With their new outrageously expensive Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie (ref. 99498B53P7B1-KK7A) wristwatch, the Swiss-based watchmaker Girard-Perregaux updates the ladies-oriented collection not simply with yet another ultra-luxury model, but also with an object of art. Featuring a gorgeous high-complication movement that -together with the striking high-jewelry case paved with hundreds of exquisitely cut diamonds- creates a splendidly beautiful, almost dazzling package of a wristwatch, it reminds me of a distant planet, which is supposed to spend most of its lifetime far away from the Sun. It almost makes me want to weep when I think that this beautiful artifact will spend 99 percent of its lifetime in a heavily guarded safe of a most trusted bank.
I think that in the lead I have wrongfully made an impression of the ref. 99498B53P7B1-KK7A to be the Swiss brand’s first experiment with an ultra-premium model. Well, to be more precise, this is not the first time that one of the most esteemed watch manufacturers of Switzerland offers an ultra-expensive model as a member of their beautiful Cat’s Eye collection of ladies’ watches that feature a characteristic oval-shaped case.
Right now, for example, they sell a Ref. 91701B53PB21-53A model, which is still relatively new and is powered by the well-known Caliber GP033R0 automatic movement with power reserve indicator.
However, set with whole 539 diamonds totaling mind-blowing 52 carats, the watch is available at a price well above $1,000,000, which basically means that the company is able to sell just a handful of these beautiful timekeepers per year (or, more likely, per decade.)
High complication models, including tourbillons are also not so rare in the line.
Their current collection, for example, includes the ref. 99495D53B000-JK6A model that features their famous tourbillon with three gold bridges movement (in fact, the model was so successful that GP’s sister brand Boucheron even used it as a base for its Audacious Hera Tourbillon model!)
Still, the aforementioned watch was also not particularly affordable selling at an impressive price of $250,000 USD.
With this new Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie watch the Swiss watchmaking brand decided to combine the outrageous luxury with impressive technical prowess and to offer it at a more balanced price.
While many brands that specialize in fashion and jewelry often equip their “haute joaillerie” timekeepers with simple mechanisms (some of them are even equipped with inexpensive quartz movements of the “throw-away” kind,) such an esteemed watchmaker as Girard-Perregaux simply can’t afford such a stunt: their top of the line timekeeper must be powered by one of their top of the line movements, period. So, it’s no wonder that for this “two-hander with a tourbillon” layout they decided to use their new Caliber GP09700-0006 automatic movement.
Beating at a relatively slow pace of 21,600 vibrations per hour, the movement’s main spring barrel stores just enough power to keep the watch ticking for at least three days after being wholly wound.
As it is the case with other members of the family, the mechanism features not just one, but whole two attractions: besides a tourbillon escapement, a feature that makes the movement a tad more accurate and more interesting to admire, there is the brand’s signature Tourbillon Bridge. Finished by a hand of a skillful artisan, it somehow manages to look deceptively simple and absolutely fabulous. What’s even more interesting, is that the watchmaker decided to change the whole concept behind the Bridge: while in their other watches it deliberately stands out over the overall layout of the dial, in this watch it is nicely blended in although the team of designers behind the Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie still wasn’t able to resist the temptation of drawing a solid visual boundary between the Bridge itself and the diamonds-paved dial.
By the way, the huge red ruby (Is this a ruby? Well, I think it’s a ruby) that serves as a bearing for the tourbillon mechanism, also makes a very impressive visual accent on the otherwise completely monochromatic dial. But more on the second half of this relatively brief “initial impressions” review.
Case, Bezel & Strap
Like the rest of the series, the watch was presented in a moderately-sized oval-shaped case.
Measuring 32.9 x 38.42 millimeters, the body of the Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie is just compact enough for a wrist of an average modern lady.
