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Keeping Time: Girard Perregaux

By Katy Donoghue

January 22, 2013

For this week’s installment of “Keeping Time,” where we bring you one watch per week that we love, Whitewall chose one of three timepieces from Girard-Perregaux’s Le Corbusier Trilogy – the Vintage 1945 Le Corbusier Paris Watch. We were at the unveiling of the special collection last fall in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

The town of La Chaux-de-Fonds is a curious one, perched in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, around an hour outside of Geneva. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is one of the only cities in Switzerland to have adopted the architectural style of Art Nouveau, some say because of its proximity to France. The tiny city was at one point home to 3,000 small watchmaking companies. Watchmakers worked out of the first floors of their homes, needing large windows and all the light the day could provide. As a result, the entire city in the early 1800s was reorganized so people could work with the maximum amount of light. Streets and homes were spaced out accordingly.

La Chaux-de-Fonds is also the birthplace of the iconic architect and designer Le Corbusier. This year sees the 125th anniversary of his birth, and to celebrate that, the La Chaux-de-Fonds–based watchmaker Girard-Perregaux has launched a very limited edition of three watches inspired by Le Corbusier. Stefano Macaluso, the brand’s general manager, earned a degree in architecture in 2002. But that’s not the only reason he suggested this special collection. He grew up with a Le Corbusier mobile in his childhood room, his father having been a design buff as well.

The Le Corbusier Trilogy, each in an edition of just five, working off of Girard-Perregaux’s vintage 1945 timepiece, reflects three cities of great importance to the architect: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Paris, and Marseille. The Paris model is absolutely our favorite. It has a dial that is perhaps for the first time made in concrete. Le Corbusier’s housing unit, Radiant City in Marseille, has been called his most important late work. It was built form reinforced concrete, a building method that defined the architect and modern architecture. The face of the watch pays homage to Le Corbusier’s modular anthropometric scale. The dial took three days to pour, dry, and hand-finish. It’s a miniscule bit of architecture placed within the constraints of a watch’s dial.

The collection does not just pay tribute to a fellow resident of La Chaux-de-Fonds. It recognizes the effect of special history on geographically linked creators. Concrete is not the only signature of Le Corbusier. Some of his earliest creations — such as the house he created for his parents in his hometown and a few other neighboring maisons — all showcase his attention to light. Grand windows are on every wall in order to allow the maximum amount of light to fill the home. Growing up in a place whose very organization was designed to do just that for its primary industry — watchmaking — must have influenced his preoccupation with light. The Le Corbusier trilogy acknowledges this, and with its own innovative use of concrete, Girard-Perregaux honors the master architect in not only his aesthetic, but also his spirit.

To read more about the collection pick up a copy of Whitewall‘s winter 2013 Luxury Issue or purchase a copy HERE.

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