As it continues to reinvent its classic designs, Girard-Perregaux recently declared its plans to produce limited-edition examples of an updated Laureato. Released at the height of the iconoclastic 1970s, the groundbreaking steel Laureato models were defined by their polished octagonal bezels, satin-brushed cases and integrated bracelets. iW Magazine shared initial news of this pre-Basel release last month.
The 2016 Laureato limited edition celebrates the Girard-Perregaux’s 225th anniversary and marks four decades its first debut in Basel in1975. Both of these anniversaries represent key milestonesto this Chaux-de-Fonds-based manufacture, but contemporary collectors hold in equal esteem the era that gave rise to Laureato.
Forty years ago Girard-Perregaux joined trendsetters in an industry paradigm shift that still resonates today. At that time, several luxury watchmakers debuted sporty watches with steel-cased collections defied decade-old norms and produced unprecedented case-design profiles. These pioneering references formed a basis for today’s luxury sports watch market and current collector attitudes towards premium steel watches.
In the early to mid-1970s, luxury watchmakers sought to reach sportier wrists with innovative designs in part to expand their reach beyond the static pool of existing formal-watch clients.Top-tier watch companies had rarely used steel as a case and bracelet metal, but with waning sales and a quartz revolution draining resources and co-opting future customers, Swiss watchmakers sought new ideas and cutting-edge designs.
A few of the best-known companies turned to watch designer Gerald Genta, who responded with a now-legendary burst of creativity, generatinga series of groundbreaking watches that in part influenced Girard-Perregaux’s original Laureato series. Genta created the Royal Oak ref. 5402 for Audemars Piguet, launching the era of steel luxury timepieces when it debuted in 1972. Patek Philippe also enlisted Genta, who created the Nautilus ref. 3700 in 1976, and then a year later went on to champion designs for IWC’s Ingenieur ref. 1832 (the SL, which stands for Steel Line).. The same design trends inspired Jorg Hysek to pen the 1977 Vacheron Constantin 222 – itself a key inspiration for today’s Overseas.
Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato arrived amid this flourish of creativity. The company chose to look inward to its own designers and technical acumen, debutingthe original Laureato in 1975 with an on-trend steel case and integrated bracelet. But the Laureato arrived with several key distinctions from even its groundbreaking period peers. Firstly, its name was not a reference to anything sporty or nautical but instead referred to the 1967 Mike Nichols film The Graduate, a name Girard-Perregaux says was the result of a suggestion by its own distributor in Italy. The film’s title translates into Il Laureato in Italian.
A second major break from the 1970s steel-luxury conventions was Girard-Perregaux’s decision to place a quartz movement inside the watch. Unlike its rivals, which all fit thin mechanical movements inside their steel luxury offerings, Girard-Perregaux opted to utilize one of its own groundbreaking quartz chronometer calibers. Just a few years earlier, the company pioneered the manufacture of serially produced Swiss quartz movements. Indeed, the initial Girard-Perregaux Caliber 350 of 1970 gave way to a thinner Caliber 705 utilizing the quartz frequency of 32,786 Hz, a frequency that is now the universal industry quartz standard.
The Laureato’s initial case and bracelet design allowed Girard-Perregaux to feature the high-tech Caliber 705 within a cutting-edge package. Thus, the first Laureato dials were printed with Quartz Chronometer at 6 o’clock. Finally, the debut Laureato featured a polished gold octagonal bezel, a gold stripe across the bracelet and a matte steel case—two-tone, rather than the all-steel designs seen elsewhere. In later models, notably the 1984 revision, Laureato featured bracelets with domed polished gold links matching the gold bezel.
In the years since its debut, Laureato has seen a variety of designs, case sizes and complications. By 1995, Girard-Perregaux had placed its esteemed mechanical caliber GP 3100 inside a Laureato case, which was enlarged while maintaining its original proportions. Several of Girard-Perregaux’s famed Three Golden Bridges movements have been cased in Laureato’s shape, with the first debuting in 1998. Among the most spectacular of these was the 2013 Tourbillon with Three Bridges made in both sapphire and blue spinel. By 2003, the Laureato case was enlarged a bit more to 44 millimeters, creating the first example with a satin-brushed bezelthe Evo 3.
For 2010, the 35th anniversary of the original Laureato and the 40th anniversary since the debut of quartz caliber 350, Girard-Perregaux celebrated in style. A 40-piece limited edition tribute model, the Laureato 40th Anniversary Quartz, was launched with modernized elements of the original – hobnail dial, octagonal bezel, integrated bracelet – and an artisan-finished manufacture quartz caliber 13500 under a sapphire caseback.
This year, Girard-Perregaux honors its Laureato legacy once more with two 41 millimeter steel 225-piece limited edition models, one with a blue hobnail dial and one with silvered dial.
The new edition retains the trademark octagonal bezel and integration of a flexible bracelet. Its baton-shaped hands replicate the original model but now bear luminescent material. The dial is stamped with a vintage-inspired hobnail pattern, and a date features at three o’clock as in the first edition. Unlike the original, however, inside is an automatic Girard-Perregaux movement, the well-established GP03300, visible through a sapphire caseback. (Price: $14,300.)
Look for collectors to head directly to the Girard-Perregaux stand at Baselworld 2016 in a few weeks to experience the new Laureato 2016, where it will join additional debuts all celebrating the company’s 225th anniversary. iW Magazine will feature full coverage of these 2016 novelties(including a just-released 38mm pink gold Girard-Perregaux 1966 Skeleton) as it captures all of the most anticipated debuts directly from Baselworld 2016.