According to Girard-Perregaux, the brand’s beginnings started in the late 18th century. I believe the Girard-Perregaux name began being used during the 19th century. Clearly one of the older watch brands, Girard-Perregaux has an interesting history and collection of vintage pieces with its name on them.
In New York recently, I sat down with Girard-Perregaux to see some watches I had not yet been able to get my hands on. Though I soon learned these were vintage pieces. While I am intrinsically more interested in new things, I felt that the unique beauty and craftsmanship of these Girard-Perregaux pocket watches merited some discussion – and pictures.
We will not go into much detail in regard to these specific pieces too much. I more wanted to offer a visual glimpse of what “used to be” when it came to high-end watches. One thing you’ll notice is how each of these pocket watches includes copious amounts of hand-decoration (aside of course from the movements). This comes in the form of engraving, stone-setting, painting, and inlaying. The good news is that work like this can be found today, but not in exactly the same form. I do wish that some of the brands would from time to time create brand new piece unique models that feature more historic decoration techniques and styles.
The most important piece in the collection for Girard-Perregaux is the gold pocket watch with a three gold bridge movement. This now iconic look of higher-end Girard-Perregaux movements is an aesthetic borrowed from their own history – and pieces like this prove it. The movement is gorgeous, and you’d never know it by merely looking at the dial.
My favorite pocket watch came in the form of a tiny golden book. This masterful and creative stylized pocket watch opened up to reveal a hand-painted portrait of a woman (clearly royalty), which also doubled as access to wind the watch. A flap opened up on the “cover” of the book to reveal the small watch dial. In the pictures it is hard to appreciate how small this book-style pocket watch actually is. It is small enough to be worn as a pendant. I wonder if a work like this was specially commissioned, or if Girard-Perregaux came up with the designs themselves and shopped it around to interested parties.
Other pocket watches include one with a 24 hour dial (which is quite humorous to see in Roman numerals), and those with two timezones on the dial. One thing I really appreciate about each of these pocket watches is that no matter how decorated and fanciful they may be, they still take into great importance legibility and utility. Brands like Girard-Perregaux and others like it invest heavily in their own histories by finding old watches and restoring them. Girard-Perregaux like many other brands also has a museum near their manufacture dedicated to preserving and displaying these works. If you are in La Chaux-de-Fonds (and the surrounding area) with nothing but watch lust in your heart, I recommend you check it and other museums out.