First presented less than nine months ago in a lightweight titanium body, the gorgeous Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon Bi-Axial is reintroduced in a new, finely brushed tantalum case and renamed as Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon Bi-Axial in Tantalum & Sapphire (ref. 99810-81-000-BA6A). Although around four times denser than titanium, the metal, which is widely used in nuclear powerplants, high-tech medical equipment and even in making next-gen high-explosive armor-piercing warheads, is also more resistant to corrosion, which is a must for a watch that is supposed to serve generations upon generations of its owners.
Judging by the Swiss brand’s press release, the choice of metal is not the only thing that differs the new Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon Bi-Axial from its flashy predecessor.
The famous three bridges that hold the diamond-polished hour and minute hands in the center of the dial, the oversized, visible to the naked eye spring barrel at 12 hours, as well as the smaller, rotating one that holds in place the tiny tourbillon carriage (unlike simpler, pour man’s tourbillons that only rotate around one axis, this one rotates in two planes greatly increasing the timekeeper’s accuracy and, at the same time, making it more pleasant to look at,) are now crafted from neatly cut pieces of tinted sapphire that makes the finely guilloched dial of the timekeeper look even more high-tech.
While I can imagine that some collectors will frown at the fact that the exquisitely decorated metal bridges that were usually crafted from gold or even platinum are now replaced by ‘mere’ synthetic sapphire, I must say that on yours truly the choice of material makes a very strong impression. I mean, the sapphire bridges not only look great: they also underline the brand’s resolution not to dwell on the past, but actually embrace the future with its vast choice of materials, textures and technique that make such an archaic thing as a mechanical timekeeper still relevant in an era of electronic gadgets.
The hand-wound GPE07-002 movement that beats inside the generously proportioned body (at 45 millimeters in diameter and around 18 millimeters thick, it is clearly not for the smaller representatives of human species, but, thankfully, is still compact enough to be worn by a normal person who’s not afraid of getting one of these beauties out of a state of the art safe) is also new, but it is probably just a slightly modified version of the original GPE0201 caliber that powered the titanium version of the watch that was introduced less than a year ago.
While, being as sophisticated as it is, the movement can’t really be called ‘robust’, it is nevertheless a high-grade mechanism that was built using the best components and assembled by the most skilled watchmakers that the Swiss-brand has on their payroll. So, I would dare say that it is one of the best calibers that you can get in a Swiss made watch priced below $1kk.
With its extravagant appearance, gargantuan proportions and probably a sky-high price*, the watch is certainly not a daily beater, but I am sure that the piece will very soon become a rare collector’s item (Girard-Perregaux took care of that by limiting the timekeeper’s total production to just 12 individually numbered pieces) that will only get more expensive as years go by.
* UPDATE ON PRICE: It’s been reported that on North American market the watch (probably, less than half a dozen of them) will be available at a suggested ahem street price of approximately $480,000 USD. As eye-popping as it is, the MSRP seems to be well-justified not only by the impressive combination of materials and highest-possible-grade hardware that money can buy, but also by the sheer exclusivity of it: with just a dozen of watches to ever be offered, it will certainly be a serious contender when it comes to a non-existing Die-Hard Watch Collector’s Choice of the Year award.
Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon Bi-Axial in Tantalum and Sapphire (ref. 99810-81-000-BA6A) watch specification
Price: $480,000 (MSRP)
Movement: Manual (hand-wound,) caliber GPE07-002, in-house, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 28
Movement frequency: 21,600 vph
Power reserve: 70 hours
Movement decoration: Decorated by hand
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds (on a bi-axial tourbillon)
Case material: Tantalum
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 45.00 mm
Case height: 18.00 mm
Lug width: No data
Dial: Skeletonized, concentric guilloche pattern
Hour markers: None
Water resistance: 30 meters
Strap: Black alligator leather strap with folding buckle in microblasted steel
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Sapphire