Independent watch manufacture Girard-Perregaux has been delivering quite an array of watches over the past few months. From one of the most technically impressive modern escapements to intriguing collaborations, and aesthetic updates to standard models, Girard-Perregaux has proved time and again that it knows how to balance the basics and the utmost complications. The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph Ti49 is a lesson in both, all while paying homage to the Laureatos of the last 49 years.

Over nearly half a century, Girard-Perregaux has developed five separate generations of Laureato watches, each building on the previous generation’s advancements and bringing something new to the table. As we close in on the end of the fifth generation — and the rapidly approaching 50th anniversary of the series — titanium had yet to be implemented as a core feature of any individual model. Much to my appreciation, the brand has rendered the Laureato Chronograph in Grade 5 Titanium, the most premium and difficult-to-shape alloy. This is a material that also shares a significant historical date with the brand.

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If you trace the Girard-Perregaux lineage back to its origin you’ll come across Jean-François Bautte. Bautte began an apprenticeship very young and signed his first watches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1791 when he was only 19 years old. That same year titanium was discovered in Cornwall, England. As whimsical watchmaking inspiration and marketing goes, this is pretty tame and an entertaining historical fact to have in your back pocket for Horological Trivia at your next watch meet-up. Now, back to the new watches.

At the core, this is nearly identical to its stainless steel counterpart, and for the untrained eye may be indistinguishable at first glance. The case dimensions are 42mm wide, 12mm thick, and 50.5mm lug to lug (~52mm lug to lug if you include the first center link) with a solid caseback. An integrated bracelet tapers through a brushed and polished H-link style bracelet to a butterfly clasp. The familiar octagon on a circle bezel is present with a polished circular base and a brushed octagonal top. Octagonal screw-down locks are found on the chronograph pushers and crown guards flank the knurled screw-down crown. An anthracite dial takes on a cool blue-grey hue with contrasting polished grey PVD hands and markers featuring white glowing luminous material. It features a Clous de Paris pattern with snailed subdials at three, six, and nine o’clock and a date at 4:30 that is sure to irk many enthusiasts. With so many familiar, or rather, identical features to the existing stainless steel Laureato chronograph, you could be forgiven for thinking it is just a new dial option, but that’s the magic of titanium.

The moment you pick up the Laureato Chronograph Ti49 you know what it is. The titanium construction makes this Laureato astoundingly lightweight coming in at only 106 grams. It feels almost toy-like on first contact, but the finishing will be sure to have you holding your tongue. I truly cannot express enough how genuinely happy it makes me to see titanium finished to this level. Across the industry, we hear how difficult titanium is to work with, how special machinery is needed, or how the material is too costly to finish at a high level. While this is true to an extent, it’s not the impossible task some larger brands would have you believe, and Girard-Perregaux just blew its excuses out of the water.

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While the execution of the case finishing is certainly first-class in my eyes, the whole watch isn’t perfect. Like many integrated bracelet watches the weakness is in the clasp. A butterfly deployant is used here, without any option for micro-adjustment. If you cannot get a good fit with half-links, you are out of luck. I’ll continue to stand my ground saying that there is no excuse for a lack of on-the-fly micro-adjustment on watches over $10,000.

On the wrist, the Ti49 wears effortlessly. The sharp downward angle of the integrated lugs and bracelet hugs the wrist well without digging in. The slight downward slope and stepped nature of the bezel rapidly tapers off the thickness and it slides easily under a cuff. The muted warm hue of titanium and the monochromatic dial all lean into the true sports watch nature of the Laureato. On the wrist, the chronograph feels ready for anything, and 100 meters of water resistance means you can put it to the test.

Behind the solid titanium caseback is GP03300-0141 self-winding chronograph movement. It is composed of 419 components and operates at a frequency of 4Hz, providing a passable 46 hours of power reserve. I would like to see a longer power reserve at this price point, but it may not be easily done without altering the thickness of the watch, a sacrifice I would be willing to accept in this case (pun intended).

I’ll be completely honest. I have never felt anything toward the fifth-generation Laureato Chronograph. Before seeing the titanium iteration, I always found it to be the odd duck in the Laureato collection. The chronograph subdials are a little awkward but endearing, the size-to-weight ratio felt off, and I was a bit disappointed with the solid caseback (I still am.) The titanium, however, certainly changed my perspective. On the wrist, it feels balanced and elegant yet still sporty. Additionally thanks to the unique thermal properties of titanium, the watch feels great to the touch. Unlike steel which has a high thermal conductivity and rapidly draws heat from your fingers feeling cold, titanium maintains a neutral temperature resulting in an exotic and unnatural feel.

The name “Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph Ti49” is pretty uncomplicated when it comes to watch naming conventions, but may confuse at first glance. Ti49 refers to the titanium case and 49 years of the Laureato—not a 49mm case size. At less than a thousand dollars more than the standard steel offering—a surprisingly low premium for high-performance material— I don’t know why anyone would consider the steel option other than alternative dial colors. If this is any indicator of what we can expect for next year’s 50th Anniversary of the Laureato then I am extremely optimistic. The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph Ti49 is priced at $19,400 USD. Learn more about the Laureato and Girard-Perregaux on the brand’s  website.

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