There is something uniquely special about a nicely executed, simple chronograph. At a time, when everything has to be explained, scrutinized and analyzed, every once in a while, it just feels sweet to be able to lean back and enjoy the perks of a job done well. Once you cut the whole “’70s vintage-inspired” malarkey, that is what you end up having with the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph watch. Let us now explain, scrutinize, and analyze.
’70s Vintage Malarkey
I do genuinely wonder, is there any serious watch lover out there, today, in mid-2016, who’d suddenly get uncomfortable in their trousers because an old brand re-released a vintage-inspired watch with a new case and size and movement? Sure, there are numerous highly desirable classics out there that would make a huge splash if they were faithfully re-done today with modern manufacturing technology… But the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale, as far as I know, is not based on any specific one of them. And that’s a good thing.
Just look at the trends of recent years: first, starting at the very dawn of the new millennium, there was the big watch craze, when a solid 10-15-year period of watches becoming ever larger and larger began. Then, more recently, we have been seeing vintage watch prices skyrocket to mind-bending levels, and with them, the release of, by now, innumerable vintage re-releases and vintage-inspired new-old watches from most major brands.
However, because the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale was not, to my understanding, designed as an accurate tribute to any one specific vintage chronograph by Girard-Perregaux, it could concentrate on being a nice, timeless-looking watch in the here and now, as opposed to trying to make very, ahem, anal-retentive fans of this or that particular vintage reference happy.
In The Here And Now – The Looks
So. Sized at a highly immoral 42 millimeters wide, the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale was designed with those aforementioned big-watch trends in mind, keeping it on the wearable, but more up-to-date side of things. If you want a fantastic vintage-inspired (duh!) chronograph at 38 millimeters, you need not look further than the El Primero Original 1969 (reviewed here) anyway.
The Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale will be available as four different references, including white- or black-dialed versions, each available on either a stainless steel bracelet, as seen here, or on brown or black alligator straps, respectively. No gold-cased version has been released yet.
The case of the Competizione has in fact been inspired by GP chronographs of old – particularly the Club Italia – but, since it is so much larger and not designed to be a close tribute to anything specific, we need not sweat little historical details but can instead focus on enjoying this nicely balanced, perfectly round case and its long, gracefully curved lugs.
Speaking of lugs, they really are rather long, which makes the 42-millimeter case have more presence on the wrist. Aesthetically, they do work brilliantly, though, as they make the dial appear to be smaller, inching it towards a more traditional look, saving it from being yet another large, bold, sports chronograph.
Considering the design of the dial – more on that in a bit – the only thing that stands out a bit from the case design are the piston pushers of the chronograph, flanking the large, and in fact a bit sharp, GP-marked crown. I understand that it would have been a further diversion from original designs, but looking at the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph I tend to imagine how some more massive-looking screw-down pushers would have complemented the design…
Piston pushers are cool and all, but they are more of a safe bet as far as design choices go, often found on much more conservatively styled watches. It does not look out of place, and is very much down to personal preference, but I would have enjoyed seeing a more robust-looking set of screw-down pushers. It also arguably would have helped raise the rather shabby 30-meter water resistance rating to something more from the 21st century – even luxury chronographs, and especially on a bracelet, should sport a 100-meter rating, allowing one to not have to worry so much about water entering by the pushers or seals elsewhere.
We already mentioned the long, curved lugs, which do make the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph wear rather large when compared to some other 42-millimeter-sized watches – but 42 millimeters remains a relatively modest size, so everyone – even those with a wrist as small as mine at 6.75″ – should have no problem getting a comfortable fit. As any quality-made steel watch on a steel bracelet, there is considerable heft to the Competizione Stradale, an authentic match to the more classical design.
