"Constant Escapement" sounds like the marketing slogan for an all-inclusive vacation resort somewhere. "What you truly seek is constant escapement..." It is true, like other hobbies in life, high-end watches are a constant distraction, and offer some nice escape when wound properly. What Girard-Perregaux actually means is "constant force escapement" - which is really what this new high-end technically-astute timepiece is all about. In this watch are clues to the future of the brand as well as insight as to what Switzerland's top watch makers are currently working on. The Constant Escapement doesn't do anything new, but it does do some existing things in a fresh new way.
What we've been noticing lately from Girard-Perregaux is a rather distinct rejection of its own aesthetic codes. For a while, Girard-Perregaux was all about "classic and timeless" - with good looking retro-inspired pieces and a relative negligence of their sport watch collections. This was them taking the vintage watch craze to an extreme. All of a sudden in 2012 and 2013 you see something different: a new focus on the West with larger-sized watches and much more contemporary designs in the Sea Hawk collection, as well as the refreshed WW.TC collection. It is difficult to determine what led to this pivot in focus. A good place to look is Girard-Perregaux's more recent acquisition by the PPR group (now called Kering). Or perhaps Girard-Perregaux is once again remembering a different part of their history - as the innovator. For a time the brand was indeed a producer of sometimes wild experimental designs from early quartz movements to LED powered displays.
The spirit of modern design comes through well in the Constant Escapement which at first attempts to look classic, but ends up being more a futurist's versus purist's timepiece. Consider the off-centered dial for instance. Imagine that it took up the entire face. That is a modern, versus classic design, and when mixed with the range of industrial finishes on the dial, make for a technical, versus traditional look for the Constant Escapement. The hefty 48mm wide 18k white gold case size is another key indicator. GP, in more ways than one, may be saying "hello tomorrow, so long yesterday" in more ways than one.
We are told that this is just the first Constant Escapement model to be released. Details are scant, but given that this watch is not a limited edition, and that we are only given a view of the 18k white gold models means that Girard-Perregaux has interesting plans for this technology. What I want to know is how delicate it is. This leads me to the discuss what the hell a constant force escapement even is, and what you are looking at. Well it is something that is meant to solve an age old question, and one that most watch makers like to gloss over. The issue regards what happens as power from the mainspring moving to the rest of the movement is uneven as the spring unwinds? This causes rate errors in timing (meaning that a watch is prone to run fast when fully wound, to slow when almost unwound). Think of the car engine example and the torque curve. At various RPMs, different amounts of power come from the engine to the wheels. For cars, this isn't an issue as there is no need to maintain the same speed as the RPMs increase or decrease, but what if that was the case.
Just like the torque of a car engine, a mechanical watch movement has a torque curve and that range means that timing accuracy is not consistent. The goal of a constant force escapement is just that, to provide 'consistent' power to the escapement, thus ensuring more stable results in measuring the time. This is usually achieved in a stepping, or pulse method. Rather than power moving "unfiltered" to an escapement, an intermediary system controls power to deliver it in consistent pulses to the escapement. The hoped-for result is "varying amounts of power to the constant force mechanism, but equal power to the regulation system."
Girard-Perregaux has developed yet a new way to do this using thin blade-like strands connected to a central point that pulses against the escapement produced from silicon. Two of these work in tandem to send pulses of energy to the double escapements. The system operates at 3Hz using some unique never-before-seen parts, and is said to produce very consistent timing results. Girard-Perregaux gets so close to actually mentioning how well the Constant Escapement performs without actually mentioning it. So how stable are the rate results in this new type of mechanical movement with a constant force escapement? "Better."
The in-house made caliber MVT-009100-0007 looks rather fantastic and the system benefits from having a week long power reserve. We appreciate the linear-style power reserve indicator and the presence of the centrally mounted seconds hand in tandem with the off-centered hour and minute dial. The design is a great mixture of modern style and traditional timepiece layouts with a focus on symmetry and legibility. This is a watch for "today" that you can wear if something from MB&F or Urwerk is just too wild for you.
What comes next for the Constant Escapement is anyone's guess. I hardly see Girard-Perregaux putting this into more mainstream watches, but it could hint that silicon is going to play a major role in the brand's upcoming new mechanical movements. That I think would be a benefit to them. While they will always be a traditional watch maker, it will be extremely important to them to feel fresh and contemporary in today's highly competitive high-end watch market. Price for the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement watch will be about $100,000. girard-perregaux.com
CONSTANT ESCAPEMENT TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS:
Case: white gold
Diameter: 48.00 mm
Glass: domed anti-reflective sapphire
Crown: white gold with engraved GP logo
Dial: silvered with grained finish and rhodium-plated appliques
Hands: dauphine style
Case back: sapphire glass, secured with 6 screws, all inscriptions hand engraved
Water resistance: 30 meters
Girard-Perregaux movement MVT-009100-0007
manual mechanical movement
Caliber: 17½ ’’’
Frequency: 21,600 Vib/h – (3 Hz)
Power reserve: Approximately one week
Number of components: 271
Functions: hour, minute, central second, linear power reserve
Black alligator strap
White gold folding clasp