Weekend Watch Review: Grappling The Girard-Perregaux Chrono Hawk

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Girard-Perregaux, to those not familiar with watch lore, is a watchmaker founded in 1791 and that now produces handmade, manufacture pieces in the mid- to high-level range. I’ve been a longtime fan of the brand – they usually come up with designs that are timeless and more classic than, say, Concord, and less fuddy-duddy than IWC and other traditional makers. The watch we’re looking at today, the Chrono Hawk, is G-P’s lower-end addition to their catalog (if “lower end” and G-P can ever appear in the same sentence.)

First, let’s be clear: the Girard-Perregaux Chrono Hawk is expensive. It’s $13,800 expensive. Which makes it one of the pricier watches I’ve reviewed during my semi-regular Weekend Watch reviews, and it is, to be clear, a luxury item. Why is it so expensive? Well, it is completely made in a single factory in Switzerland to exacting standards and the time, effort, and research that go into a piece like this are akin to the efforts put into a nicer luxury car. You’re paying for a few things here. You’re paying for solid materials and a nice band, to be sure, but you’re also paying the salary of men and women who are manufacturing watches by hand at a clip of a few dozen per day. At that rate you won’t be getting any bargains.

So what is the Chrono Hawk? It is an automatic chronograph (basically a stopwatch) with two registers – a running seconds at 3 o’clock and a 30 minute counter at 9 o’clock (called the bi-compax layout) and a central seconds hand. It has a 48 hour power reserve and 44mm in diameter – quite bold for a simpler chronograph. It is very evocative of older, 1970s era chronographs where two registers and a date window were in vogue. Watch blog Hodinkee notes that the case shape comes from the Laureato, a long-time staple in the G-P line.

The tooling and design are a delight. The soft leather bands melds into the case seamlessly and the clasp is easily resized by pulling out a pair of pins under the buckle. It curves over the wrist for comfort and has a rear see-through back so you can see the handmade movement. The buttons and crown have small rubber highlights that make them easier to push and the buttons protect – and are protected by – the crown. The piece is a harmonious whole, which is an important distinction in this type of chrono.

I especially like the face. The Guilloché dial features a futuristic-looking hexagonal pattern (that is actually shaped like part of the movement) that is not too messy to render the hands illegible. It is an interesting nod to modernity, to be sure, as G-P has usually used a square engraving on its sportier watches, a change that I think is welcome.

To me a manufactured – meaning “manufactured by a single company” – chronograph like this one is tough to hate. It has just enough features – called complications – to be worth at least some of the purchase price, but at $14,000 you’d better be in love with this piece before you plunk down the credit card. I love watches that are eminently usable and the Chrono-Hawk fits the bill. It’s readable at almost any angle, is dripping with lume for night-time reading, and it kept prefect time for the weeks I wore it. I don’t like the lack of a third elapsed hours register and the chronograph is a bit short since it records only thirty minutes total – enough to time baking some cookies, but probably not a cake.

Thus the appreciation of this watch is a matter of personal taste. It also comes in black but the tan strap and champagne face look excellent together and the case is large without being overbearing. It is one of the nicer watches I’ve seen in a while and it’s a nice addition to the G-P line. Sadly, given the price, I can probably never convince myself to pick one up but, as Ferris Bueller said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”