The bracelet is impressive in its simplicity: a three-link design with polished outer, and brushed inner links. When on the wrist, the outside of the links feels perfectly smooth to the touch, a most appreciated, sensible choice to go with the sportier case and dial design. While the larger surface on the outside and inside of the links are buttery smooth, the inner, shorter edges of the links (the sides which fall in between the links on the “underside” of the bracelet) are rather sharp. It is nothing irritating, let alone dangerous, but I wish every last angle and edge of the bracelet were as smooth as its larger surfaces.
What is irritating though is that when I took the bracelet off the Girard Perregaux Competizione Stradale, I had to find that for some hard-to-justify reason the holes in the lugs have been drilled to a spot so close to the case that it is literally impossible to fit a leather or NATO strap of any kind to it. The endlink’s design may have necessitated this, but then it would have been more than thoughtful from GP to add an extra hole inside the lugs that would have allowed for the fitting of a strap. This also means that the strap and bracelet options of the Competizione Stradale are not interchangeable.
The double-folding clasp is thin and is beautifully integrated into the bracelet itself – no protruding element to annoy you, the links merge seamlessly in the center, with a subtle, engraved GP logo and the two small pushers marking the location of the bracelet’s opening. No protruding clasp is a plus when desk diving, but is a minus for the lack of a micro adjust – you can operate with half-sized links to get the perfect fit and that’s it.
The crown has a threaded, screw-down design – a weird choice for a watch with a mere 30-meter WR rating. Fortunately, the crown is easy to unscrew and tighten, even when the watch is on the wrist – in case you realize the time needs to be adjusted after you have already put it on. The large crown with its fluted edge adds both a sportier, as well as a somewhat flashier look to this timeless chronograph – I quite like how it works with the classical, round case, and it makes we want those screw-down pushers even more.
This is always a tricky one with black dials, but GP has done a good job at avoiding nearly all of the pitfalls too often encountered by others. The baton-shaped, rectangular hands are long and wide enough, with the minute hand reaching its respective scale – little details such as this can make or break any watch design. The indices, as well as the hour and minute hands have polished edges, which work fantastically against the brushed, ever-so-slightly satin-finished (nearly matte) black backdrop of the dial. There is a bit of contrast in color, but this contrast between reflective and matte surfaces makes a world of a difference in enhancing legibility – and so the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph remains a treat to look at, thanks to those admittedly vintage-inspired, polished baton hands and thin, lumed centers.
One anomaly of the dial design concerns the chronograph hands (watch nerd alert going off right now): the central seconds for the chronograph is in a saturated and indeed very sporty red, an obvious and most welcome choice. However, as a tradition in intelligent watch design, the chronograph seconds hand’s color is usually matched by the chronograph sub-dial hand(s) – meaning that in this case the 12-hour counter at 6 and the 30-minute counter at 9 should have matching red hands. What happened instead is that those show up in white and the hand indicating the running seconds on the 3 o’clock sub-dial is what has been painted red… Yes, both seconds hands in red, and I think I can see the connection there, but it still is a rather unusual and less of a sensible design element.
The date is set at the 4:30 position on the dial with white on black text, blending in nicely to the dial. Computer rendered images can show a rather distorted view and often fail at reproducing what a watch actually looks like in the metal. In other words: the date there when you need it, but blending perfectly into the dial when you don’t. Speaking of insignificant but seemingly indispensable dial elements, there is a subtle tachymeter scale printed on the edge of the dial – a must-have for most all classical chronographs.
One thing that has occupied my mind a lot of the time while wearing the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph was how the all-black and all-white dial options highlight what I consider to be a missed opportunity: a nice panda dial version. My lowly photoshop skills hardly do it justice, but even with the all-black one on the wrist, my mind’s eye can see how this could be such a “killer piece” in this dial layout. On another personal note, I’ll say that it was rather difficult to pick either the white or black dial reference to review – black is more classical while white is on the sportier side… but at a time when Panda chronographs are selling for six- and seven-figure prices, and there is an obvious shortage of nice, classically styled chronographs with panda dials from major brands, I can’t help but feel that the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale would have gotten more attention if it were available in a black-white dial.
