Girard-Perregaux’s three bridge movement construction has been a signature of the brand’s for just about 158 years now. Created by founder Constant Girard, this particular approach to movement construction was first showcased to the world in 1867 as a tourbillon pocket chronometer version with three nickel bridges that won a First Class Bulletin from Neuchâtel Observatory. But its ultimate recognition came when Girard took his creation, in the form of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, to the Exposition Universelle — better known as the World’s Fair, held in Paris from 6 May to 31 October of the year.

So lauded was his creation at the fair that the watch was awarded one of its highest honors, the gold medal. Today, of course, the legacy of Constant Girard carries on through the brand, not only by the name it bears, but its most recognized timepieces, which all feature the three-bridge movement.

Constant Girard's La Esmeralda Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges
Constant Girard's La Esmeralda Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges

Sure, as opposed to the days of Constant Girard, his signature three bridges have since migrated from the back of the watch to become a point of focus on the dial itself. But the fascination that people feel for his creation is the same today as it was for those in attendance at the 1889 World’s Fair.

Perhaps the timepiece from modern day Girard-Perregaux, which most retains the spirit of the original La Esmeralda, is one that’s aptly named, La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret”. Announced earlier at SIHH 2018, the timepiece is a 44mm piece of horological art, crafted in pink gold. All of the motifs visible on the case surface of the watch are inspired by the 1889 La Esmeralda. A solitary artisan performs the task of engraving the timepiece, which takes no less than two hundred hours to complete.

The La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret” (Image © Revolution)
The La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret” (Image © Revolution)

So that the most of the engravings from Constant Girard’s own creation can be brought into the present-day piece, a hinged caseback is added for extra surface area. Here the motif of the three horses on the back of the 1889 pocketwatch are transcribed. The great thing is that the addition of the cover creates a notion of intimacy for the owner of the watch. It is only the wearer who can take the watch off and undo the cover to admire the back of the movement. Girard-Perregaux also has left a bit of space on a plate where the owner of the watch can request for a simple engraved name or word.

Engraved closed caseback of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret” (Image © Revolution)
Engraved closed caseback of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret” (Image © Revolution)
The back view of the movement of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret”
The back view of the movement of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret”

The main attraction, though, is on the dial side, where the three golden bridges are. With the first bridge holding in place, the barrel; the second bridge bears the center wheel, and the third and last bridge bears the escapement — in this instance, the tourbillon. There is a great sense of logic in the way that Constant Girard designed his three bridge movement. In the instance of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon “À secret”, the linear arrangement of the gear train also leaves ample space on the dial for further creative expression with yet more engraved motifs.

However, the three bridge movement construction doesn’t only inspire Girard-Perregaux’s classical watchmaking efforts. It’s even gone the distance to create a spark in the brand’s more avant-garde pursuits. A perfect example of this is the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton.

The Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton (Image © Revolution)
The Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton (Image © Revolution)

It has to be said that despite the fact that the three bridges here — aesthetically speaking — deviate so far from what is the classical double arrow-head bridge, they still very much impress on the mind, Girard-Perregaux’s signature movement architecture.

The Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton features a 45mm titanium case with a steep convex boxed crystal on the front and yet another, less pronounced boxed crystal on the back. This creates great visibility into the watch, which is further amplified by the skeleton movement within.

As impressive as the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton is, what is fundamentally most evident here is that the qualities of a genius design, conceived a century and a half ago, still hold strong. Therein, as long as Girard-Perregaux continues to draw inspiration from one of the greatest gifts from its founding father, it will continue to create timepieces that fascinate watch lovers for many more centuries to come.

For more information: thehourglass.com

Caseback of the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton (Image © Revolution)
Caseback of the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton (Image © Revolution)