Geneva Watch Days: Introducing The Girard-Perregaux Free Bridge And Free Bridge Infinity Edition
The Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture debuts new members to the Bridges family at Geneva Watch Days.
Girard-Perregaux has been gaining great momentum over the last few years with groundbreaking watches like the Laureato Absolute Light, Laureato Absolute Passion, and the Quasar Light. These unique-looking timepieces have also helped build bridges between the centuries-old company and contemporary collectors.
In keeping with this modern spirit, Girard-Perregaux is launching two new timepieces in its storied Bridge collection: The Free Bridge and Free Bridge Infinity. Here’s our first take on these timely timepieces.
The Bridge So Far
The Free Bridge and Free Bridge Infinity editions are designed to pay respect to Girard-Perregaux’s emblematic Three Bridges of 1867. But they also play with that classic’s DNA.
“Girard-Perregaux is known for Swiss-made excellence and innovative horology,” said Girard-Perregaux’s CEO, Patrick Pruniaux, in a press release. “With these models, our master watchmakers have reimagined the company’s famous Bridges, first seen in the 1860s. The designs of the Free Bridge and the Free Bridge Infinity Edition have been refined for today and beyond.”
In both cases, this means ramping up and refining design codes. For example, both the Free Bridge and the Free Bridge Infinity Edition have the maison’s distinctive arrow-shaped Neo Bridge spanning the base of the mainplate. But this time, this feature has been reinterpreted to reflect a more modern aesthetic.
The look of these watches isn’t the only thing to get a glow up. Girard-Perregaux has also reinterpreted the classic GP01800 in-house calibre.
Girard-Perregaux is now using silicon to manufacture the escapement and parts of the balance wheel. The advantages of silicon are many, but some enthusiasts have been a little leery of this modern material because they are justifiably concerned about finding replacement parts in the distant future.
With the Free Bridge Light and Free Bridge Infinity, Girard-Perregaux has listened to collector concerns and has decided that the benefits of silicon are here to stay. It’s less liable to corrosion, is lightweight and less susceptible to magnetic fields. But the most attractive aspect of this material is how it behaves at different temperatures. Metals, for example, can change when subjected to cold or heat. Silicon components remain unaffected, thus delivering consistent timekeeping. Plus, silicon’s low coefficient of friction prevents wear and tear, which means silicon components will use less energy (so it will run longer without winding) and will last longer.
Girard-Perregaux has been in the silicon game for a while. If they trust the technology, we can too.
Another reason the Free Bridge and the Free Bridge Infinity Edition are so intriguing is that Girard-Perregaux is taking advantage of tech innovations to reimagine the look of these watches.
Silicon can be made into unconventional configurations – shapes that would be unthinkable using older technologies.
For example, in 2013, Girard-Perregaux created a novel silicon blade for its prize-winning Constant Escapement L.M. This blade flexes back and forth to deliver a uniform supply of energy to the escapement, again improving precision. Now Girard-Perregaux is using the same escapement as well as a variable inertia balance.
A bit of background on variable inertia balances: Most watches feature a balance with an index adjuster, also called a “raquette,” which alters the effective length of the balance spring, to make the watch run faster or slower. With a variable inertia balance, the length of the balance spring is fixed, and the rate is altered by moving adjustable inertia blocks. This makes the balance more stable and less susceptible to shocks.
It also inspired watchmakers to create an aerial design with a larger diameter. Of course, Girard-Perregaux’s designers would want to show this architecture off!
In contrast to a conventional sapphire crystal, both models are fitted with a newly designed sapphire crystal box, featuring a distinctive dome shape. On the face of both watches, there’s a movement opening, between 6 o’clock and noon, to let the light shine through the exposed movement components. The inverted movement also allows for dial-side views of various components, including the balance, the escapement, and the barrel positioned at the top of the dial.
The Free Bridge and Free Bridge Infinity Edition share many similarities. Both feature a self-winding GP01800-1170 movement embellished with a Côtes de Genève motif, beveling, sandblasting, and snailing. But the Infinity Edition is also elevated by an 18-karat pink gold oscillating weight adorned with Girard-Perregaux’s Eagle symbol.
Both new models also feature an hour bridge that draws the viewer’s attention to the barrel and the oscillating balance wheel. On the Free Bridge, the hour bridge is satin-finished and hand-beveled. But the hour bridge on the Free Bridge Infinity Edition is formed from dark black onyx, a material which contrasts the lightness of the watch’s components while the straight lines of the hour bridge play off the contours of the case.
Both timepieces are housed in 44mm cases, but the Free Bridge has a bright stainless steel finish, and the Free Bridge Infinity Edition has a more mysterious vibe thanks to its DLC treatment.
The Free Bridge is the real pillar of this new collection. Its skeletonized Dauphine-style hands and suspended indices emphasize and almost emulate the weightless feeling of a suspension bridge.
The Free Bridge Infinity Edition riffs on the building blocks of the Free Bridge by using golden hues to create a slightly more artistic interpretation of this new timepiece. Think about the energy of the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning versus the poetic ambiance of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.
Both models come with color-coordinated straps. The contrasting shade of the lugs-adjacent stitch is a design element that will soon become a Girard-Perregaux signature design element.
Both models are attractive, but thanks to technology, they are also attainable. As Pruniaux explained, “The styling of each model proves stunning and, despite the execution of both references, these watches remain comparatively accessible.”
The Free Bridge will be available worldwide in all authorized Girard- Perregaux retailers in October 2020 for 16,250 CHF.
The Free Bridge Infinity Edition is limited to 88 pieces and will be available worldwide in all authorized Girard-Perregaux retailers in October 2020 for 19,410 CHF.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)