Everybody knows that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus are the undisputed stars of the stainless steel sports watch world. The Royal Oak ref. 15500ST.OO.1220ST.01 and the Nautilus ref. 5711/1A-010 in particular are horological icons. These 1970s timepieces with their unmistakable porthole bezels were the creation of star designer Gérald Genta, whose name echoes throughout the watch world to this day. Just about every watch fan who’s in the know, and has the corresponding chunk of change on hand, aims to own one of these two so-called “grail” watches, which, by the way, you will not simply find at any authorized dealer.
The discontinuation of the Nautilus 5711/1A-010 sparked a virtual hysteria on the watch market. It even felt like some folks were willing to sell their grandmother to get this timepiece on their wrist. There are, however, a few great alternatives to the Genta masterpieces that have their own story to tell, and more than hold their own from a technical perspective. How about the Girard-Perregaux Laureato? We’re taking an in-depth look at this timepiece for you today.
The Heritage of Girard-Perregaux
The Girard-Perregaux brand was founded in 1854, when the young watchmaker Constant Girard married Marie Perregaux, the sister of the chronometer manufacturer Henri Perregaux, in Geneva. And thus, Girard-Perregaux was born. The brand would go on to win a number of awards between 1860 and 1880 for their work making chronometers. It would also later receive a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition for its La Esmeralda Tourbillon masterpiece with its patented three-gold-bridge design.
However, the brand can trace its roots back even further to more than 230 years ago in 1791. It was during this time that watchmaker Jean-François Bautte began producing music boxes and jewelery watches in a variety of shapes and colors for the upper echelons of society. In 1906, Girard-Perregaux acquired the Maison of Jean-François Bautte, continuing his heritage of craftsmanship to create the finest in customized timepieces for its clientele.
Other historical Girard-Perregaux highlights include their Gyromatic movement created in 1957, releasing the first mechanical high-frequency caliber in the mid-1960s, and introducing the first quartz watch to be industrially manufactured in Switzerland in 1970. Girard-Perregaux specialized exclusively in quartz watches for the next 20 odd years. Toward the end of the 1980s, however, the watchmaker returned to its roots to once again produce mechanical luxury watches.
Today, Girard-Perregaux is in the hands of the Swiss haute horlogerie Sowind Group. Its headquarters are located in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the Jura Mountains of western Switzerland. The company has 280 employees. Its CEO is Patrick Pruniaux, who also heads Ulysse Nardin, and has held senior positions at TAG Heuer.
Girard-Perregaux – Brand and Models
Compared to competitors such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet, the market prices for Girard-Perregaux watches are very affordable. This is anything but surprising when you consider that some AP and Patek prices have reached unfathomable levels. Whatever the reason for this, Girard-Perregaux watches are unquestionably on the same level as timepieces from these two watch behemoths.
All key components of Girard-Perregaux watches are designed, developed, and produced in-house by its staff of watchmakers and craftspeople. From the initial concept of a watch, to the elaborate manufacture of their tiny components, all the way to the final quality control, everything is done by Girard-Perregaux. One single watchmaker is assigned to each individual watch, and is responsible for its completion.
The current portfolio is home to the Cat’s Eye, Vintage 1945, 1966, and Bridges collections, as well as perhaps the most famous Girard-Perregaux watch we’ll be taking a closer look at.
The High Flyer – Girard-Perregaux’s Laureato
Like the Patek Philippe Nautilus and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Laureato’s design is also a product of the 1970s. While Gérald Genta was behind the designs of the Patek and AP, the Laureato was a creation of Italian architect Adolfo Natalini. The first Laureato was introduced in 1975, in between the first Royal Oak (1972) and the Nautilus (1976). Probably the most noticeable features of all three timepieces are their integrated stainless steel bracelets and octagonal bezels.
In keeping with the times, the very first Laureato was a quartz watch. Girard-Perregaux introduced the first automatic variant in 1995. In 2017, the entire collection was renewed and expanded upon with a number of new models. Let’s take a closer look at the ref. 81010-11-431-11A.
The Girard-Perregaux Laureato vs. the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak
The Girard-Perregaux Laureato ref. 81010-11-431-11A has a considerable 42-mm case diameter, but a thickness of only 11 mm. Like the 41-mm Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ref. 15500ST.OO.1220ST.0 with its 10.4-mm case thickness, the Laureato also has an octagonal bezel. However, the latter is more contoured and refined than the more angular Royal Oak bezel. The dial of the Laureato, although reminiscent of the Royal Oak, is not identical. The Laureato’s dial features a Clous de Paris pattern with rows of fine pyramids, while the Royal Oak’s dial has a petite tapisserie pattern, which is vaguely reminiscent of a waffle iron. Both dials have applied baton indices that illuminate in the dark.
