One of the many top Swiss watch companies to lose its way a little during the ‘Quartz Crisis’ is now back in its stride once more and beginning to command the respect it rightfully deserves. Girard-Perregaux is one of the true greats of the Swiss watch industry and one which long held one of the most glamorous images in high-end watchmaking. The company has developed and produced in-house, some of the most technically advanced watches ever made. Notably Tourbillons, Minute Repeaters and other refined Grande Complication models.
In the novel “From Russia With Love”, and no less than on the first page, author Ian Fleming wrote “a gold Girard-Perregaux on a brown crocodile strap is one of the typical membership badges of the rich man’s club”. More recently the company has worked very closely with Ferrari, releasing chronographs under both brand names and the company has a great catalogue of current watches catering to the taste and budget of almost every discerning watch buyer.
The company recently celebrated its 225th anniversary, which makes it one of the oldest remaining watch companies still engaged in continuous production. Girard-Perregaux is credited with many firsts and claims to fame, having registered over 100 patents and won numerous exhibition and observatory prizes and medals. Most notably, a gold medal presented to Constant Girard for a Tourbillon at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867, and again in 1889, for the famous Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, Constant Girard’s masterpiece and the fruit of many years labour, which received the gold medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris.
As early as 1840, the founder, Constant Girard, began to develop the innovative concept of a gentleman’s wristwatch, and later in 1879, his wristwatches were ordered personally by Emperor Wilhelm I, for officers in the German Imperial Navy. Two thousand were made, making this the first large-scale commercial production of wristwatches in history.
In recognition of its ongoing quest for precision, in 1905 Girard-Perregaux was from this point forward, elected a permanent member of the jury at the largest international watch fairs.
The golden age for Girard-Perregaux really began in the 1920s, and continuing through to the 1970s, seeing the company grow rapidly in both its expertise and strength in its markets across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In the 1940s, the company produced a highly popular range of sports and military watches using the strapline “For Active Service”. These waterproof, shockproof, antimagnetic, and luminous watches carried names such as the Mermaid, Sea Hawk, Amphibian and the ‘M.D. Waterproof’. The Sea Hawk remained popular up to the end of the 1960s when it was withdrawn. However, this model has recently been revived as a highly competent, professional divers watch.
In 1956 Girard-Perregaux introduced its first automatic watch, the Calibre 21, 39 Jewels ‘Gyromatic’ which used a highly advanced Gyrotrone automatic reverser gear winding system. This caused a sensation across the watch industry due to its efficiency and brilliance. The Gyromatic was continually developed until in 1966, the Girard-Perregaux Chronometer HF Gyromatic was launched. This was the first ever high-frequency movement with a balance vibrating at 36,000 times an hour, or 10 beats per second. In 1966 this unrivalled movement was awarded the Centenary Prize by the Neuchatel Observatory and brought what is now recognised as true precision to watchmaking for the first time. A year later in 1967, 70% of all the Chronometer certificates issued by the Swiss Neuchatel Observatory went to Girard-Perregaux’ Chronometer HF models. These were some of the most accurate mechanical wristwatches of all time.
Why this watch is important…
This Chronometer HF Gyromatic is simply the culmination of 175 years of continuous development by Girard-Perregaux, for which it was awarded the highest prize in watchmaking. Depending on which of the top Swiss manufacturers one compares with, this watch was a good 5 to 10 years ahead of its competition. Even today, after some huge recent developments in watchmaking in recent years, this movement remains very advanced and in the very rarified atmosphere of highly accurate 36,000 bph, 10 beat movements. This watch was developed to compete and hold off quartz watches which even Girard-Perregaux had under advanced development, and which they first launched in 1970 with its Elcro calibre. However, even with such a commanding position at this point, Girard-Perregaux was caught out, unable to compete with the Swatch, which was released in 1983 and literally turned the watch world upside down.
The gold dial is a cross between a champagne to a deeper gold depending on the ambient light. It catches the light beautifully, due to a vertical cut grain. Under indoor lighting, the dial can look a deep gold but in natural light, it looks a straw, or Chardonnay type yellow. The dial has applied ‘Baton’ hour indices and the original restored ‘Index’ hands with also an applied ‘GP’ brand along with the signature and ‘Chronometer HF’ denoting, of course, its Chronometer High-Frequency movement.
The style of the dial is very typical of its time and similar to the larger Omega Seamaster and some Constellations, made during the same period, but to our eyes, and perhaps due to its exclusivity, this dial looks better than both of these. Due to the high frequency movement, the centre seconds hand traverses the dial very smoothly with almost no perceptible ticks. While at first, this dial might look a little plain and utilitarian, its style grows with familiarity. The dial is of a good size as it is not much smaller than the case. It is very authoritative and easily read and inspires confidence both in the watch and its the wearer! The lens has been replaced with a new original replacement.
This is the original dial which has been restored to the highest standards by our dial restorers which are considered to be the best in the UK.
Girard-Perregaux is famous within the Swiss watch industry for the technical innovations and craftsmanship expressed in all of its movements. The Chromometer HF Gyromatic, of course, uses the groundbreaking, highly efficient automatic self-winding system which it had introduced 10 years earlier, but the Quartz watch was on the horizon and indeed, under an advanced stage of development by Girard-Perregaux and others. So the main aim of this model was superlative accuracy at a midrange (at least for the steel version) price, which was achieved.
Girard-Perregaux, along with Zenith, were pioneers in the area ‘Fast Beat’ movements. Generally speaking, all else being equal, a faster beating movement is more accurate than a slower beating one. However, at 36,000 beats per hour or 10 beats per second, there were several associated challenges to be overcome, such as increased power consumption, requiring a larger mainspring and more efficient self-winding. Another major challenge was lubrication since oils can quickly become dry, or even be thrown off by faster-moving parts. GP overcame this by using special lubrication and greasing, as well as permanently dry lubrication on the faster moving parts.
