Early next year, during the coming SIHH 2012 event that is currently scheduled to open from January 16th to 20th, 2012 at its usual place at Palexpo convention center in Geneva, the legendary Swiss watch Manufacture will officially reveal its limited edition Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds (Ref. 49526-52-111-BK6A) automatic wristwatch.
You have probably already noticed that Girard-Perregaux tends to separate their timekeepers into two main categories: there are vintage styled timekeepers that are inspired either by pocket watches of late 19th and early 20th centuries or even their historic pieces from the time when the famous Maison was first established, and there are deliberately modern collections with a completely different approach to industrial design.
What seems to unite them is that they usually offer superb legibility and a level of refinement that some of their competitors of lesser pedigree can only dream of.
Based on their current Ref. 49526-79-131-BK6A model with palladium case that also belongs to their classic 1966 Collection, the new limited edition model comes in a similarly shaped (but 0.03 mm thinner thanks for the original sapphire back cover replaced with one fashioned out of solid gold) 18-carat rose gold body, yet features a completely different exterior styling.
Like the recently presented Ermenegildo Zegna by Girard-Perregaux Monterubello Solo Tempo that was designed for the major Italian fashion brand, the timepiece features a more subdued, even more soothing color scheme sporting an off-white dial with hand-grained finish, blued steel hands and black, Breguet-styled Arabic numerals.
In its statement, the Swiss watchmaker underlines that the timekeeper is inspired by vintage Girard-Perregaux pocket watches from the late 19th century.
Dial & Legibility
At the time when United States were still busy trying to bring civilization to the Frontier and Europeans were making final preparations to start The War to End All Wars, watches -even relatively affordable ones- were still regarded as objects of conspicuous consumption, but primarily served a purpose of telling time, watchmakers tried to do their best in ensuring that their timekeepers were not only elegant, but also as legible as possible.
As you can see on the pictures above and below, the new Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds draws its inspiration from classic pocket watches and, too, offers a clean, easy to read layout with clean lines, finely printed Arabic numerals, and brilliantly executed leaf-shaped hands.
Although the small seconds indicator at 9 hours gives the watch a slightly unbalanced look, the watchmaker tried to resolve the issue using a small date window at 3 o’clock that is further accented with fine black ‘frame’ and a tiny diamond-shaped hour marker. All in all, the dial leaves a very good impression, although, on a personal note, I must admit that I don’t care much about the “Maison Fondée en 1791” inscription in the lower half of the dial. I mean, Girard-Perregaux is old enough not to demonstrate its insecurities in such an embarrassing way, isn’t it?
In our reviews, we at WorldWatchReview.com tend to punish the lack of any sort of luminescent substance on a dial even if it comes to dressy timekeepers. However, this particular watch is styled according to standards that were set almost 150 years ago and, within these constraints, offers superb legibility. So, it is firm five stars out of five in this department.
Case, Bezel & Strap
To make the watch look as authentic as possible, Girard-Perregaux decided to ditch the sapphire case back in favor of a more historically correct solid gold cover, which is engraved with a finely executed “220th Anniversary” inscription (of course, it is done in French,) as well as tactfully reminds us that the brand was established in 1791 and since then was honored with a Gold Medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris for its “La Esmeralda” pocket watch. A year later at the same exhibition, the watch was recognized as having no peer so the brand did not participate in the contest and was nominated as member of the jury.
At 38 millimeters in diameter and just over 8.5 millimeters thick, the gadget stays within the golden standard of a classic dress watch. The beauty of this standard is that, like a good smoking, it looks great on any person: it doesn’t matter if you are skinny or of a more solid build, you probably will always feel extremely comfortable wearing one of these gorgeous devices.
Unlike many compact timekeepers, this one features a very thin bezel that not only allows for larger dial opening, but also makes the watch look visually lighter and even more elegant. The only thing that you may not like is the size of the setting crown, but that’s the part where you will need to try the piece on your own wrist and actually test whether you can operate the crown comfortably enough to truly enjoy the timepiece.
As for the strap, it is a more or less standard back alligator leather strap with rose gold pin buckle.
Like most other of their current three-handers, the watch is animated by the brand’s own Caliber GP03300 self-winding movement. While not terribly interesting from the point of view of its design, it is still a very good workhorse caliber that is known for its high reliability and ability to keep good time if taken care of properly. It is also features a very nice -albeit not terribly outstanding- finish with Geneva stripes on the rose gold oscillating weight and rhodium-plated bridges, but, to a bit of regret, the nice finish is wasted here since the movement is hidden from your eyes by the aforementioned solid case back cover.
Built to the high standards of the brand, it will most likely give you better performance than a similar mechanism made by ETA or Sellita, but it will also be a bit more difficult to repair if something goes wrong. Just keep that in mind.
Pricing & Availability
The watch will go on sale next year at a very limited production run of just 100 pieces. I am still not sure about price, but it probably will be quite expensive*.
* UPDATE ON PRICE: It has just been confirmed that the Swiss-based watchmaker plans to sell the 1966 Small Seconds (Ref. 49526-52-111-BK6A) at a fairly impressive price of €12,900 (that, however, will as usual depend on where you happen to actually live since local taxes and VAT are different in different parts of the world.)
Still, I would say that the price looks adequate enough for a wristwatch that is crafted from great 18-carat rose gold alloy and is animated by an in-house caliber that combines high build quality with great accuracy and reliability.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds (Ref. 49526-52-111-BK6A) automatic watch specification
Price: €12,900 (MSRP)
Movement: Automatic, caliber GP03300, in-house, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 28
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Movement decoration: Rose gold oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, date
Power reserve: 46 hours
Case material: Rose gold
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 38.00 mm
Case height: 8.59 mm
Lug width: No data
Numerals: Arabic, Breguet-style
Hour markers: Black, railway minute track
Hands: Leaf-shaped, blued
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap with rose gold pin buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Full curved engraved case-back