Girard-Perregaux: La Esmeralda “A Secret” Eternity Edition2 December 2021
La Esmeralda is the famous prize-winning pocket watch made for the ‘Exposition Universelle’ in 1889. This legendary masterpiece Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges housed in a sumptuous 56mm pink gold case, blended extraordinary precision with several artistic crafts. On the occasion of its 230th anniversary, the Manufacture presented at the Dubai Watch Week the new La Esmeralda, “A Secret” Eternity Edition, a modern reinterpretation of the iconic 1889 model.
Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Girard-Perregaux, remarks, “La Esmeralda is unquestionably our most famous watch and as the current custodian of our Maison, I am always mindful that we should treat such a legend with due reverence. This year, the Manufacture is celebrating its 230th anniversary and we were keen to ensure this milestone did not pass by unnoticed. Already this year we have unveiled several fabulous watches, however, La Esmeralda “A Secret” Eternity Edition is without doubt the most ambitious creation we have released to date. It draws upon our vast knowledge of Haute Horlogerie, in particular tourbillons, embraces several types of artistic crafts and, at the same time, honours the history of La Esmeralda, a watch that continues to exhibit lasting appeal.”
FAMILIAR BUT DIFFERENT
Three gold bridges span the dial, similar to those fitted to La Esmeralda of 1889. However, on this latest model, Girard-Perregaux has once again made the invisible visible by bringing the horses engraved on the back case of the original pocket watch up to centre stage of this new timepiece. Indeed, two hand-engraved galloping horses form the right and left ends of the barrel bridge and tourbillon bridge. Each bridge is painstakingly finished and features concave bevelling, mirror-polishing, flanks with horizontal ‘traits-tirés’ and rounded off arms. It requires 40 hours to finish all three bridges, while the additional engraving found on the barrel bridge and tourbillon takes an extra 50 hours to complete.
While the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition celebrates the Manufacture’s history and upholds many of its historical techniques, it also incorporates cutting-edge technology. For example, the elaborately formed mainplate is made using a CNC-machine and produced to infinitesimal tolerances unimaginable back in the 19th century. However, once milled, the mainplate is finished to the exacting standards befitting the term ‘Haute Horlogerie’. This is just one example of how Girard-Perregaux has repeatedly juxtaposed modern-day know-how with traditional expertise.
The mainplate (caseback side) is embellished with a new form of finishing, an industry first exclusive to Girard- Perregaux. Where some high-end watches feature a bevelled edge, presented at 45°, spanning the surface and the flank, this model encompasses concave bevelling. This involves creating a curved recess between the surface and flank, catching light wonderfully and transitioning from one shade to another.
THE CALIBER AND ITS DECORATIONS
As its name implies, the watch is fitted with a secret cover. By pressing the crown pusher, the secret cover opens, revealing the self-winding movement, the Calibre GP09600-1506. Beneath the secret cover, the mainplate is fitted with a motion-work bridge and marking plate. Both are made from pink gold and incorporate traits-tirés and hand-polished angles, thereby emulating the shape of the famous Gold Bridges. The motion-work bridge is marked ‘secret’. The inside of the hinged secret cover is hand-engraved with various inscriptions, albeit these can be personalised on request.
Both the barrel and the mainplate (dial side) are enlivened with various guilloché patterns, performed using a traditional rose-engine lathe, operated by a time-served artisan. The rose-engine lathe is a manually operated machine, devoid of power or electronics. The expert places the dial in the machine and with one hand rotates it at a steady speed. He or she employs their other hand to press the chisel or cutter against the dial to remove material. The pattern is created by using various ‘rosettes’. This technique requires several years to master. Indeed, in order to create a beautifully defined pattern the artisan must ensure the rotational speed and the pressure they apply to the chisel remain constant at all times.
The dauphine-type hour and minute hands are formed of pink gold and circumnavigate an intricate and beautifully appointed dial. Beyond its three iconic bridges and the aforementioned guilloché dial, the watch is endowed with several additional delights for the delectation of purists. The central area of the dial and mainplate is recessed, accommodating the barrel, centre wheel and tourbillon cage. A rhodium plated barrel sits in the upper portion of the dial and features golden engraved text. This detail recalls the text found on the barrel of the original La Esmeralda, declaring the model’s patented status. A white gold micro-rotor sits beneath the barrel, out of sight, energising the mainspring with minimal user input.
A tourbillon cage is positioned in the lower portion of the dial. Made using state-of-the art technology, the lyre- shaped cage, comprised of 78 components, weighs just 0.3g. This low mass helps mitigate power-consumption, contributing to the model’s power-reserve of at least 50 hours. A blued steel hand is affixed to the tourbillon cage and serves as a small seconds display.
The pink gold case is totally hand-engraved, honouring the skilful work of Fritz Kundert, the artisan tasked with engraving La Esmeralda in the 19th century, as well as the dedication and skill of the modern-day artisans of La Chaux-de-Fonds. The bezel, caseband, lugs and buckle are engraved with a delicate leaf motif. The outerpart of the cover is adorned with a fluted pattern. Additional engraving graces both the inside and exterior of the secret cover.
La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition is introduced as part of the Eternity Edition series, paying homage the eternal beauty of enamel. This contemporary Interpretation has taken use this métier d’art one step further than Its historical forebearer, extending the enamelling onto the outer case sides and lugs – all of which has been executed in-house. The enamel comprises a mixture of silica, minium, potash and soda which are ground into a powder. Additional metal oxides are then added to create different coloured enamels. The powder is dusted onto the dial and then fired in an oven that typically operates at about 800°C. This process is repeated on 5-10 occasions to achieve the desired lustrous appearance. Grand feu enamelling takes much expertise to master, however, even with experience the repeated firings can still result in cracks appearing, air bubbles and colour imperfections. Inevitably, many dials fail to pass muster and are discarded. However, the main benefit of this protracted process is that flawless grand feu enamels dial will retain their colour forever.
To the rear of the watch, the back of the blue enamelled secret cover features three horses, again inspired by the original La Esmeralda and adorned with a sunray guilloché decoration and blue grand feu enamel. The horses return, but their origin remains an enigma or, as they say at the Manufacture, ‘an equine mystery’.
La Esmeralda Tourbillon “A Secret” Eternity Edition will be offered in seven different colourways, each produced on request for a maximum of eighteen pieces per colour. It is immediately available worldwide through all authorised Girard-Perregaux retailers. (Price CHF 360.300)