It is the emblem of the Maison. The work of a lifetime. That of the watchmaker Constant Girard, who in the mid-1850s began work on this almost minimalist construction that has become the brand signature. In 1867, the Tourbillon with Three Bridges won its first chronometry prize from Neuchâtel Observatory. The saga began…
An historical signature and a legendary model. The Tourbillon with Three Bridges has for 150 years embodied the spirit of Girard-Perregaux: technique dedicated to style. This movement with its unique and instantly recognisable architecture is the work of Constant Girard, the emblematic figure of the Manufacture in the 19th
century. This visionary and perfectionist watchmaker from La Chaux-de-Fonds focused his research on the escapement system, and in particular the tourbillon. His creations were regularly distinguished in national and international competitions. The Tourbillon with Three Bridges, a truly brilliant accomplishment, remains the most legendary expression of his endeavours.
Constant Girard took an early interest in the tourbillon and in the regular movement rate that it ensured for the movement. While his peers were content with merely adding it on to a given movement, the watchmaker devoted close attention to the structure of the movement and the shape of its components. In the mid-1850s, he thus began developing a watch equipped with a tourbillon regulator on a calibre featuring three parallel bridges. The first outlines of this cult object with its characteristic architecture and its arrow-shaped bridges began to take shape. The length and patient creative process led to this principle being incorporated within a tourbillon pocket chronometer equipped with three nickel-plated parallel bridges, which won a first-class award from Neuchâtel Observatory in 1867.
The artisan’s quest for technical and aesthetic perfection continued: gold was incorporated into the movement as a functional material, and the architecture of the bridges was fine-tuned. The watchmaker decided to protect the design of its tourbillon with three parallel arrow-shaped bridges. Since there was no competent authority in Switzerland at the time, Girard-Perregaux filed a patent request in March 1884 with the United States Patent Office. In creating this iconic calibre, Constant Girard was expressing an innovative vision of the watch movement. He literally set the stage for the mechanism and its components, lending an artistic dimension to the tourbillon that had hitherto been regarded as serving a purely functional purpose. This technical device thus became a design element in its own right. In 1889, the watchmaker unveiled the culmination of this concept: the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges, nicknamed Esmeralda. Recognition was immediate, since the tourbillon pocket chronometer with pivoted detent escapement and three gold bridges won the Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition. His masterpiece also won an out-of-competition ranking and a permanent seat as a jury member of subsequent World’s Fairs from 1901 onwards.
Over a 25-year period, Girard-Perregaux made around 20 tourbillons with three bridges. Having established itself as the emblem of the Maison, the Tourbillon with Three Bridges is now considered the world’s oldest watch movement still in production, with an overall structure that has remained unchanged since the 1860s. Inseparably bound up with Girard-Perregaux, it has laid some of the most important milestones of its existence. In the late 1970s, in the midst of the quartz boom, Girard-Perregaux decided to wager on a return to traditional mechanical watches by issuing a 20-piece re-edition of its famous Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges pocket watch dating from 1889. Ten years later, in 1991, a new feat marked the bicentenary of the Manufacture: The Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges was miniaturised to wristwatch format for the very first time. Since then, 1,500 of these models have been produced.
Singularity. Precision. The iconic Three Bridges have embodied Girard-Perregaux’ identity for 150 years. They express both the technical expertise of the Manufacture and its aesthetic signature. Their minimalist architecture also evokes the symbolism of the number three, the basis of time measurement and of the three-fold past, present and future expression of time.
Through the current Girard-Perregaux Bridges collection, the new “Three Bridges” generation combines two worlds: classic and contemporary. The arrow-type bridges of the iconic movement design are adorned with precious materials and traditional finishing in the “Gold Bridges” range, while its modern “Neo Bridge” counterpart is enhanced with modern composites and state-of-the-art finishing.
Distinguished by its on-trend take on classicism, a new 40 mm-diameter Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges joins the Bridges collection. In a size attuned to contemporary standards, its 18K pink gold case teamed with a black alligator leather strap secured by a triple folding clasp provides a transparent frame for the legendary calibre and its signature characteristics. The absence of a dial ensures clear views of the movement – distinguished by its its imposing lyre-shaped tourbillon carriage featuring three parallel arrow-type bridges – comprising 257 parts entirely assembled and decorated by hand. The 79-part carriage weighing barely 0.278 grams is driven by a unidirectional micro-rotor automatic winding system, visible through an openworked barrel. In addition to its tourbillon, this Haute Horlogerie watch with a 50-hour power reserve displays the hours, minutes and seconds.
The saga continues, the new-gen Bridges is on the move