While this is the first time we’re covering Girard-Perregaux on The Collective, it continues our trend of writing about watches that push traditional watchmaking forward. The Constant Escapement L.M. 93500-52-731-BA6D in 18k Rose Gold fits that mold. The Constant Escapement name comes from an innovation inside the watch that solves a problem that watchmakers have been working to solve for hundreds of years—how to prevent a watch’s accuracy from decreasing as the watch’s power winds down.
Before we dive into the Constant Escapement, I think it’s worth noting some of Girard-Perregaux’s history. This is a watch brand that can trace its roots back to the 1700s and is one of the most influential watch companies in history. In 1879 they created what is likely the first-ever commercially produced wristwatch when the German Navy commissioned watches that could be attached to men’s wrists via leather straps. Their three bridge tourbillon introduced in 1884 was so accurate that it was ultimately ruled ineligible in observatory competitions. Fast forward to 1970, and they produced the first quartz watch that operated at the now industry-standard frequency of 32,768 hertz. Fast forward to 2008, and Girard-Perregaux outdid themselves with the Constant Escapement.
How Constant Escapement Works
Mechanical watches are powered by a mainspring that gets tightly wound, the unwinding of the spring is controlled by what’s called an escapement. The escapement controls the rate at which the coil can unwind with the goal of releasing a uniform amount of energy to the hairspring and balance wheel, which are the “timekeepers” of the movement. While this is a slowly controlled unwinding, the force that gets imparted on the escapement decreases as the mainspring gets more and more unwound. This prevents the watch from maintaining a constant rate and decreases its timekeeping accuracy.
The constant escapement is unique because it beats at a steady rate regardless of how much energy remains in the mainspring. The watch achieves this by utilizing a silicon intermediary device to control the power transfer from the mainspring to the escapement. The silicon device has two buckling blades that alternate positions, and in this act, transfer a uniform burst of energy to the escapement.
If you take a thick piece of paper or a credit card, you can imitate what’s happening here. Flex it until it curves, and slowly flex it back. You’ll notice it resists until there is enough force and then instantaneously pops into the opposite curve. That’s what the silicon blades are doing. They take what is a varying amount of energy from the mainspring and let it build up until it reaches the point that it can flex the blade instantly in the other direction, releasing a uniform amount of energy to the escapement. Thus ultimately making for a more efficient and accurate watch.
Now for the watch itself: the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement L.M. reference 93500-52-731-BA6D in 18k Rose Gold. The first thing you notice when looking at this watch is the constant force escapement mechanism. It’s literally front and center and takes more space on the dial than the hour and minutes display. Girard-Perregaux is making sure that you know precisely what makes this watch so unique.
At the top of the dial, you have the main time display with rose gold dauphine style hands, alternating rose gold and black baton markers, and a prominent rose gold G.P. at twelve. The simple hour and minute only time display and location of the sub-dial almost has a bit of a clock tower vibe to it. The center seconds hand is red-tipped and nearly reaches the etched rehaut making it easy to read at a glance. Also prominent on the dial is the horizontal six-day power reserve display. Usually, this would be a wastefully significant way to display the power reserve, but with this watch being 48mm in diameter, dial space isn’t an issue. This bold display of the power reserve is not just to let you know when to rewind the watch, but it is also a reminder of how efficient this advanced watch is.
While the time display is classical, the rest of the dial is very modern. The dial is split into two pieces that are secured with exposed screws, each with different finishing. The top half is a darker slate grey with the bottom being a lighter and grittier grey. It makes for such a technical aesthetic that if the time display wasn’t as prominent, one could be forgiven for mistaking the dial for the back of the watch. The rose gold case adds balance to the watch and emphasizes the combination of old and new that Girard-Perregaux wants this watch to embody.
The importance of this innovation can’t be overstated. Girard-Perregaux has created an elegant solution to a centuries-old problem and, in the process, has reminded the watch world of their horological prowess. While it’s not priced for the everyman at $123,500, what you’re getting is a wearable token of yet another one of Girard-Perregaux’s historic horological achievements.