Recognized by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2020 with the Ladies’ Complication Watch Prize, Charles Girardier expands the 1809 collection with a new ladies’ version of its Signature Mystérieuse (‘Mysterious Signature’) flying tourbillon.
The 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm testifies to the unexpected possibilities of a most complicated and refined timepiece. Executed using techniques that merge artisanship with artistry, the watch dazzles with the rare combination of an exceptional grand feu enamel dial spangled with pure silver-leaf paillons and an Haute Horlogerie watch calibre. Above the tourbillon, the diamond-set initials C and G engage in a waltz to the rhythms of Signature Mystérieuse – a mesmerizing dance in the spotlight of the diamond-set bezel. The 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm is dedicated to the refined woman who appreciates substance within form.
Charles Girardier’s primary medium of expression is complicated watches for women made with techniques that draw on centuries-old artisanship. The 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm brings out the exceptional in every aspect of what the brand stands for, particularly its sense of refinement, both visible and discreet, by combining history, watchmaking, and exceptional artisanship. Visible through the use of precious materials and stones, as well as sophisticated finishing, and discreet through a masterful execution, the details of which become clear only when viewed up close.
Reviving the Work of Charles Girardier the Elder
The brand, founded in 2018 by Geneva-based Patrick A. Ulm, revives the work of Charles Girardier the Elder, another son of the fabled city by the lake. He was already making elaborate pocket watches by the time he became a Master Watchmaker in 1809. The dials with finely painted scenes would become one of his signature designs.
A Girardier pocket watch captures Patrick A. Ulm’s imagination in 2019 at the Agatha Christie Museum in London – and simply won’t let go. As a result, the watchmaker Charles Girardier was born.
The Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse ‘Fleur de Sel’ wins the Ladies’ Complication Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2020. The 1809 collection begins with this complicated gem-set piece, the first of which, the 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm, combines a grand feu enamel dial with a flying tourbillon and the Signature Mystérieuse automaton.
The ‘mysterious signature’ of Charles Girardier watches is a direct tribute to the eponymous founder: His initials, a C and G intertwined, take on a life of their own thanks to an automaton patented by Charles Girardier and housed in the medallion at noon on the dial. The initials serve as a signature because the brand name does not appear on the dial, which is made of rose gold and set with diamonds. Customers can request their own initials or even other shapes for a one-of-a-kind Signature Mystérieuse.
Art of the Dial
The dial of the 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm places Charles Girardier in a very small circle of brands capable of proposing an execution that is both in good taste and extremely demanding. The dial is strewn with paillons and made of dark grey grand feu enamel layered on an arabesque pattern. These are pure silver-leaf flakes in the shape of the ‘Fleur de Sel,’ which resembles a stylized lily, the fleur-de-lis associated with French monarchy in the past.
The dial’s construction begins with a solid gold base plate, a material suitable for the finest enamels. It is designed to house the tourbillon at 6 o’clock and the Signature Mystérieuse at 12 o’clock. The remaining surface is engraved with an arabesque pattern, which is a recurring theme on the 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm. The tedious process of applying the enamel then begins.
Perfection By Fire
After each layer of enamel is applied, the enameller places the dial in a kiln heated to at least 800 degrees Celsius (hence the term grand feu – “great fire”) so that the enamel paste can vitrify. The operation is repeated eight times in total, the last two of which are crucial. Indeed, the dial maker places the silver-leaf paillons one by one on the penultimate layer, followed by the final coat of translucent enamel.
Paillonné enameling is an ancient, almost forgotten craft in which an ornamental motif is embedded in the enamel itself. The paillons are made in the same workshop as the dials at Charles Girardier, which is a rare practice. Because it is resistant to extremely high temperatures, pure silver-leaf was chosen. The final coat of enamel is applied only after the paillons have been delicately arranged. Fondant is a translucent layer with a dense and smooth texture that creates a dramatic impression of brilliance and depth.
A Noble Heart
The CG Calibre 1809, which has been used since the beginnings of Charles Girardier in 2020, contributes significantly to the prestige of the 1809 Dark Grey 37 mm. On the dial side, this movement proposes a flying tourbillon with no upper bridge. This provides an unobstructed view of the assembly’s permanent rotation – the tourbillon’s defining principle. The tourbillon cage has been set with diamonds to complement the mechanical spirit at the heart of Charles Girardier, the sparkle of the gem-set bezel, and the sheer refinement of this women’s collection. This uncommon method, which few dare to try, literally creates a whirlwind of light.
When you turn the 1809 Dark Grey 37mm on its back, the sapphire crystal reveals how much Haute Horlogerie performance this caliber packs into such a small package. Its large, one-piece bridge takes up nearly two-thirds of the visible area. This is a relic of the 18th century Charles Girardier movement design, which the brand has adopted with equally unusual finishes today. Instead of the traditional Côtes de Genève or satin finish, today’s Charles Girardier uses grenage, an entirely manual frosting technique that creates a matte surface by brushing a silver powder on. The other visible bridges, and in particular the one that holds the tourbillon from below, also show this graining.
Made in Switzerland
Charles Girardier chose to collaborate with one of the best fine watch manufacturers to create this exceptional calibre. Timeless, a Canton of Geneva-based watchmaking component specialist, develops, manufactures, and assembles its movements in-house. The CG Caliber 1809 is completely made in Switzerland. It not only deserves the Swiss Made label, but, with the exception of a few components, it could also be said to be Made in Geneva.
The concept of the watch as a collaborative effort has always been central to Swiss watchmaking. Vertical integration is a relatively new concept. Charles Girardier, as a Master Watchmaker, did not make all of his watches himself, but knew how to bring together the specialists, artisans, and craftspeople who would provide the best outcome for each aspect and component of the watch to be created. This practice remains the best guarantee for realizing Charles Girardier’s elegant, one-of-a-kind, and mechanically superior watchmaking vision. International retail price: 84,000 euros (excl. VAT).