An in-house chronograph from Girard-Perregaux – a utterance more than enough to get any dedicated watch enthusiast drooling… Still, although that is technically accurate, there are a few things to consider about the movement. The Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph is powered by the GP03300-0122 automatic chronograph movement, which is based on GP’s 3300 in-house-made, ultra-thin, automatic caliber. This 3300 base is what we saw in all of the brand’s more recent releases, including the new-for-2016 Laureato, Gyromatic, and the Vintage 1945.
Girard-Perregaux has designed the GP 3300 caliber to be easily modified by adding different modules to it. The thinness of the GP 3300, coming in at just 3.28 millimeters thick, allows the manufacture to fit modules to its dial side and still end up with a manageably thin caliber overall, and that holds true for the Competizione Stradale. Despite its domed crystal and curved lugs, this chronograph comes in at a totally acceptable 13.75 millimeters thick – and I have a feeling that if they really wanted to, they could have shaved a few more millimeters off it, since the chronograph movement with the module and automatic winding came in at 6.50 millimeters thick.
The module on top of the GP 3300 is unlikely to be in-house produced – Girard-Perregaux has been using high-quality chronograph modules from Dubois-Depraz for a long time now. That’s nothing to sneeze at, either – DD produces some very fine modules, including the ones still used to power the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Diver Chronograph, for example.
This specific GP03300-0122 movement runs at a 4-Hertz frequency with an autonomy of 46 hours, and has a relatively high component count of 435 parts with 63 jewels. The movement is revealed through a modestly sized sapphire crystal case back – GP does not do much to make the relatively small movement appear larger than it is. The thick steel frame around the crystal does make the movement look small-ish in the case, but once you get past that, you’ll find the GP 3300 to be decently finished. Nothing particular to write home about, just the usual solid job at high-quality movement decoration with a Côtes de Genève, some beveled and polished edges, blued screws and perlage. It does not beat seeing the chronograph’s mechanism at work (which remains hidden on the dial side of the movement), but it’s nice enough to be shown off through the see-through back.
The Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale goes to show that you need not try and revolutionize watch design to create something noteworthy (and watch-money worthy). It is a classically styled, comfortable-to-wear chronograph that I imagine many will be as happy to wear today as 5, 25, or 50 years from now. A solid base movement and quality module ensure serviceability, a fantastic dial and case combination ensure lasting the test of swiftly changing design trends, and a solid bracelet makes for comfortable wear in every situation… Save for in any type of water deeper than your glass of still Pellegrino, or what have you.
While GP has gotten most of the important details right once again, the brand continues to struggle with an issue that concerns the utmost majority of luxury watch brands today: resale value and considerable grey market discounting. I am optimistically (hopefully you’ll agree that not naively) looking forward to a time where brands will figure out a way to sell direct to consumers, which in turn will allow them to eliminate heavy discounting and consequently to reduce MSRP.
Priced at a few thousand less, the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale could have made a huge splash. As it is now, however, it finds itself in the highly competitive market segment of luxury chronographs priced right at around the $10k mark, forcing some prospective buyers to either make a tough decision, or pick the Stradale up on the grey market. Price for the Girard-Perregaux Competizione Stradale Chronograph is $9,800 on the strap and $10,500 on the bracelet. With all that noted, I can still only imagine it finding its way onto the wrists of many happy watch wearers – it’s just how much they will get it for that remains an issue for the brand (and the industry) to resolve.
>Model: Competizione Stradale
>Price: $9,800 on strap, $10,800 on bracelet
>Size: 42mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: People looking for a solid daily wearer that will never get out of style. In the metal, this does have a perfect “Dad’s watch” vibe to it – and that always is a good thing.
>Best characteristic of watch: Timeless look that works in pretty much any setting.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Wish one of the two dial options was a bit more interesting. Can’t change bracelet to strap. 30 meter water resistance with screw-down crown is a weird combination.