To coincide with the Geneva Watch Days, Girard-Perregaux is delighted to showcase two new watches that sit within their Bridge family; the Free Bridge and Free Bridge Infinity. These new models pay respect to Girard-Perregaux’s legendary Three Bridges of 1867, a timepiece that became the brand’s signature, leading to a chronometry prize from the Neuchâtel Observatory. The Tourbillon with Three Bridges has for 150 years embodied the spirit of Girard-Perregaux: technique dedicated to style. This movement with its unique and instantly recognisable architecture was the work of Constant Girard, the emblematic figure of the Manufacture in the 19th century. This visionary and perfectionist watchmaker from La Chaux-de-Fonds focused his research on the escapement system, and in particular the tourbillon. His creations were regularly distinguished in national and international competitions. The Tourbillon with Three Bridges, a truly brilliant accomplishment, remains the most legendary expression of his endeavours.
The Free Bridge, and the Free Bridge Infinity pay homage to its predecessors while embracing the future and the design and aesthetics of the new model are contemporary and suited to those who appreciate style, strong design codes and extraordinary watchmaking expertise. They feature the brands’ iconic arrow-shaped Bridge that spans the base of the main plate that is not only a nod to the history and development of the collections but replicate contemporary structures often seen in architecture.
The master watchmakers in La Chaux-de-Fondshave reinterpreted the tried and tested GP01800 in-house calibre, adding a sizeable dose of cutting-edge technology. Girard-Perregaux has used silicon to make the escapement and parts of the balance wheel. There are many advantages to using silicon within watchmaking. It is not liable to corrosion, is unaffected by changing temperature, it is lightweight and it is less susceptible to magnetic fields, all working together to ensure consistent timekeeping. In addition, silicon’s low coefficient of friction mitigates both wear and energy consumption.
Perhaps one of the most notable differences with silicon relates to its capacity to be made into elaborate shapes which would be impossible using conventional technologies. In 2013, Girard-Perregaux created an ingenious silicon blade for its prize-winning Constant Escapement L.M. The action of the silicon blade flexing backwards and forwards delivered a uniform supply of energy to the escapement, enhancing precision.
Once again, Girard-Perregaux has capitalised on silicon’s ability to be formed into intricate shapes, using the state-of-the-art material to create not only the escapement but also a large variable inertia balance. Most watches feature a ‘raquette’ which alters the effective length of the balance spring, making the watch run faster or slower. With a variable inertia balance, the length of the balance spring is fixed and the rate is altered by moving adjustable inertia blocks. The benefit of this approach is that the balance is more stable and less susceptible to shocks. Its aerial design as well as its large diameter further augment precision.
In contrast to a conventional sapphire crystal, both models are fitted with a newly designed sapphire crystal box, featuring a distinctive dome shape. It requires four to five times more material in order to create the domed shape and necessitates incredible skill to polish the crystal to a blemish-free conclusion. The movement opening, between 6 o’clock and noon, bathes the exposed movement components with an abundance of light. The inverted movement affords stunning dial-side views of various components, often hidden from view, including the balance, the escapement and the barrel positioned at the top of the dial. The self-winding GP01800-1170 perpetuates the company’s reputation for fine watchmaking. The movement is embellished with Côtesde Genève motif, bevelling, sandblasting and snailing. The specification of the Infinity Edition also includes an 18-carat pink gold oscillating weight. The Maison’s Eagle symbol adorns the calibre, testifying that it is a Manufacture movement.
Both the Free Bridge and the Free Bridge Infinity Edition feature an hour bridge which draws the onlookers’ gaze to the barrel and the oscillating balance wheel. On the Free Bridge, this hour bridge is satin-finished and hand-bevelled, while the hour bridge on the Free Bridge Infinity Edition is formed of onyx, a material which exhibits the darkest shade of intense black. The hour bridge encompasses straight lines that sit in contrast with the arcing lines of the case. The Free Bridge is housed in a 44mm steel case, while its counterpart, the Free Bridge Infinity Edition, assumes a stealthy appearance courtesy of its DLC treatment.
The Free Bridge features skeletonised Dauphine-style hands that collaborate with suspended indexes to impart the prevailing time. The suspended indexes reinforce the model’s three-dimensional design language. The Free Bridge Infinity Edition employs golden hues to deliver an alternative persona. The colour-coordinated strap on both models is enriched with two prominent stitches adjacent to each lug, presented in a contrasting shade. Moving forward, this design element will become a recurring GP signature design element.