Why Bridges Are So Important For Watchmaker Girard-Perregaux
Imagine this: it’s 1889 and you are at the Paris Universal Exhibition. The Eiffel Tower has just been constructed, hydrogen-filled balloons fly overhead, and some of the greatest feats of technology, culture, art, and architecture are on display.
Among them, a pocket watch made by Maison Girard-Perregaux. It has three parallel golden bridges, tipped on either end with an arrow, and underneath it beats a mesmerising tourbillon. It goes on to win the gold medal at the fair.
That pocket watch is, of course, Girard‑Perregaux’s La Esmeralda—so named for the luxury store in Mexico that sold it after the fair. It was not the first example the maison has of a tourbillon under three bridges (the first dates back to 1860), but it is certainly the most famous.
In 2018, almost 130 years later, Girard‑Peregaux is once again resurrecting the memory of La Esmeralda, with the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À Secret”, a one of a kind intricately-decorated wristwatch that the brand calls a direct descendent of the 1889 original.
La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À Secret” was created entirely by hand by a single master watchmaker in Girard-Perregaux’s manufacture. Naturally, its movement has the iconic three golden arrow bridges visible on the dial, with the tourbillon underneath, married to its characteristic lyre-shaped carriage. The upper mainplate, visible on the dial side, is hand-engraved with a floral motif, while other components are finished with an elegant combination of cotes de Genève and circular graining.
What makes the watch truly spectacular, however, is the intricate hand-engraving on the pink gold case, lugs and caseback, the last of which recalls the protective case of a pocket watch. It is the first time a new iteration of La Esmeralda has had such a feature—naturally, it is to protect the “secret” self‑winding manufacture movement housed within.
For those who love the architecture of Girard-Perregaux’s bridges but prefer a more understated and modern approach, there is also the brand’s new Classic Bridges in 40mm and 45mm.
The watch is a riff off last year’s Neo Bridges, which was constructed in titanium, with a similar look and movement construction—it is just that the Neo Bridges had a more contemporary monochromatic palette compared to the white and gold of the Classic Bridges. Both have two of the arrowhead bridges visible on the front, with symmetrical openwork at the top of the dial side offering a glimpse at the movement below.
(Related: How The Patek Philippe Nautilus Became An Icon)
The self-winding movement’s micro‑rotor rests between 11 and 12 o’clock, and the barrel between one and two o’clock. Unlike the movements with three bridges, the bottom bridge in the Classic Bridges plays host to the movement’s balance wheel instead of a tourbillon—still appealing, and perhaps more palatable for daily wear. Both the Classic Bridges and the Neo Bridges are a more contemporary way of enjoying Girard‑Perregaux’s bridge movements, which are, naturally, made in-house.
The architecture of Girard-Perregaux’s bridges have captivated viewers for well over a century now, and it should continue to do so for many years to come.