The Girard-Perregaux Calibre 42, 39 Jewel Gyromatic Chronometer HF with its fantastic quality high beat movement, features hack seconds, micrometric fine regulator screw, ISOVAL self-compensating hairspring and monometallic balance. It is possible to synchronize a Chronometer HF if the mainspring is not at full tension by holding the sweep seconds hand still at 12 with the crown and releasing it when ready as a form of hacking seconds. The movement also features a quickset date, which is quite a nice feature. By turning the hands to about 8:40 and advancing to 12:00 repeatedly, quickset adjustments can be made.
As can be seen, the movement is properly signed, Girard-Perregaux, Gyromatic, Swiss, with the reference numbers 421000 and 38434.
Not many people wear mechanical watches “for their accuracy” and the fact that these watches were the ultimate in terms of accuracy before the “quartz crisis” ensures their place in horological history. The rarity factor also appeals. In steel, these were relatively affordable at around US $170, but in 18ct gold, these watches cost around US $500 in 1968, a great deal of money at the time. For comparison, a gold 1967 Heuer Carrera 2447S cost around $200 and a gold 1967 1675 Rolex GMT-Master cost around $400.
Our vintage specialist watchmaker has given this movement a full inspection, overhaul and service and has commented he found it to be clean and well maintained. Upon completion, he has carefully calibrated the watch and after our final checks and prior to photography, the watch was found to be keeping time to within +2 seconds per day! This was tested and confirmed by our electronic time-grapher and is truly outstanding for any watch of this age. As can be seen, the movement is in very clean condition. We are therefore very happy to offer the watch with a 12 months warranty*. With care and with regular servicing around every 3 years, we would fully expect this watch to run quite happily for many more decades to come.
*Our 12 months warranty is only applicable if the list price is paid.
The 18ct Yellow Gold two-piece case is noticeably strong and heavy. It was built with equal care and quality and craftsmanship, as the movement. In other words, it is of the finest quality with a heavy screw-back and an extra inner movement cover made of steel for antimagnetic protection.
Surprisingly, the case measures 34mm in diameter, since it looks larger, perhaps due to its 41mm overall length, including the lugs. The crown is original and GP signed.
The case is in remarkable condition considering its age. Perfect in fact, with no dings scratches or dimples visible to the naked eye. The case-back is of full thickness and has never been engraved.
Note, as ever our standard advice applies, vintage watches should be kept clean and dry at all times.
The Strap & Buckle
A high quality Brown Crocodile strap has been fitted, with a generic gold plated buckle. Please note, we feel this strap matches the watch nicely, however, if a different colour or style of strap is preferred, please let us know and we will do our best to oblige free of charge. We carry tan, conker, dark brown and black in stock in plain padded leather, crocodile skin or lizard skin, and we can obtain most other types and colours at short notice.
The Box and Papers
Although there are no original papers with this watch, all the numbers and markings on the watch are correct, dating the watch to circa 1968. A detailed ‘Particulars’ document will be included in the sale, along with our detailed receipt and 12 months Warranty*. A separate insurance valuation for the replacement value of this watch will also be provided at the time of sale, along with our unique ‘Lifetime Authenticity Guarantee’ which states: “If at any time, this watch proves to be anything less than totally authentic, or not as described, Vintage Gold Watches of London will offer you a full refund at any time”. We will also issue a Certificate of Authenticity.
The matching vintage Girard-Perregaux presentation box shown in the photographs is included with this watch.
This is a wonderful and historic vintage gold watch from one of horology’s most prestigious names which will provide an excellent financial investment as well as be something to use, wear, treasure and enjoy! It will make an excellent evening wear dress watch, as well as a practical, accurate and reliable timepiece to use on a day to day basis if you wish.
The higher profile of Girard-Perregaux during the past 10 years has helped vintage Girard-Perregaux watches become more collectable and investible and we feel this is well overdue. The sheer quality and rarity of great examples such as this, mean values are climbing. This watch will, therefore, make an excellent investment and family heirloom piece. As each year passes and the world market for vintage watches expands, availability will become more limited so prices are surely destined to climb ever higher!
A word about our prices – We always try our hardest to acquire the very best quality watches we can find before restoring these to the highest possible standards. We then offer these at the fairest prices we can, taking into account our pre and post sales care and service. This approach inevitably means we will never be the cheapest, but nor will we be the most expensive. Indeed there are a number of well known stores in West London which are very successful, charging between two to three times the price you see here. We therefore consider our prices to be fair, given the quality of watches we have to offer.
We are happy to accept Paypal as this is the quickest method of payment. However, if you wish to pay by bank transfer, we will be pleased to pass on a 3% transaction saving to you. Similarly, if you wish to pay by International SWIFT or International Bank Wire Transfer, we will provide you with our BIC / Swift number and our IBAN number.
Please note we welcome part exchanges and if you have a watch or small collection for sale, please contact us as we will be happy to discuss this.
We will be happy to Service Repair or Restore your watch, all at ‘sensible’ prices. Please see here.
If you have any questions, please call our landline 020 7727 7095 or mobile 07515 949 250 or if calling from overseas our landline number is +44 207 727 7095 or mobile +44 7515 949 250.
We will be happy to answer any questions and offer advice about this or any of our watches listed for sale. If you would like some general advice regarding any aspect of vintage watches, including buying, selling, or collecting, we will also be very happy to hear from you. We await your call!
Finally, please enjoy some time spent viewing our other fine Vintage Gold Watches!