Girard-Perregaux’s latest Laureato Absolute throws a little shade to the sapphire crystal watch trend
With a metallised sapphire crystal case combined with a skeletonised movement, the new Laureato Absolute Light & Shade is ready to bare all once more.
In partnership with The Hour Glass.
Now that the watchmaking world has gotten used to playing with sapphire crystal, cases made of this hard – and hard to machine – material have gotten very, very bright of late.
Hublot has taken it to neon levels with its Big Bang Tourbillons, Jacob & Co has used numerous shades to house its Bugatti Chiron-inspired “engines”, and Artya even has one that changes colours in different light.
But when Girard-Perregaux releases a sapphire case, it does so with elegance and restraint.
When the La Chaux-de-Fonds watchmaker launched its Laureato Absolute line in 2019, it was to be the burlier brother to the standard Laureato sports watches, with 44mm cases to show off the brand’s expertise in innovative materials. There have been models in carbon glass, PVD-coated titanium and, of course, sapphire crystal.
The latest to join the family is the Laureato Absolute Light & Shade, and it is adding to this trend of transparency a wisp of mystery.
Like its predecessors the Laureato Absolute Light and Laureato Absolute Light Bucherer Blue, this case was made using the “Kyropoulos growth method”, a process that involves transforming alumina powder into a solid block of sapphire crystal.
This can take up to eight weeks. The block is then cut into small discs before being machined into a bezel, case middle, and case back. Once they are thermally treated and polished, they are checked for inclusions, and only the ones that clear the stringent screening process are selected.
What gives the Light & Shade its smoky appearance however, is a metallised surface treatment that the sapphire crystal parts are given inside a vacuum. Completing the case alone requires 170 hours of work.
We’re grateful for the effort, because it complements the skeletonised movement beautifully. The similarly open-worked hour and minute hands are mounted centrally, while the running seconds gets its own subdial at 10 o’clock, and all three are filled with luminescent material. The inner flange uses a scalloped, 12-sided design that plays off its octagonal bezel with polished triangles serving as hour markers.
On proud display are the off-centred barrel and the balance wheel at 12 o’clock, and you can even see right through to the white gold rotor on the other side.
Having a skeletonised movement inside a transparent case means there is literally nowhere to hide any shortcuts. So the NAC-treated mainplate (also octagonal) and bridges incorporate sandblasting, traits-tires (machine bevelling of component edges), circular satin finishing, and bevelling, with a total 55 hand-polished inner angles.
Unlike the original Laureato watches from the 1970s that were powered by quartz calibres, the Light & Shade is driven by the automatic calibres of this generation, which is the GP01800-1143.
The movement has a variable inertia balance, which delivers a more stable and consistent rate of timekeeping, as well as superior shock resistance to traditional balance wheels. It beats at 28,800vph (4Hz) and offers 54 hours of autonomy.
What’s more, the case and movement are assembled on a single axis by a special screw system, rendering a conventional casing ring unnecessary, but requiring micron-level precision to achieve.
The black PVD-treated lugs, which feature contrasting satin and polished angles, are integrated with the case and attached to an FKM rubber (also known as fluorocarbon rubber) strap that is supposed to be more supple and durable than conventional rubber. The strap has a “fabric effect”, which adds to the modernity of the overall design. All together, the 44mm by 11.56mm watch weighs just 85 grams.
If you love the design but still want a little colour, Girard-Perregaux also released an 18-piece limited edition for the recent Chinese New Year. The Laureato Absolute Light & Fire is in – you guessed it – red, but swaps out sapphire crystal for a polycrystalline material called YAG (Yttrium Aluminium Garnet) in order to get a darker shade of red.
See? Even when it’s on fire the watch knows how to play it cool.