Celebrating the 250th anniversary of John Harrison’s transatlantic voyage where the first (like, ever) marine chronometer was tested, one of the most iconic watchmakers of Switzerland has presented a beautiful automatic Girard-Perregaux ww.tc World Wide Time Control John Harrison (ref. 49870-53-R12-BA6A) that takes the whole ww.tc collection to a new level.
The legendary Swiss Manufacture keeps introducing limited-edition versions of its gorgeous ww.tc family of “world-timers” using all sorts of excuses to make yet another one. This new ww.tc World Wide Time Control John Harrison (ref. 49870-53-R12-BA6A), for example, is devoted to the famous British clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer as we know it solving the centuries-old problem of establishing the longitude of a ship at sea with adequate precision and thus making navigation between Europe and both Americas a lot easier.
It took the British clockmaker more than 30 years from presenting the initial drawings of a marine clock in 1730 till building the final H4 model (“Harrison clock No. 4”) that in 1761 went on a transatlantic voyage with his son William.
Departing from Portsmouth on board of HMS Deptford, the H4 soon reached Jamaica.
The chronometer was so good that during the course of the expedition it lost only 5 seconds, corresponding to an error in longitude of just around one nautical mile.
It was like inventing the GPS and, probably, one of the reasons why, according to Wikipedia, John Harrison “came 39th in the BBC’s 2002 public poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.”
Yes, this limited edition pays homage both to the man himself and the historic voyage of HMS Deptford.
Unlike the other members of the series, the World Wide Time Control John Harrison is powered by the Caliber GP033G0 automatic movement, which is itself a modified version of their base Caliber GP03300 mechanism.
We have already seen this beautiful movement in a number of other GP’s watches with a second time-zone display. However, this particular variation is stripped of all secondary functions displaying only hours, minutes, and the second time zone. Even the central second hand is gone!
From the point of view of complexity, the mechanism is rather simple and its power reserve of just 46 hours is, too, not terribly impressive. On the other hand, the mechanism is not the most important part: it looks, like for this model the Swiss brand primarily concentrated on the dial, but more on that later.
As usual for Girard-Perregaux, the mechanism is nicely decorated featuring all the stuff that one can expect from the timekeeper in this price range including polished screw heads, beveled bridges, and plates, vertical Cotes de Geneve pattern, as well as the traditional GP hallmark that is meticulously engraved (probably, by some sort of CNC machine,) and plated with gold. Well, it may not be as breathtaking in its elegance as mechanisms made by A. Lange & Sohne and the likes, but it is still quite refined.
Normally, the brand equips the mechanism with a gold oscillating weight that features circular Geneva stripes, but this one is even more, um, exclusive having the rotor done in rose gold and featuring a parchment-like texture that reads: “1761 – 1762, John Harrison’s H4 First Trial.” A very nice touch, that.
Case & Strap
Measuring 41 millimeters in diameter and some 11 millimeters thick, the case is a bit larger than your average classic dress watch, but, hey, this limited edition device is not particularly your average time-teller either. Also, being a tad oversized, the white gold case is still pretty far from being considered ‘massive’ and can easily be worn with formal attire.
Both crowns (one, on the right, to set the hands and the other, on the left, to rotate the city disk) are a bit too short for my taste, but their overall shape, as well as the prominent notches on their edges, makes operating the timepiece more comfortable for average fingers.
One more thing to consider, though. The long(ish) lugs add a couple of millimeters on both sides, so, if you happen to have a relatively narrow wrist and are planning to actually wear this device on a regular basis, you may want to try on your own wrist first before investing a pile of cash into an otherwise absolutely gorgeous watch that is enough to buy a luxury sedan.
As usual for the brand, the authentic black alligator leather strap is deliberately unremarkable, but will probably offer a great deal of comfort if you are, firstly, into standard leather straps per se and, secondly, don’t plan to wear the watch on particularly hot and humid days. The folding clasp in white gold instead of a more traditional buckle may put some customers off, but I personally find the choice of the clasp a lot more convenient and more secure.
Dial & Legibility
As I have already noted, the ww.tc John Harrison retains the basic layout of a “worldtimer”, but has it stripped to a bare minimum leaving nothing more than the hour and minute hands, a rotating internal 24-hour ring with day and night indication, as well as the signature “City Disk” with names of big cities corresponding to each respective time zone.
However, being equipped with a white gold dial, which is decorated with the so-called Champleve enamel, the watch compensates for the lack of indicators with an exquisitely finished world map centered over the Atlantics.
To make the whole display possible, GP’s artisans first carved cells into the surface of the dial, filled it with the enamel of different colors, then baked it inside a small oven at a temperature of 800 C° and, finally, polished the whole layout.
As you can see, the dial displays a rudimentary map of the Atlantic Ocean tracing the route of Mr. W. Harrison’s journey from Portsmouth, England, to Port Royal, Jamaica that was undertaken to test the H-4 chronometer.
In order to further emphasize the idea, the standard “London” and “New York” designations on the GMT scale are replaced with “Portsmouth” and “Port Royal” letterings in gorgeous royal blue.
Finishing the picture, they took the signature leaf-shaped hour and minute hands and painstakingly skeletonized them providing the ref. 49870 with an even more ethereal appearance.
The lack of traditional hour markers, as well as absolutely zero Superluminova on the hands, will make it unreadable at night, so keep this in mind.
Pricing & Availability
Priced at an impressive MSRP of CHF 51,000 (around $61,000 USD at the time of me writing this brief review,) the timekeeper’s production will be limited to mere 50 pieces. Although the number of wristwatches that will soon arrive to select Girard-Perregaux boutiques around the world doesn’t help the piece to become a true rarity in the foreseeable future, the gadget will probably start gaining in resale value fairly soon after all pieces are sold out.
I highly doubt that the limited edition ww.tc may be considered a good investment since the initial drop in value after you first put the trinket on your own wrist will probably never be offset if you factor in inflation. Yet, for a collector primarily interested in modern timepieces, the JOHN HARRISON edition may very well be the rare example of a watch that is worth every penny that the manufacturer asks for it.
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Girard-Perregaux ww.tc World Wide Time Control John Harrison (ref. 49870-53-R12-BA6A) specification
Price: CHF 51,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber GP033G0, 28,800 vph, 26 jewels, in-house, Swiss Made
Movement decoration: Cotes de Geneve, Stamped solid gold oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, second time-zone, day/night indication
Power reserve: 46 hours
Case: White gold
Size: 41.00 mm
Case height: 11.00 mm
Dial: White gold; Champleve enamel
Hands: Leaf-shaped, skeletonized
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap; Folding clasp in white gold
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective