The Evolution of Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato

The history of Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato stretches all the way back to the 1970s – when the pioneering steel-cased luxury sports watch with a metal bracelet carried a quartz movement – before it evolved to feature an automatic movement in the following decade. Over the years, a range of features and complications were incorporated into the model, including at one point a tourbillon movement with blue sapphire bridges.

A Laureato hallmark is the heavily framed hexagonal bezel, which flows seamlessly into the integrated bracelet, fronted by a bold, no-nonsense dial. A luxury sport watch in steel that is dressy, practical and versatile, the Laureato has remained timeless from its inception to this day.

But let’s wind back for a bit. The ’70s was glorious for music, boasting the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Who, but it wasn’t as kind to the world of Swiss watchmaking in the least. The introduction of quartz movements had made mechanical watches technically obsolete, bringing highly precise time measurement to the consumer that mechanical timepieces could not hope to match.

So what did Girard-Perregaux do when the Quartz Crisis hit? It joined the quartz race and made sure to take the first prize. In 1975, it launched the first Laureato, appearing in a two-tone version in the desired metal fashion. Against the brushed steel, 18K gold came in the form of its bezel, the crown, hands and appliques. Save for a date window at 3 o’clock, the dial was white and simple, decorated with Clous de Paris embossing and bore the words “Quartz Chronometer”. Powering this timepiece was the Caliber 705, an in-house movement that beat at a blistering 32,768 Hz.

From 1995, the Laureato collection introduced its first mechanical movement and all future Laureatos thereafter have been powered by the 3000 family of ultra-thin movements, neutral-sized cases from 36mm to 38mm.

The best steel-clad luxury sport watches have tremendous versatility to suit every occasion; yet at the same time, this impressive versatility is somewhat checked by a trait many of these watches share – their pronounced masculinity. An alternative to this steely bulkiness, Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato was sleek, thin and arguably unisex for its case sizes. Take for example the first Laureato that set the benchmark for the sleek look that has remained pretty much untouched in its evolution – truly a watch for all occasions, for all wearers, male and female.

Entering the 21st century, the sports watch trend grew bigger and bolder, turning heads and wrists towards the timekeeping giant – the chronograph. In the Laureato Evo 3, the once slim baton main hands morphed into a broad luminous pair, proclaiming the time with immense legibility.

The EVO 3 was available in three models: 18K rose gold, stainless steel, and titanium. The latter made the most sense of the lot, by virtue of its lightweight case material, strength and high resistance to corrosion. Aside from the small seconds, hour and 24-hour counters, a date counter was fixed at 12 o’clock, with centrally-mounted minute and sweeping seconds hands, both in bright yellow accents. In addition, the watch came in a rubber strap for wearers engaged in intense sports activities.

The aforementioned reference to blue sapphire bridges also happened in the same decade, presented in the Laureato EVO 3 Tourbillon. Visible through clear or blue sapphire bridges, the openworked tourbillon was mounted on a GP 9600 automatic caliber, framed within an understated hexagonal bezel.

Ironically, the gears switched back to contemporary modern aesthetics and the Laureato found itself paying homage to the sleek and subtle appeal à la 1975. In 2016, GP revived the time-only full-steel bracelet with its classic hobnail dial. It ran on a GP caliber 3300-0030, and was a sizeable piece at 41mm, with a classic blue or silver dial and clad in a mix of polished and unpolished steel.

High complications are back in vogue, though these days the trend seems disposed towards “less is more” where aesthetics are concerned. The new Laureato Tourbillon comes in a size of 45mm, with most of its hobnail dial intact, save for an openworked tourbillon at 6 o’clock. Housed in a titanium case, a single hand-finished bridge mounts the tourbillon to the dial, powered by an automatic micro-rotor movement, caliber GP09510.

The tourbillon is also elevated in a skeletonised version – the Flying Tourbillon Skeleton. The movement within is the skeletonized self-winding GP009520-0001, with a power reserve of 50 hours. The anthracite dial is masterfully handcrafted, providing high contrast for the white or pink gold hands.

Girard-Perregaux has also been innovative with material use, constructing the Laureato in ceramic. Unveiled at this year’s SIHH, sharing the limelight with the stunning Laureato Flying Tourbillon Skeleton were 42mm and 38mm ceramic models in black and white ceramic, with the latter adorned in a diamond-set bezel. While all the versions had black or white rubber straps to match, the real feat in tackling a material like ceramic was to create one in its entirety, and GP offers the same style with domed interlinks.

The changes that the Laureato line underwent were necessary in building the foundation for its identity even 40 years on. In fact, the brand likens its structural integrity to that of architecture: “Solids and voids. Lines and curves.” Clearly, the lasting appeal of the line was not formed overnight, but one that is a result of the brand’s commitment to constant innovation and change, so that each new creation is a timepiece that can stand the test of time.

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