In this continuing series ‘Iconic Watches’ we bring you the world’s most enduring and popular timepieces that have achieved ‘cult’ status. This will include watches from long-established classics from legendary manufacturers, such as Patek Philippe to contemporary icons, from the likes of Audemars Piguet.

Next we bring you the remarkable story of how the ‘Tourbillon sous Trois Ponts d’Or’ – Tourbillon with three gold bridges – came into being.

La Esmeralda Watch (celebrating the brand’s 225th anniversary)

Girard-Perregaux began with an extraordinary man named Jean-François Bautte (1772-1837) who was born in Geneva. He was making watches in his teens and became known for his ultra-flat movements in beautifully decorated thin cases.

Early Jean-François Bautte Pocket Watch

The Bautte family sold their business to Constant Girard (1825-1903) – Girard & Cie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland formed in 1852. When Constant married Marie Perregaux in 1854, the company name was adjusted to Girard-Perregaux. This accelerated the creation of the Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges.

Constant designed the movement that featured three identical pink gold bridges that held the three key elements in place; the barrel, gear train and tourbillon, aligned along the same axis. A patent for the Three Gold Bridges movement was granted in 1884 and it achieved a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889.

A Fine Original Example From The 1880s

Fast-forward 100-years which brings us to 1981 when Girard-Perregaux master watchmakers decided to recreate 20 identical pocket watches replicating Constant’s masterpiece. Each of these watches took up to eight months to complete and were ready for launch in December 1982 (below).

Modern-day Masterpiece

To mark their 200th anniversary in 1991, Girard-Perregaux created the first Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges for the wrist which was an amazing achievement given the complexity of the movement.

Vintage 1945 Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges

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