Watches: Girard-Perregaux 1966 Neo-Tourbillon with Three Titanium Bridges (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on May 11, 2014

Everyone will tell you that there is nothing riskier than trying to update an icon. The saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” surely translates into “if it sells, don’t change it” in marketing parlance. Nobody would like to take a chance and denature a legendary model. Yet, constantly reworking the design of its famous “Tourbillon under Three Bridges” is what Girard-Perregaux has been successfully doing for as long as I can remember. And, let me tell you that it is certainly not the new Neo-Tourbillon presented this year at Baselworld that will end this incredible cycle of honouring history while embracing the future.

In recent years, the brand unveiled drastically modern interpretations of this iconic timepiece created more than 150 years ago, like the Laureato Tourbillon in 2006 with its three sapphire bridges and an extremely sporty case, as well as more classic renditions, like the 1966 Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges in 2013, with nonetheless considerable improvements on the movement side.

In more ways than one, the Neo-Tourbillon represents both aesthetic and technical breakthroughs and can be regarded as the most radical iteration of the “Tourbillon under Three Bridges” since the pocket watch version, created by Constant Girard himself, that was awarded a gold medal at the Universal Exposition of Paris in 1889. Considerable changes have been made in the design of the bridges, the shape of the crystal and at the heart of the calibre without ever affecting its lineage.

The most noticeable innovation is clearly the presence of titanium bridges with a structure never seen before. Slightly oval-shaped, these avant-garde arches have been hollowed to produce a more striking aerial effect and allow a better view deep inside the movement. Extremely hard yet lighter than steel, titanium is a very complex material to work with and the shape of these bridges as well as the nice sand-blasted finish with a black PVD coating brilliantly showcase this manufacture’s tremendous expertise.

They are secured directly on the grey-coloured mainplate that provides a nice contrast with the black bridges and pink gold skeletonized hands. Treated with anthracite ruthenium and nicely sand-blasted, the mainplate is concave in its centre to enhance the sense of depth and leave more room for the movement placed vertically.

With a modular construction that optimises its assembly and maintenance, the GP 09400 calibre has been completely redesigned. It is also larger than previous iterations, which fits perfectly the 45 mm case of this watch. It remains perfectly symmetrical, though, with a tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock aligned with the gear-train in the middle and the barrel positioned at 12 o’clock.

Technically, this impressive calibre is equipped with a new unidirectional winding system driven by a white gold micro-rotor mounted directly under the barrel (and not around as in previous versions). Thanks to a larger barrel drum, this impressive movement offers up to 72 hours of power reserve when fully wound.

With a diameter of 14.44 mm, the tourbillon cage is also larger than previous iterations and crafted for the first time in titanium. This one-minute tourbillon incorporates a black-coloured balance wheel with variable inertia adjusted by gold screws and a spiral with Philips terminal curve.

To allow for an even more uncluttered view of this sensational movement, the design team got rid of the bezel and created an anti-reflective sapphire that leans directly against the case centre. This complex structure acts like a window through which the movement it houses can be admired. It is a real treat to be able to observe such a high-end movement from the side through a crystal with the perfect shape to avoid any visual distortion! It also strengthens the overall 3-dimensional effect of this unique timepiece.

If you flip over the 45 mm pink gold case with a nice combination of polished and brushed surfaces, the view is equally impressive. The first thing you will notice is probably the arrow-shaped bridge that spans the entire movement. The shape of this black bridge is picked up by the smaller plate bearing the series number of the watch. They contrast nicely with the grey-coloured plate that received the same treatment as the mainplate on the front. The ratchet at 12 o’clock is “reminiscent of the shape of a lyre” according to the brand. All I can say is that wherever you look, you will be impressed by the quality of the high-end contemporary finishes.

The “Tourbillon under Three Bridges” is indeed an icon. It is one of the very few truly legendary high-end pieces in the watchmaking history. Many watch experts will argue that one should not alter perfection and that all necessary design codes were already present in Constant Girard’s revolutionary pocket watch. This is probably true to some extent. But when you have the incredibly intuitive design sense of Girard-Perregaux’s team as well as their natural sense of style, it would be a shame not to express it like they did with the refined Neo-Tourbillon.

For a technical description of the timepiece and additional pictures: