Thursday, February 16, 2012

Girard-Perregaux and The Quartz Scare

This newspaper advertisement from the Winnipeg Free Press, November 27th, 1972 and others like it almost brought the world of mechanical watch making to its knees. A Watch only less accurate than the sun itself is quite a statement. While reading this 40 year old article, I can sense the shudder that pervaded the Mechanical Watch World in the early 1970's when Quartz watches flooded the market, relatively cheaper and more accurate than their mechanical counterparts.

Girard-Perregaux Calibre 351 (1970's)
This thought was very much the same of many companies that became redundant due to modern technologies. Companies that made camera film for camera's, ribbons for typewriters, VHS , gas lanterns and carriages for horses.
The Mechanical Watch World thought their days were numbered, and truth be told the sales of Mechanical Watches plummeted. Less people learned the trade of Mechanical Watch Making as they saw no future in it. Companies like Blancpain became dormant shutting their doors and vowing emphatically never to produce a watch powered by quartz (To this day they still have not).
Other companies like Girard-Perregaux were not as gloomy, but on the contrary grabbed the Quartz Revolution by the horns, revamping its Research Development Department and becoming a major player in the Quartz Revolution.  In the early 1970's, the Girard-Perregaux Calibre 351, unveiled in 1969, was  mass produced and widely available.  It was relatively expensive, but the novelty of a watch, which required no winding and was only less accurate then the sun itself, boosted sales.
Girard-Perregaux Laureato (2010)
Today  Girard-Perreagux holds much pride in its Quartz Accomplishment. In January 2010,  the Girard-Perreaguax Laurateo (cost - $11,500) housing a GP 13500 quartz movement commemorated its 40 years in the quartz industry and the successful establishment of the quartz crystal's frequency of 32.768 hertz - a specification standard to all quartz calibers  today.
In fact Girard-Perregaux holds its quartz accomplishments in as great esteem as its iconic three gold bridges movement crafted over 100 years prior.  This year at the SIHH 2012, Girard-Perregaux joined these iconic milestones, separated by over 100 years, into a symbolic timepiece - the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Tourbillon with 3 spinal blue bridges.  The Original Girard- Perregaux Triple Gold Bridges was patented in March 1884, but developed in the 1860's.
Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon 3 Bridges (2012)
 The newest Laureauto Tourbillon is limited to 10 pieces and houses a automatic mechanical Girard-Perregaux 9600-0004 movement, within a 42.6 mm titanium case.  An octagonal platinum bezel add  bright bands of luster achieved by alternating  brushed and polished finishes accentuating the translucent blue of the clear spinal bridges. Spinals , a precious gem from the Corundum family, is the perfect material to use since the gem  requires very little treatment as  in nature they are flawless and transparent.   The clarity of the stone is a blue hued window to a tourbillon suspended beneath the bridge above the 6'o'clock position as well as mechanical components beneath the other bridges.  The transparent case back reveals the excellent mechanics in motion.  A rugged titanium bracelet fastened the timepiece securely to ones wrist.

So it seems that as a result of the inexpensiveness, accuracy, and sheer numbers of Quartz Watches available, Mechanical Watches would vanish from the modern world. It seemed The Mechanical Watch World was on the brink of extinction ,when the novelty of the Quartz watches began to fade, and slowly Mechanical Watches made a come back. Mechanical Watches now filled a different role of times past. Mechanical Watches filled the role of class, quality and centuries old tradition. True they are less effected by adverse temperatures, and can last longer if maintained , but it is not a competition between the two that can be tabulated. The two types of watches are very different, and it is in their difference that each will attain their place in the Watch World. Gerard-Perregaux found a place for Mechanical and Quartz Watches to exist in a harmonious balance. Excepting both and detracting from none. 

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