Though last year’s groundbreaking Constant Escapement set the bar very high, the talented folks at Girard-Perregaux have really outdone themselves this year. At the top of the stack is the new Tri-Axial Tourbillon — a limited edition of only ten pieces, each priced at a cool $501,900. This is a spectacular watch — and a real study in technical watchmaking done right. I’ll break it down for you, below.
For starters, it only takes a glance to see this watch is something special. Indeed, it features a fully visible tourbillon that operates on not one, not two, but three axes of rotation. As I said when I gave a sneak peek at this watch a few days ago, such a mechanism is an absolute horological rarity. First executed by little known independent watchmaker Thomas Prescher almost 10 years ago. Harry Winston (Histoire de Tourbillon 4), independent Vianney Halter (Deep Space) and others have all since done their own versions of the tri-axial.
The Girard-Perregaux Tri-Axial is an imposing machine, starting with its 48mm pink gold case which also houses the 16.83mm thick caliber . Constructed on several levels, the dial of the Tri-Axial Tourbillon first and appropriately draws the tourbillon regulation system to the eye. At one o’clockish, a silver dial with Clous de Paris motif presents numerals and hour markers in pink gold. It is encircled with a pink gold and a black flange that displays the minutes numerals in white. The dauphine hands are crafted from pink gold and also beveled and skeletonized. One the lower dial portion is the power reserve indicator; it follows a curve that ends at 6 o’clock. Girard-Perregaux’s initials in pink gold at 11 o’clock accompany the full name to its right.
I’ve illustrated the rotational direction and timing of the various axes, but the three-axis tourbillon is, well, best understood by seeing it in action:
The caseback presents an equally appealing view. Note the eagle, the symbol of the manufacture since 1897, is engraved and a plaque in the arrow shape of the Tourbillon with Three Bridges’ iconic bridges bears the individual number of each piece (number “003″ as seen below). This shape is also found on the emblematic gold bridges also visible on the back of the movement.
Reminiscent of Zenith’s Christophe Colombe, the entire escapement is suspended in a bubble that rises above the primary plane of the dial side crystal. There is also a glass window in the caseband for additional viewing pleasure.
As for the finish, well it is of course to the highest standards of Girard Perregaux artisans, inside and out.
Mirror-polished surfaces, chamfering (which is particularly challenging to finish on the many inward angles), circular-grained gear train, satin brushed sides and more.
And now for the million dollar question — the Tri-Axial Tourbillon or the avant-garde Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges? Or perhaps the Constant Escapement. Decisions, decisions…