solid tantalum case with dial bridges in black sapphire. To some it is boring, to others it is sci-fi. Our Editor-in-Chief Ariel Adams puts one on the wrist, so let’s check it out.
The centerpiece of this watch is of course the bi-Axial tourbillon, a complication any brand would be proud to claim as their own. The manufacture released this proprietary movement in 2008 at the time as a 33 pieces limited edition in a pink gold case, followed by another 33 pieces in white gold in 2010 and 8 pieces in DLC titanium in late 2012. The 12 pieces now announced in Tantalum and Sapphire are the fourth addition to this micro-collection. In order to create the immensely complex Bi-Axial tourbillon they worked closely with Complitime (a company founded by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey), specialized in catering to watch making companies able to dream to big, but unwilling or unable to invest millions of dollars in know-how and equipment to create what they have in mind. This unique co-operation came to fruition in the shape of the GPE0201 manual-winding movement. Needless to say, it is not your ordinary off the shelf manual-winder: its tourbillon consists of 113 components and weighs in at a remarkable 0.80 grams! That is 0.007 grams per component – an important note for you if you really want to impress your friends after paying close to half a million for one of these. There are two cages, one external and one internal, both spinning on the two separate axes of rotation at different speeds. That means that the inner cage makes a full rotation in only 45 seconds (at a pace faster than the traditional 1-minute tourbillons it is a fairly unique sight in its own right), while for the external cage, it takes 1 minute and 15 seconds to complete one cycle. As a result, the amount of different positions for the balance wheel to be in is immense: it returns to the same position only every 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This is about as close as you can get to averaging out the rate errors caused by the effects of gravity – without adding even more axes or a differential, that is.
In terms of aesthetics this new Limited Edition is a fresh, modern take on the very traditional first two editions and is a proper evolution to the third model in DLC titanium. This time, the 45mm case is made from tantalum, a metal usually used in the chemical, electronic and aerospace industries because of its durable, malleable and corrosion-resistant properties. While the special configuration of the bridges is the same for all four editions of Bi-Axial watches, now however there is something different to them: on all three previous models they were crafted either from pink or white gold, but now they are cut from sapphire. Creating complex shaped elements from sapphire is very difficult and hence it is a speciality only seen from the top manufactures. Furthermore, the bridges now have ‘a metallic black finish that accentuates their volume for a striking visual effect’: a little treat from GP that highlights their expertise when it comes to working with modern materials.