In Watches

Well, Basel and SIHH have come and gone for 2007, leaving in their wake the introduction of all kinds of watches from the breadth of brands, from top tier to bottom and everything in between. The trend for large timepieces continues to go on unfazed, and with a few exceptions, one could say that subtlety is not the overriding design goal of many brands. Striking, yes. In many cases, definitely beautiful. Subtle, not particularly.

Thanks to our wondrous technological age, I, like many others, got to experience some of the proverbial kid-at-Christmas excitement of Basel and SIHH, through the lens and words of others, who attended and reported back on what they saw. Many thanks to those individuals!

Speaking personally, a few watches introduced really resonated with me. However, I think that my single favorite watch introduced this year is the amazing Girard-Perregaux 1945 Vintage Jackpot Tourbillon watch. If you haven’t had a chance to see this incredible timepiece, please do have a look at it. As Time Zone’s James Dowling so astutely observes, this is a watch which turns notions of the “importance” of complications, upside down. Girard-Perregaux has developed a spectacularly complicated movement, with an entirely novel mechanism, that replicates the functions of a slot machine! By pulling the lever on the side of the case, the reels spin in a blur of speed—moments later three of five symbols–the suits of spades, hearts, diamonds, horseshoes, or bells–appear. Each time the reels stop, a minute repeater-type hammer strikes a gong, producing a bright chime. This unique complication is inspired by the original late 19th century “Liberty Bell” slot machine, which drew its name from the bell symbol that symbolized American liberty.

The first time I saw this watch, I had to do a bit of a double take. My first thought was “it just LOOKS like a slot machine; it can’t actually work like one…. CAN it??” Well, it can! Some may find this watch utterly ridiculous—but that, in my opinion, is exactly what is so great about it. How many interpretations of classical complications, however nice, do we see? While there is much to be said for these respected complications, its really an admirable thing that Girard-Perregaux has applied all the principles that are demanded by traditional haute horlogerie (particularly the minute repeater mechanism) and created something entirely new, that is frivolous, fun, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Besides, traditionalists can still enjoy the beautiful one-minute tourbillon – with the famous, characteristic Girard-Perregaux rose gold bridge. As a final thought, Girard-Perregaux has executed the Vintage Jackpot Tourbillon watch with real grace and elegance; the slot machine reels (made from hollowed out gold, which are finely lacquered) are situated very elegantly at the top of the dial, and the lever is beautifully and thoughtfully incorporated into the case profile of the watch, while still managing to resemble a miniature slot machine lever!

The Girard-Perregaux 1945 Vintage Jackpot Tourbillon watch will be extremely costly, and it will be equally rare – Girard-Perregaux has indicated production of only a few pieces each year, at best. It does not surprise me one bit that Girard-Perregaux pre-sold several of these watches within mere hours of showing it. While I don’t know the percentage, I’m fairly sure this watch will be a sought after treasure for more than a few highly successful Casino owners. Were I one, I suspect I might be very tempted indeed to place an order with Girard-Perregaux!

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