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Charles Girardier - Tradition, Retold

Charles Girardier Tradition, Retold

New Geneva brand Charles Girardier makes a splash with a GPHG-nominated ladies’ watch.

 It’s not every day that you see a brand get nominated to the final rounds of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) even before they’ve been launched. Making its semi-official debut in the GPHG shortlist of 2020 is new Geneva brand Charles Girardier, named for a 19th-century watchmaker known for creating timepieces in the style of the mid-1800s. The Charles Girardier Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse “Fleur de sel” is one of the six watches competing in the Ladies’ Complication category in this year’s GPHG, and while the brand’s existence was made known since August when the preliminary list of participating brands was announced, its official launch took place just last week at the Salón Internacional Alta Relojería (SIAR) held in Mexico City.

Tradition, Retold

“Signature Mystérieuse Fleur de sel” Tourbillon 37mm © Charles Girardier

The watch itself features a flying tourbillon at the six o’clock position, while a weighted two-component ornamental flourish in the shape of the brand’s CG initials twirls in opposing directions according to the position the watch is held in, settling into its intended configuration when the watch is held upright. On the reverse, a peripheral winding rotor is visible through the sapphire crystal case back, allowing the movement bridges and the flying tourbillon to be seen in entirety without being obscured in the least by a conventional centrally mounted rotor.

Tradition, Retold

“Signature Mystérieuse Fleur de sel” Tourbillon 37mm, back © Charles Girardier

The dial is decorated in grand feu enamel, with paillonnée décor. This technique involves covering a gold dial with translucent vitreous enamel, which is then overlaid with miniature elements cut out of gold leaf. Paillonnée enamel is an extremely delicate form of enamelling, requiring high levels of precision in placing each gold paillon. The paillons used on the dial of the Charles Girardier Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse “Fleur de sel” come from antique stocks of paillons, since the knowledge and expertise to create new paillons dwindled perilously in the 20th century and had to be painstakingly revived and — in some cases — recreated in recent years.

Tradition, Retold

Paillonnage © Charles Girardier

Traditional inspiration comes from the existing historical watches of Charles Girardier, who signed his work as Girardier L’Aîné, meaning “Girardier the Elder”. His watches, already aesthetically anachronistic in the time that he made them, emulated 18th-century horological creations and featured numerous non-functional but visually appealing ornamentation such as miniature painting, animated jaquemarts and elaborately openworked and engraved balance cocks (the whimsical spinning CG logo of the contemporary brand takes its cue from such features).

Tradition, Retold

“Signature Mystérieuse Chevrons” Tourbillon 41mm © Charles Girardier

The modern Charles Girardier, like the eponymous watchmaker, is based in Geneva, and has timepieces designed in a more classically masculine vein as well, but one thing is for sure — all eyes will be on the elegant Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse “Fleur de sel” as it enters the ring of competition in this November’s GPHG final.


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Having lain dormant for almost two centuries, the Charles Girardier name is back in the horological spotlight with men's and women's timepieces that are imaginative, playful but most of all entirely independent and proud of their Geneva origins.

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