As far as ergonomics goes, the watch features a nicely curved profile that is supposed to hug your wrist even better (although it is still advised to actually try the watch before ordering one from the brand’s catalogue) and the slightly oversized setting crown makes setting time a lot more convenient than on most watches designed for women: it may sound as a sort of sacrilege to many, but the diamonds actually make operating the crown a great deal easier.
The case (including the bezel and the lugs) is set with 155 baguette-cut diamonds totaling 12.97 carats. Just imagine how many hours (probably hundreds of them) of highly skilled labor usually needed to prepare the diamonds and then carefully pave the case with precious stones before putting the 18-carat white gold body into the oven and you will probably understand that, despite the timekeeper’s sky-high “recommended” price, the watchmaker’s profit margin may not be as thick as one may have guessed.
If that wasn’t enough, the setting crown of the watch is set with 12 more diamonds of the same cut with the thirteenth (rose-cut) diamond working as an ultra-expensive cabochon.
Although used extremely rarely these days, the rose-cut style offers its crown composed of a number of triangular facets that provide the stone with even more elegant appearance.
As you may have already guessed while reading this review, the white gold pin buckle or a folding clasp in the same metal are also adorned with smaller baguette-cut diamonds.
Dial & Legibility
Of course, the dial is also set with whole 106 diamonds that cover all the available real estate save for the aforementioned white gold tourbillon bridge and the circular cut-out that offers a good view at the tourbillon carriage that also serves as a small seconds sub-dial.
Normally, the bridge with its hand-engraved and hand-bevelled surfaces is one of the most elaborate parts of the dial, but not in this case: the precious stones clearly take precedence here.
It is somewhat stupid to evaluate this timekeeper in terms of legibility, since this is clearly a jewelry item, which is shaped as a watch. Still, I must admit that, compared to the aforementioned Ref. 91701B53PB21-53A model, the watch can actually be read if there is enough light: thanks to their slightly concave profile leaf-shaped hands make the busy dial look surprisingly contrast and legible. While the older model was equipped with polished hour and minute hands that were simply lost in all that glitter provided by the myriads of diamonds, this one has its hands satin-finished, that surprisingly makes the trinket look even more expensive and also turns the shining stones into a perfect background.
Of course, the lack of Superluminova or at least even rudimentary hour markers makes it not as usable as your normal three-hander, but, again, this is more of an ultra-expensive jewelry that also happens to tell time, so that doesn’t seem to be a problem for me.
Pricing & Availability
The new timekeeper is officially priced at CHF 490,000, which makes it around $432,000 USD. It is still prohibitively expensive even for the brand’s target audience, but the price seems to be justified by the sheer amount of skilled labor invested into it and, of course, by the total price of very expensive materials that were used to build this timekeeper. As far as I understand, Girard-Perregaux doesn’t plan to limit the timekeeper’s production, but it is sort of obvious that the watch will be available only in certain boutiques and only in certain parts of the world.
See also: Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Small Second
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 3.5/5
Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon Haute Joaillerie (ref. 99498B53P7B1-KK7A) automatic high-jewelry ladies wristwatch specification
Price: CHF 490,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, caliber GP09700-006, 21,600 vph, 20 jewels, in-house, Swiss Made
Movement decoration: Decorated by hand, engraved and beveled tourbillon bridge with blued and polished screws
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, tourbillon
Power reserve: 72 hours
Case material: White gold; Set with baguette-cut diamonds
Bezel material: White gold; Set with baguette-cut diamonds
Crown material: White gold; Set with 12 baguette-cut diamonds and 1 rose-cut diamond (0.58-carat)
Case shape: Ovoid
Bezel shape: Ovoid
Case size: 32.9 mm x 38.42 mm
Lug width: No data
Case height: No data
Dial: White gold, set with 106 baguette-cut diamonds (4.20 ct)
Hands: White gold, leaf-shaped
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Grey satin strap with pin buckle in white gold, set with 13 baguette-cut diamonds (0.56 ct) or a folding clasp in white gold, set with 14 baguette-cut diamonds (0.62 ct)
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Secured with four screws