Child of the ’70s

Following a limited-edition release in 2017 honouring Girard-Perregaux’s 225th anniversary, this year’s announcement that an entire Laureato collection is to be released is great news for connoisseurs.

The 1970s was a decade that gave humanity funk music, melted cheese as a main course and Star Wars, but also sideburns, sexism and oil hikes.

A palette of brown, orange and yellow infused magazines, living rooms and everyday life. The food was generally dubious, rock music briefly lost its mind and it was of course, not a particularly cool time for the watch industry either, thanks to cheap Quartz movements disco-dancing their way to prominence and effectively rendering the Swiss watch industry (temporarily) obsolete.

It’s a decade that, having been retrospectively maligned, has come back into style so convincingly that 1970s style is simply seen as part of the vernacular – just take a look at brands like Gucci, whose entire output seems rooted there. That rediscovery of 1970s aesthetics in fashion has expanded to interiors, music, film and jewellery, though thankfully, the cuisine seems to have been left where it belongs. The 1970s are also once again informing wristwatch design, with brands such as Cartier reviving its 1970s classic Panthere, Piaget turning to its Polo S line and Vacheron Constantin raiding its archives with a series of watches designed in the decade that style forgot and then remembered again. These watches and others lovingly reimagined for today’s wrists remind us that the 1970s wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Swiss horologers, and that this distinctive category of watches that first appeared in that decade has held up remarkably well.

Amongst them, Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato holds a special place in the hearts of watch connoisseurs and collectors. It was released during a golden period in Swiss watchmaking when a perfect storm of Quartz, creativity, social change and popular culture resulted in some of the most enduring watch designs of modern times. It represented an entirely new category of watch. Luxurious yet sporty and functional, it was part of a new visual language that spoke of prestige and sophistication but also of everyday functionality.

The 1975 Laureato was an icon of design. It featured a distinctive round and octagonal bezel and a sleek, flat design. The steel bracelet tapered gently around the wrist and the case and bracelet were designed as a sleek, ergonomic whole. The watch featured a new, particularly thin compact GP700 Quartz movement. This was an arena that Girard-Perregaux had excelled in for a decade previously and had been one of the first to create a large Quartz movements made in Switzerland. A newer, smaller movement was the heart of the Laureato, passing precision tests with flying colours and allowed the company to survive and ultimate flourish where many of its contemporaries could not.

Design 5

Girard-Perregaux researched and designed the watch with a Milan-based architect whose identity has never been revealed by the brand. He came up with an octagonal bezel inside a circle with the eight angles of the octagon linked by curves combining fully polished convex or concave surfaces. The circle and octagon shape draw comparisons between the Laureato and the Royal Oak, but watch connoisseurs appreciate the differences between the two, as well as acknowledging that many of the enduring watches designed during this time shared certain similarities, borrowing from each other and reflecting the general style of the era.

The Laureato’s shape was taken not from other watches however, but drew from architecture for inspiration, namely the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, and its circular dome supporting the octagonal structure. It featured then, as now, a Clous de Paris hobnail pattern, a collection of tiny pyramids which filled the entire opening of the watch and reflected the light.

Its contemporaries were Gerald Genta’s Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and Vacheron Constantin’s 222. These watches responded to the existence of cheap, everyday Quartzes with digital displays by offering a luxurious alternative: a watch that you could wear every day and that would see you through from boardroom to bar in fine style. There was a shift away from high-end complications in many of these new-era watches, understandably an industry beset by hostile economic factors, but also in response to the new lifestyles of upwardly mobile men and women who wanted to strap on a watch and get on with the business of life in the 1970s.

Left: With a beautiful Clous de Paris hobnail motif and titanium, rose or white gold versions, the tourbillon edition of the Laureato offers collectors a compelling fusion of GP’s technical savoir faire with the unmistakable aesthetic codes of the revived collection. Right: The Laureato 42 mm features a discreet 10.88 mm case. 

It’s significant that in 2016, when Girard-Perregaux celebrated 225 years of watchmaking, it chose a Laureato to mark the occasion with, releasing a limited-edition collection of just 225 watches. Watch enthusiasts who were delighted with this trip back through time have further reason to celebrate, thanks to the expanded Laureato line that take centre stage at Girard-Perregaux once again, representing a long-anticipated revival for this family from the ’70s. Equipped with haute horlogerie complication, self-winding or quartz movements, housed in cases available in four diameters and in versions made of steel, gold, two-tone steel and gold or featuring titanium elements, the Laureato range has never been this extensive or varied. With nearly 30 references, this watchmaking icon is infused with the brand’s legitimacy, as well as its unmistakable 1970s aesthetic, which has come to be such an established part of contemporary style.

The Laureato 34mm comes in either full rose gold or a combination of rose gold and steel.

Taken from the faded brown and yellow advertisements of that decade and transposed into a sympathetically updated series, the watches of Laureatos of today embody historic expertise, style and spirit of the decade that style may have sometimes forgotten, but that it ultimately triumphed over. It’s funny to think that one of the few examples of gastronomic invention from that era to have also found a place in the modern lexicon is also a Swiss invention – the cheese fondue.

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