It’s no secret that Swiss brands have shaped the history of watchmaking. Various manufacturing firms from this small Central European country have changed the watchmaking industry more than anything else. By making many innovations in watchmaking, Switzerland has become one of the centers of watch manufacturing. Among the many Swiss firms that helped develop the watchmaking industry today is Girard Perregaux.
While the company’s name sounds French, Swiss watchmakers founded Girard Perregaux in 1791, making the firm older than the other more popular Swiss watch brands. During this time, the French Revolution was in full swing. And many historical events also changed Europe’s landscape and destiny. But there’s more to Girard Perregaux that everyone deserves to know aside from its long history as a watchmaking firm.
One of the World’s Oldest Watchmakers
Girard Perregaux is one of the oldest manufacturers of Swiss watches in the world. The company had its earliest roots with Jean-François Bautte. He was a Swiss watchmaker and goldsmith who established his watchmaking firm in Geneva in 1791. During this time, the French Revolution was raging. And many historical events were happening in Europe and the rest of the world. Jean-François Bautte soon became one of the most popular watchmakers in history. He was also among the first inventors of the extra-thin watches.
Another Swiss watchmaker named Constant Girard created a firm called Girard & Cie in 1852. He then married Marie Perregaux two years later, who also belonged to a family of watchmakers. Two years after their marriage, the two founded the Girard-Perregaux Manufacture in 1856. These two watchmaking firms would unite in 1906. The merger happened when Constant Girard-Gallet, the son of the senior Constant Girard, acquired the Maison of Jean-François Bautte of Geneva. The firm was then called Girard-Perregaux & Cie and now called just Girard Perregaux. After the merger, the company would create numerous innovations that would change the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Its Clients Include Celebrities and Royalty
Girard Perregaux had its fair share of famous clients like younger Swiss watch brands. And this is because of its long and distinguished history as a watchmaker. During his life, Jean-François Bautte created watches that would soon become popular outside Switzerland. Many celebrities such as the director Quentin Tarantino, athlete Kobe Bryant, and actor Pierce Brosnan have owned Girard Perregaux watches. But the most famous clients of the firm included members of royalty and the prominent French writer Alexandre Dumas, fils. Jean-François Bautte’s name has been mentioned a few times in some of Dumas’ works.
Another notable client of the firm is Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who was then about to be crowned as the country’s monarch. Finally, Girard Perregaux would also serve Egyptian royalty, as King Farouk I was also a notable patron of the company. But it was not just King Farouk I who owned Girard Perregaux watches. Ismail Pasha once owned a Girard Perregaux pocket watch as well. He was King Farouk I’s grandfather and the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan from 1863 until 1879. But Sotheby’s cataloged and sold this watch after King Farouk I abdicated in 1952. By serving both celebrities and royalty, Girard Perregaux was able to create a reputation as a Swiss luxury watch brand for many more years to come.
Its Innovations Include One of the First Swiss Quartz Watches
During the quartz crisis in the 1970s, many Swiss watch brands that manufactured mechanical watches found intense competition in the Japanese watchmakers such as Seiko and Citizen. These watch manufacturers introduced quartz watches in the 1970s, which were said to be more precise in timekeeping. Girard Perregaux embraced the technology and created one of the first Swiss quartz watches in 1970. The company went against most Swiss watch manufacturers. And it’s because they rushed to make mechanical watches that would fiercely compete against Japanese-made quartz watches,
In the following year, Girard Perregaux created another watch using quartz movement and vibrated at 32,768 hertz. This frequency would soon become the universal standard for quartz watches today. The Girard-Perregaux Caliber 350, its first quartz watch, may not be the first quartz watch to be released in the market or even the first Swiss watch using quartz movement. But it set standards for subsequent Swiss watches with regards to frequency.
Another Innovation: Tourbillon with Three Bridges
Before Girard Perregaux created one of the first Swiss quartz watches in the market, the company created something so innovative. It won a gold medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1889. This innovation was called the “Tourbillon with three bridges.” The design was called that way because the watch, which was also called “La Esmeralda Tourbillon,” featured a tourbillon with three bridges in it. The three bridges had the form of an arrow and were placed in parallel with each other on the watch’s dial. While the three bridges were vital technical parts of the watch, they also became a design element for the timepiece. And it became so iconic that the “three bridges” design had become synonymous with Girard Perregaux. Since then, the company would continue to create watches with the three bridges design. Some were original copies of the watch that won an award at the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889. Other versions featured the design but had other different specifications and features.
We could say that Girard Perregaux truly is one of the few watchmaking firms that helped establish the Swiss watchmaking industry globally. And this is thanks in part to its three hundred years of experience and history.
From the first tourbillon watch with three bridges to the first quartz watch manufactured by a Swiss company, Girard Perregaux made several contributions to the industry. They also helped shape the Swiss watch manufacturing industry even today. And Girard Perregaux continues to stand out from the rest of the competition up to this day.
The company also served various clients in history. From celebrities to members of royalty, Girard Perregaux has developed a reputation as a reliable Swiss watch brand. But today, while it may no longer be as famous as other Swiss watch firms, it has become a big part of the history of watchmaking in Switzerland and the world.
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Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.