You don’t have to understand what all the visible gears and other mechanisms inside mechanical watches actually do to appreciate them. They’re still utterly fascinating to watch. But the revolutionary constant force escapement in Girard-Perregaux’s new timepiece is worthy of note, because it’s a straight-up mechanical masterpiece.
As Hodinkee explains, an escapement is quite possibly the most important part of a mechanical watch. It’s responsible for transferring power from the watch’s mainspring — or barrel — to another component called the balance wheel ,which is the mechanism used for timekeeping. So how efficiently the escapement works directly correlates to how accurately the watch keeps time.
With traditional escapement designs, as the watch’s spring unwinds and loses energy between windings, there’s less and less power being transferred to the balance wheel, which diminishes the watch’s accuracy. And preventing that from happening could be considered the holy grail of mechanical watch design.
And that’s exactly what Girard-Perregaux believes it has developed for its new Constant Escapement watch. The new escapement was designed by Nicolas Dehon, who worked for Rolex before coming to GP, and relies on an intermediary mechanism between the mainspring and balance wheel in the form of a silicon blade that’s thinner than a human hair. It flexes back and forth between cycles, and basically ensures that the watch ticks away at a perfectly constant rate no matter how much energy’s left in its spring.
Not surprisingly, Girard-Perregaux plans to only make about 10 of these watches, which should have collectors willing to drop obscene amounts of money to get one on their wrists. This is important, since they’ll be priced at $100,000 each. But damned if it doesn’t seem worth every cent.