While the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak has had a five-piece link bracelet since its inception, Girard-Perregaux’s timepiece features an elegant three-piece link bracelet, similar to what Patek Philippe uses on the Nautilus. A noticeable difference between these watches is the level of water resistance: While the Royal Oak only offers 50 m (5 bar, 164 ft), the much more affordable Laureato delivers a water resistance of 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft), meaning you can keep it on your wrist during your next dip in the pool. A definite point for the Laureato!
What’s ticking away inside these timepieces? The Laureato is powered by the automatic in-house GP01800-0008 caliber. This 28-jewel movement is comprised of 191 components, and its Glucydur balance wheel pulsates at 28,800 vph (4 Hz). It also features a Nivarox mainspring and a power reserve of 54 hours.
The Royal Oak’s in-house 4302MT caliber beats at the same rate, but is more complex with 257 individual components. AP uses 32 jewels in its movement, as well as a skeletonized, 22-karat gold winding rotor. It also has a newly developed traversing balance bridge that supports a free-sprung balance wheel. The Royal Oak is a step or two ahead of the Laureato when it comes to power reserve, delivering an impressive 70 hours. All in all, you could say the 4302MT is the superior caliber compared to its Laureato counterpart.
The Girard-Perregaux Laureato vs. the Patek Philippe Nautilus
How does the Laureato stand up to the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010? Upon first glance, you can see that the Laureato introduced in 1975 was inspired by the Royal Oak, which first appeared in 1972. The Nautilus, on the other hand, which was first presented in 1976, had no influence on the Laureato. And yet, all three watches still share the same adoring fans.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is clearly a sporty watch, but it’s also more elegant in direct comparison to the Laureato. This is made especially clear when you look at its sophisticated bezel that merely suggests an octagonal shape. With a 40-mm diameter, the Nautilus is also the smallest of the three we’re looking at today, and 2 mm smaller than the Laureato. The horizontally embossed dial of the Nautilus is noticeably different, and its case shape is neither round nor angular. Its so-called monocoque construction bulges on the right and left sides, giving some fans the impression that the watch has ears. Like the Laureato, the Nautilus also has an integrated three-piece link stainless steel bracelet with polished middle links. The overall design of the Nautilus is clearly different from the Laureato and Royal Oak. This, of course, says nothing about the watch’s quality; it is purely a matter of taste.
The Patek Philippe Nautilus is powered by the in-house 324 S C, a very thin caliber with a height of only 3.3 mm, allowing for the Nautilus to have an overall thickness of just 8.3 mm. Like the two other calibers we’ve looked at, this movement also beats at a rate of 28,800 vph (4 Hz). It is comprised of 213 components, has 29 jewels, and a comparatively shorter power reserve of 45 hours. From a purely technical perspective, this caliber falls in the middle of our three watches today. That being said, however, the Nautilus does deliver 120 m (12 bar, 393 ft) of water resistance.
Is the Girard-Perregaux a Royal Oak and Nautilus killer?
This question is a bit provocative, so why don’t we try to answer it in terms of price: Purely from an economic perspective, the answer, in my opinion, is yes. The Girard-Perregaux Laureato may not be the Royal Oak, which holds the honor of being the first timepiece in the lineup of very popular 1970s sports watches, but it was a proud number two, arriving on the scene prior to the Nautilus. If you love the design of the Royal Oak, the Laureato is probably going to be the most high-quality and technically attractive alternative on the market for you. Its movement may not be fully on par with the Royal Oak’s, but it’s still a precise, high-quality masterpiece.
Let’s look at the prices. You can currently find a Laureato in new condition on Chrono24 for around $21,000. You’ll need around $111,000 for a Royal Oak. While the list price of the Laureato is $13,400, AP is asking $25,300 for the Royal Oak. If you look at the technical sophistication and cult appeal of the latter, the price difference may very well be justified, but if you look at actual market prices, things get a bit more interesting (and a lot more expensive).
As you might already know, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-010 is currently trading for around $195,000, several times its MSRP of around $30,000. For the price of one technically-inferior Nautilus, you can purchase nine Laureatos. Something you cannot buy with the Laureato, however, are the envious glances from your colleagues and friends while you’ve got this legendary timepiece on your wrist. It’s ultimately up to you to decide if these are worth the $80,000 or so for the Royal Oak, or more than $160,000 for the Nautilus.