News of the latest version of Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato raises the question of how to make these complicated designs work
By James Gurney
Even though skeleton watches have been around in the modern, contemporary form for a decade or more, I still see these watches through a prism tainted with the memory of “traditional” skeletonisation, with its gothic, almost Rain Man, detail and complexity. That means the heart slightly sinks when another favourite gets the skeleton treatment. However, designed with care and with the right case, skeletons can work very well: it’s a matter of balancing and controlling the elements.
As Girard-Perregaux point out, exposing the interior workings has been a successful basis for architecture since Frank Lloyd-Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York, though you would be perfectly justified to say that you don’t want a watch inspired by the Lloyds building in London.
One thing to notice about most skeleton watches is that the design is dominated by shadows. With some exceptions where the movement is both simple and the skeletonisation is taken to the extreme, these watches tend to look quite dark as result. Dark and shadowy dials then need comparatively bold hands and indications, otherwise the legibility suffers as the exposed bridges, barrels and gears camouflage the time functions. You can always stick to white metals to alleviate the darkness problem, but this tends to increase the camouflage issue. To get around this you need a case and dial furniture combination that’s bold enough to overcome the shadows and reflections, a requirement that’s not always met.
The skeleton versions of Cartier’s Santos 100 and Tank MC show how this can be quite a successful approach (though it’s less so with the Crash) as does the latest from Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato Skeleton. The Laureato starts with a strong, massy 42mm case with its signature octagon and circle bezel that’s close to the 1970s original, itself designed by an architect. This means that the watch’s visual impact comes from the dial and case in equal measure. Within the dial, Girard-Perregaux have used dark coated bridges, finished with satin brushing with only a few gears left untreated, these contrasting nicely with the blocky hands and the GP logo (made longer here, as logos get lost against skeleton dials).
The Laurato Skeleton comes in stainless steel and pink gold versions, £19,420 and £36,750 respectively. The steel model claims 100m water resistance – we can bet that won’t be tested – against 50m for the pink gold. Both watches use the in-house GP01800-0006 automatic calibre, beating at 4Hz. The movement is unusual for its placement of a small seconds dial at 10 o’clock – in these pictures almost concealed behind the minute hand. The movement has a 54 hour power reserve.