Breaking stereotypes, one watch at a time

Timekeeping: The Young Watchmakers of Girard-Perregaux

Watches By Photo by G-P

When the average Joe thinks of Swiss watchmakers he probably thinks of wizened old men with white hair and white coats, perennially hunched over workbenches assembling miniature mechanical masterpieces with impossibly small gears and screws. And you know something, he’d be right.

Sort of.

Yes, they wear white coats, and yes, they do spend an inordinate amount of time working with the aforementioned gears and screws, but white hair? Nah. Old men? Not unless you consider a twenty-something woman to be an old man. Okay, doubtless there are a few left out there who fit the mold, but thanks to an ingenious new campaign from storied Swiss watchmaker Girard-Perregaux, these dearly held stereotypes are now being stood on their collective heads. To this end, their Young Watchmaker’s campaign showcases eight of their rising stars, each of whom cuts a decidedly iconoclastic swath through an industry known more for tradition than ear gauges and high heels.

The campaign was formally kicked off on May 1st at Cipriani Dolce in New York City’s Grand Central Station, and yours truly was there to learn at the feet of the new masters. In my particular case, I lurked over Laetitia Pino’s (image below, top right) shoulder as she expertly disassembled and reassembled an automatic movement in less time that it took me to put my son’s scooter together. A word or two about Ms. Pino: she’s a master puzzler (is this even a word?), who routinely solves 5,000+ piece puzzles, she’d be a veterinarian in an animal preserve if she wasn’t making watches and she’s as lovely as the movements that she creates for a living. She’s also younger than I am.

When it was my turn to don the white coat and assume the position at the watch bench, I didn’t fare quite as well as I had hoped. In fact, I was a miserable wreck. To wit, it took me a good ten minutes to properly regulate the newly assembled movement, whereas Ms. Pino whipped the recalcitrant morass of whirlygigs into shape in what seemed to be the blink of an eye.

And then we have Jean-Luc Borel (top left), who treated us to an alphorn performance the evening prior, in front of the Girard-Perregaux boutique on Madison Avenue. Yes, an alphorn on Madison Avenue. Mind you, this singular gentleman isn’t just any old alphorn player, he’s a world champion alphorn player who also happens to make minute repeaters for G-P. For those who don’t know, minute repeaters can “play” the time for the wearer via a series of chimes that sound out the exact hour and minute. These are considered to be among the top tier of mechanical complications and can only be assembled properly by a select few, with Jean-Luc being one of them. It goes without saying that he’s also younger than I.

I’d go on about Inez Patoz (lead image), too, however given that I’m old enough to be her father’s young friend, I’d just as soon not and spare myself yet another trip down the street of broken dreams (in those dreams, I’m a watchmaker…). Instead, I urge you to visit and learn more about these exceptional young men and women who are carrying the torch for a new generation of horophiles.

Learn More: Here