Engineering and architecture define the style of Girard-Perregaux, a highly
respected yet relatively low-profile manufacturer in the upper echelons of
watchmaking known as Haute Horlogerie.
This venerable company, with associations dating to the famous Geneva
horologist Jean François Bautte in the late 18th century, has had its ups and
downs since watchmaker Constant Girard married watchmaking heiress Marie
Perregaux and established a factory in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1856.
The company’s most remarkable product was first launched in 1867 and remains an
integral player in Girard-Perregaux’s creations.
The Tourbillon with three gold Bridges is a stunning rendition of supreme
watchmaking technique that exemplifies horology’s highest ideals.
Girard-Perregaux survived the quartz shock, largely because it had a reputation
for realizing far-sighted ideas, like producing 2,000 wristwatches for the
Kaiser’s navy in 1880, and creating the first balance to chop the second into
In 1969 it out-paced Switzerland’s Beta project in the race to develop the first
popular quartz movement by establishing the now standard frequency for quartz
Despite the esteem with which it had been regarded, Girard-Perregaux was at low
ebb when it was acquired in 1992 by a
minority shareholder, Italian architect Dr. Luigi “Gino” Macaluso.
Almost immediately, Macaluso embarked upon a huge and costly luxury—the design,
construction, production engineering, and series manufacture of the brand’s own
automatic watch movements. To the rest of the watch industry, it made about as
much economic sense as an airline building its own planes.
But to Macaluso, Girard-Perregaux could only be credible as a complete
His gamble has paid off. Girard-Perregaux was a $12-million company when
Macaluso acquired the brand; today annual sales exceed $100 million on a
production of some 20,000 watches.
The majority of the brand’s production line is equipped with the company’s own
movements. Girard-Perregaux’s 3000 series automatic caliber is in its second
generation (serving a range of models from simple watches to split-seconds
chronographs) and now the brand is producing the 1900 series—a new, bigger
caliber. Only a handful of watch brands can claim the status of “Manufacture”
and Girard-Perregaux is the smallest and most recherché of this horological
Macaluso’s office is a shrine to the obsessions that have driven the company for
the past decade—Ferrari engines and the architecture of Le Corbusier
(1887-1965), La Chaux-de-Fonds’s most celebrated son. Perfect half-scale models
of Ferrari’s celebrated V-12s, including the legendary 250 3-liter, line the
His office is in the eaves of the company’s 1948 factory building, sharing the
privileged domain of the “gods.”
This is where Girard-Perregaux’s elite watchmakers are housed, each of whom will
spend the best part of a year building and adjusting a single three-bridge
tourbillon comprising horology’s most fascinating complications.
Despite its small size, Girard-Perregaux strives to make the widest variety of
models available to enthusiasts.
A watch is a very personal object and the brand does not wish to impose a single
design identity, even with the company’s best selling model. The Vintage 1945
rectangular watch, based on a 1940s style, meets the current vogue for a period
Likewise inspired by a former model—a 1970s dress watch—the Classique Elégance
collection meets the needs of business travel with time-zone indicators, alarms
Among the most spectacular Girard-Perregaux watches are the models dedicated to
the Scuderia Ferrari, especially the three-button split-seconds chronograph
A red hand (driven by an additional escapement) flies around a one-second dial
and stops on the nearest eighth of a second.
In styling his watches, Macaluso seeks to achieve the restrained and studied
elegance of Le Corbusier’s machine aesthetic. “You don’t wear a Girard-Perregaux
to show off,” he says. “It’s more a state of mind than a status symbol.”
Macaluso has restored one of La Chaux-de-Fonds’s finest buildings—the 1918 Villa
Marguerite—into a Girard-Perregaux museum to showcase two centuries of original
Today, Girard-Perregaux is secure in its position as a cultural symbol of a town
that produces the world’s most precise electronic and micro-mechanical
components for watches, aerospace and medical instruments.
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