The whole integrated bracelet trend isn’t the only cool aesthetic that was born in the 1970s. LED watches have slowly but surely been rearing their light-emitting diodes for a number of years. If there is a grail in this sci-fi-esque niche genre, then that moniker would undoubtedly go to a watch that enjoyed a short three-year lifespan that began in 1976, the Girard Perregaux Casquette. Four and a half decades later, Girard Perregaux is relaunching the Casquette in 2.0 form and fans won’t be disappointed.
The so-called quartz crisis gets a bad rap around these parts, but in fact it did give birth to some pretty, pretty good watches. The Casquette wasn’t actually called by its now well-known nickname. Like many horological labels, the name was given to the references 9931/34/39 by collectors. Girard Perregaux states that only 8200 were ever produced and that covers the three references; 9931 was in steel, 9934 in 18k rolled gold and, the most sought after, 9939 in Makrolon. Makrolon is a polycarbonate plastic with many uses, early Mac iBooks were made of it, and in terms of collectability, it’s the watch to have, according to Justin Hast who bagged himself one in 2021: “For such a long time I had known about the Casquette and I had carried this sort of mythical lust for it. Interestingly, I hadn’t really known about the black Makrolon version but I was very aware of the model generally and always thought that it was one of the greatest designs ever in watchmaking, and without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest designs ever to come out of GP. About three months ago, I got into bed one evening and as usual I had my 15 minutes on my phone, checking in with my saved searches on eBay, The Saleroom and Chrono24, just to see what’s going on. I knew within a split second, when I clicked on an Etsy link and saw the Casquette listing with the photos and the service letter that accompanied it, that I had to have it and I immediately bought it…then asked questions to the seller afterwards! The guy who had lived in La Chaux-de-Fonds for many years, bought the watch and had loved it and just wanted to raise some capital for a kitchen renovation! I would say that it still blows me away! People don’t often talk about the feel and the ergonomics of a case shape when discussing watches but, my God, it is beautiful to the touch, and it is proportionally perfect!”
The LED reading made it unlike a ‘regular’ hour and minute watch and in fact the display was tubular and allowed a very clear legibility when viewed in the groundbreaking case design. The high precision movement was no coincidence, as Girard Perregaux set the universal standard for frequency of quartz watches at 32,768 Hz and was well ahead in the manufacturing of innovative quartz movements.
One huge fan of the Casquette is George Bamford, who reimagined the retro-classic for Only Watch 2021 through a collaboration between Girard Perregaux and Bamford Watch Department. The unique forged carbon and titanium watch hammered at a remarkable CHF80,000 (plus commission) and was the perfect springboard from which to relaunch the line this year. Says Bamford, “The design of the Casquette is so often described as retro, but I believe that the shape of the case and the use of forged carbon make it look decidedly futuristic. I had almost forgotten how incredible this watch was until I worked on the Only Watch edition, which truly reignited my affection for the Casquette!”
For 2022 and the new release, for the first time Girard Perregaux is formally adopting the name Casquette and the two-point-oh is very much a 21st century reimagining of the 70s icon. The case is made from ceramic and has a titanium caseback and pushers. The 2.0 weighs in at a featherweight 107g and the watch makes a nod to the past with the inclusion of a retro GP logo in titanium that is fixed to the case.
The watch houses a new movement that made its debut in the Only Watch piece. Reference GP03980-1474 that displays hours, minutes, seconds and the day and date. Additionally the watch can offer the details of the month, year, a second time zone and also boasts a chronograph. That’s pretty much the full-house in terms of complications! It might also save your life if you need to remember a special date, such as your partner’s birthday or an anniversary. The ‘secret date’ can be programmed and shown to you once a day at a pre-determined time. Essential? No. Useful? Very! The display sleeps when not needed and comes to life when you press a pusher, thus prolonging battery life to around two years if worn daily.
If you don’t own a vintage piece or missed out on snagging the Only Watch then I suggest you are quick off the mark and grab one of these, as there will only be 820 made and I suspect they’ll go fast!
Case and dial: 42.4mm x 33.6mm black ceramic and Grade 5 titanium case with titanium case back. Tubular LED display.
Movement: Reference GP03980-1474 quartz with hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, month, year, chronograph, second time zone and ‘secret date’.
Bracelet: Black ceramic with rubber interior with folding titanium buckle.
Price and availability: CHF 4,500 820 piece limited edition.