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Girard-Perregaux gold 1968
From 1968, this gentleman’s Girard-Perregaux in gold is an extremely attractive watch that has survived in almost mint condition. Despite being the product of one of the most highly regarded watch makers in the world, it isn’t prohibitively expensive and offers quite remarkable value for money when compared to new timepieces in the high street.
Girard-Perregaux is the oldest of all the top tier Swiss houses and one of the most prestigious. Founded in 1791, it set out to cater for a social elite made up of aristocrats, European Royalty and the wealthy business community. Queen Victoria was a customer, as was and. Interestingly, the relative position of the firm hasn’t changed a great deal and its image today is still one of a niche brand that is appreciated by horological connoisseurs but still largely unknown to the general public. In 1957, Ian Fleming wrote on the first page of his James Bond novel “From Russia with Love” that a gold Girard-Perregaux watch was “a typical membership badge of the rich man’s club” but even this exposure didn’t expand the audience for the brand beyond its cult following. Today, production remains at a much lower level than that of Rolex and Omega, and Girard-Perregaux watches are for sale new only a very limited number of prestigious specialist outlets.
This would have been a costly purchase when new, which may explain why it has clearly seen very little use. The large gold case is almost mint, with only the faintest imperfections that are almost invisible to the naked eye. A lot of the gold cases we have offered to us look fine upon casual examination, but inspection in greater detail, particularly with the movement removed, reveals that repair work, usually to the lugs, has been carried out at some stage. This case is virtually perfect and has not been near a soldering iron since the day it was made.
The weight of this housing is immediately noticeable when one first picks up the watch. The best case makers were far less cost conscious that they are today and were quite happy to create cases that were very thick walled, using far more gold than would be deemed viable now. In common with its competitors, Girard-Perregaux was not a case maker, but instead purchased its cases from a number of independent factories that specialised in this field.
This case was commissioned by Girard-Perregaux from Britton & Sons, based at 45 Vyse Street, Birmingham. Experienced collectors will be familiar with Britton & Sons as a case supplier to Rolex during the 1960s and ‘70s, but probably less aware of their relationship with Girard-Perregaux at the same time. Britton produced some exceptionally fine cases during this period, combining substantial build with superb finishing, both outside and in. The interior of this case is covered with an engine turned pearled pattern that under normal circumstances, the watch’s owner would never see. What we now regard as vintage watches by all the famous Swiss makers were built up to a remarkably high quality standard rather than down to a price as they would be today.
‘British Make, B & S’ is stamped inside this case, together with the serial number 423461. Also here are a full set of crisp British hallmarks, these telling us that this housing was assayed as solid 9 karat gold in Birmingham 1968.
On the outside of the case is the attractively executed dedication ‘Presented to Mr. D. Collier by Fletchers Sauce Co Ltd in appreciation of Loyal Service 1946-1971’. The giving of high quality Swiss watches to senior executives as retirement or long service awards was not uncommon in the past. We have a policy of always leaving engraving of this type in place on the basis that it adds a sense of character and provenance without adversely affecting commercial worth, though if a buyer wishes to have a smooth back, this can be created at any competent local jeweller with just a few minutes of polishing.
The lightly silvered French white dial cannot be faulted and qualifies as the best preserved example that could be found at any price. Dial condition and originality are fundamental in establishing value and vintage watches with pristine, untouched dials like this one are not often seen. This is the perfect representative specimen of the sort of dial that every collector would buy for investment purposes if they could. So many of the vintage wristwatches for sale, both online and in the physical marketplace, have dials that are either in poor condition or have been completely restored. Neither state is desirable and to be worth its theoretical maximum, a vintage watch must have its original dial in excellent, or better, condition. The difference in desirability between a classic timepiece with a superb, virgin dial and one with a restored or grubby dial is enormous and it is easy to unwittingly pay a high price for something that will always be regarded as second rate, however long it is kept. A piece with a dial like this one will always be pricey in the first instance, but will hold its relative position as the best available example of its type.
The dial format here could not be simpler. This clean, uncluttered look is timeless and non-dating. ‘Girard-Perregaux’ is signed in black above the dial centre point, with ‘Swiss’ along the outer edge. All three hands are original to this watch, their gilt surfaces matching perfectly those of the hour batons.
Girard-Perregaux movements are some of the finest to have ever been offered in vintage watches. The company forged its reputation offering some of the most sophisticated mechanisms in the market and has maintained a consistently high level of quality over more than two centuries. The movement here is calibre 30.6, a hand wound unit that was a reworking of the 1687 ebauche ( an ebauche is a movement in its raw, unfinished state, without jewels, gears or any other component parts) that Girard-Perregaux purchased from A. Schild of Grenchen and then heavily modified in its own factory. Founded in 1896, Schild is regarded today as something of a movement making legend, having sold its ebauches as building blocks to a whole multitude of household name brands, from Breitling to Rolex.
Consistent with the near mint state of the case and dial, this movement is immaculate throughout. Its rhodium plated finish is bright and not in the least bit tarnished. Every component in this mechanism is guaranteed to be entirely original and nothing whatsoever has been changed. Every aspect of this unit is authentic Girard-Perregaux and there has been no adulteration of this item with non-standard parts.
‘17 Jewels, Girard-Perregaux, Swiss’ is stated on the bridge, together with the serial number 303559. Certainly, this movement is original to the case that contains it. For a long time, we’ve had the idea of setting up a database on this website of the serial numbers on vintage Girard-Perregaux watches that have passed through our hands, in a similar fashion to our Rolex Case Backs pages in the Reference section. Particularly on watches in steel, which obviously don’t have a hallmark year letter from which they can be dated, it would be very useful to have an easily accessed table of serial numbers arranged in chronological order.
It is almost superfluous to confirm that this watch works perfectly. It sets, winds and runs extremely smoothly and its movement is not measurably worn. These vintage Girard-Perregaux movements are so brilliantly engineered that provided they are treated with care and sent for routine servicing every three or four years, they will last almost forever. There is no reason why a classic wristwatch of this quality cannot become an heirloom possession that is passed on to subsequent generations and many buyers now purchase with this intention in mind.
We have fitted a high quality crocodile skin type strap to this watch. This is not a genuine Girard-Perregaux strap, but is very similar to those shown in the company’s advertising of the period and it ideally suited to the piece.
Girard-Perregaux has recently released a model that has almost the exact appearance of the item here to much praise from the specialist press. Named the 1966, it has the same classically styled circular case, angled lugs and straight dial batons as the original vintage version. The quality of the cases and movements in the two watches is directly comparable, though a purist might successfully argue that the mechanism in the older piece is finished to a slighter higher grade.
The new 1966 reissue in gold is available for around £9600 GB pounds, which makes this vintage example in almost mint condition seem remarkably good value for money at £690 GB pounds. If the general public actually appreciated just how well made vintage Girard-Perregaux watches are, then the price of this piece, and others like it, would be much higher. In a direct side by side comparison, classic Girard-Perregaux are the equals of anything by Rolex or Omega, but for no other reason than the brand having a low key profile, they can be purchased even now for relatively reasonable sums. This is a gorgeous watch that oozes quality and the fact that it was something of a bargain will be a source of much satisfaction to its next owner.
Price £690 GB Pounds