The new Girard-Perregaux Casquette 2.0 is a space age looking watch and will certainly be snapped up by eager collectors who will know that this is an updated version of a cult favourite.
The first time I got to know of the original Girard-Perregaux Casquette from 1976 was at the launch of the HM5 by MB&F in 2012. It turns out that the inspiration behind the unique case shape of the HM5 had come from the Casquette with its time display on the side (facing the wearer). The position of the time display on the watch certainly suited the automotive theme behind the HM5, since it was easier to read by someone driving with their hands on the steering wheel.
Now I’m not sure if the Girard-Perregaux Casquette was designed with the same motivation, although I’d hazard to guess, probably not. For one, you’d have to take your other hand off the steering wheel to push one of the two side mounted pushers to get the time – the digital screen is blank otherwise.
And two, the design probably arose from the fervour of new and experimental case designs that we saw in the 1970’s, against a backdrop of futuristic space faring visions that probably began with the moon landing of 1969.
The original Casquette that was produced from 1976 to 1978 is relatively uncommon, with only 8200 examples made, and features a cool, from that era, quartz movement, with red LED’s to display the time. It certainly looks like nothing else out there, save for the Bulova Computron, also from 1976, and is eye-catching and ergonomically comfortable on the wrist.
The new version, dubbed the Casquette 2.0 is slightly larger and holds to the same aesthetics of the original. It is however upgraded in terms of materials, in keeping with the advances that watchmaking has seen since the 1970s, and is composed of a scratch-resistant 107 gram ceramic case and bracelet with the caseback, pushers and badge atop the case (with period GP logo) in Grade 5 titanium.
The quartz movement retains the same flashing red LEDs that appear when the case pushers are depressed, however it comes with additional functionality. Aside from the common displays of hours, minutes, seconds, day, and date, the Casquette 2.0 adds additional functions, such as the month, year, chronograph, second time zone and secret date.
The secret date function does seem like a gimmick – it allows the wearer to save a memorable date of the wearer’s choosing and can be shown each day at a time specified by the wearer – however given how watchmaking is more of an emotional than utilitarian experience these days, its inclusion is fine by me. It would probably make this watch easier to explain as a gift – since the chosen date can be of importance to the giver and the receiver.
As a piece of design and an important milestone in the history of horology, it’s great that the Casquette 2.0 is back in this new incarnation. All too often, we mechanical snobs have ignored the contribution of quartz in watchmaking, and I think that the Casquette 2.0 will go some way to redress this imbalance.
Certainly, the forged carbon and titanium version of the Casquette that was made for the Only Watch charity auction in 2021, was one of my favourites for that year. This piece unique, produced by Girard-Perregaux in collaboration with Bamford Watch Department, was probably a clue to the introduction of the Casquette 2.0. That watch introduced a new movement – the Calibre GP03980 – and if you think making a new movement for one watch is extremely expensive and wasteful, you’d be right. Which is why it makes sense that it is now in this new 820 piece limited edition Casquette 2.0.
Incidentally, the number of pieces of the Casquette 2.0 was inspired by the 8200 pieces of the original Casquette and is the same minus one zero. At SGD 6,500 it is keenly priced, not so cheap to become a throwaway after-thought, but not too expensive to make those used to buying mechanical watches baulk.
It’ll probably be a matter of time for different variations of the Casquette 2.0 to be introduced, perhaps in different colours and materials. The design certainly has enough appeal to go further, and given the relatively low price, for a Girard-Perregaux, it’ll open the door to new buyers to the brand.