[Watch Talk] Hello everyone, at the 2013 Geneva Haute Horlogerie Awards, Girard-Perregaux presented a groundbreaking Constant Escapement timepiece that won the highest honor, the “Aiguille d’Or” award. I still vividly remember the lively scene when we discussed it on the spot! However, what is pleasing is that this timepiece did not become a flash in the pan, but now, ten years later, Girard-Perregaux has returned with a brand new Neo Constant Escapement, once again reigning as the king of constant force escapements!
The constant force escapement essentially converts the varying power supply into a constant power output. In traditional mechanical watches, the power is transmitted from the mainspring barrel to the transmission gear, then to the escapement wheel, and finally to the pallet fork. When the pallet fork transfers the power to the balance wheel, the hairspring simultaneously provides corresponding tension as feedback. The problem here is that the power from the mainspring barrel is different when fully wound or low on power, leading to different feedback from the hairspring and affecting the accuracy of timekeeping. To simplify, you can think of the hairspring as a spring that, over time, can lose elasticity due to the power reserve of the watch, causing timing errors.
To solve this issue, Girard-Perregaux added a diamond-shaped silicon framework between the escapement wheel and the pallet fork to achieve the transmission of forces. By utilizing the elasticity and bistable characteristics of the bent blades, a constant force escapement mechanism is created. When the bent blades store energy and reach a critical threshold, they quickly return to another stable position. Since the elasticity of silicon is constant, whether it is the force transmitted from the escapement wheel to the pallet fork or the feedback force from the pallet fork to the escapement wheel, both become constant, thus resolving the issue of timing errors caused by different tensions in the hairspring.
Compared to the previous model of the constant force escapement watch, this new version has undergone comprehensive development in terms of both technology and aesthetics after a decade of refinement. Although the new model may not seem to have significant changes from a technical perspective, it has actually undergone substantial evolution. The most crucial modification is the significant improvement in the interaction between the bent blades and the bistable structure. Firstly, the two boomerang-shaped star wheels that appear below the two escapement wheels are actually the real escapement wheels, with their 3 teeth set to match a 3Hz frequency. Secondly, the force of the new escapement wheel is transmitted to the bent blades through two hook-like levers, which avoids the sliding friction previously present between the escapement wheel and the silicon blades. The two large escapement wheels with the same shape as the previous model are retained on the new watch, serving the purpose of increasing inertia and adding to the aesthetic appeal.
As a result of these improvements, the efficiency of the new constant force escapement mechanism has been greatly enhanced. Despite using a larger and heavier balance wheel from Girard-Perregaux’s latest models, the power reserve has been increased from 6 days to 7 days while keeping the barrel and train unchanged. Furthermore, this arrangement allows the escapement mechanism to start automatically. The precision of the new watch has also been certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute, demonstrating a significant improvement in performance for the new constant force escapement timepiece.
Moreover, the new constant force escapement watch features an overall symmetrical design, which is a signature design language of Girard-Perregaux. At the same time, we can also see some asymmetrical designs in subtle details, such as the lever in the escapement system. This not only enhances the visual appeal of the dial but also provides the wearer with the ultimate visual experience of a complex and precise timepiece. In addition, the prominent GP logo on the new watch, along with the black PVD treatment on the front and back, makes the watch even more stunning. The central display eliminates any off-center indication and adds a sense of grandeur to the watch, especially with its 45mm titanium case, which is more suitable for wearing and more delicate than the previous 48mm. Considering its complexity and lightweight, the thickness of 14.8mm is within an acceptable range. Let me show you the effect of wearing it on my wrist. Actually, when the 2013 model was released, I also tried it on, and for me, the previous model was indeed too large, which inevitably affected daily life. The new model has reduced both the diameter and thickness, and the improved comfort is evident.
The retail price of this new constant force escapement watch is 816,000 yuan. I remember that when Girard-Perregaux launched the constant force escapement watch in 2013, the price was over one million. Although whether it is over 800,000 or over one million, it is still a minority who can afford it, considering the infinite innovation spirit of Girard-Perregaux and the technology, performance, and aesthetics of the new constant force escapement watch, the cost performance of this watch is still very high. Some watch enthusiasts may wonder, with the improvements in technology and design, why has the price decreased? In fact, I have also asked the brand’s staff privately. From the development of the constant force escapement system to the upgraded new model, it took nearly twenty years, and the brand hopes that more people can understand and experience this technology. After all, a new revolutionary technology needs recognition from more people before being used in watches.
These are some of my insights on this watch. If you have anything to say about this watch, please leave a comment and let us know. For those who love watches, see you next time on our next episode! (Image/Text by Sishi)