Some grails are special because of their association with history (see my piece on the “Scuderia Ferrari” Zenith, for example), while others are just plain odd. This is the latter. The Girard Perregaux Casquette (Ref. 9931) is a mid-1970’s LED quartz watch with innovations throughout. It’s just too bad the quartz revolution ended with a whimper instead of this kind of excitement!
The transition from mechanical to electronic timekeeping is remembered as the “quartz crisis” in Swiss circles, but it’s too bad there’s such bad blood. Go back and look at the true state of things in the 1970’s and you’ll see many wonderful developments from big names in the Swiss luxury market, from Omega to Rolex to Longines.
Perhaps the best of these used quartz movements to enable new looks and form factors that had been impossible before. Why should a watch have a flat, circular case? Why does it need central hands or even centric design at all?
This Girard Perregaux Casquette is a great example of this radical reinvention. As the code name suggests, it’s casket-shaped, with the time displayed on an LED array at one end.
GP put serious work into this machine, too. Rather than partnering with a computer company, they developed their own quartz movement with innovative circuit layout techniques that evolved over the short life of the watch. Calibre 395 was first, with discrete chips for the display driver. Calibres 396 and 397 combined these, with the latter being a 24 hour display.
And it was every bit a Girard Perregaux, with quality construction and presentation and a price to match. It came in stainless steel, gold, or “Macrolon” composite construction. The case is sleek and curved to fit and the bracelet and clasp match the expectations of the era.
This particular example is one of 4,000 Casquettes made with the stainless steel case. If the description is to be believed, it has Calibre 396, which is likely the best for regular use since it has 12 hour time, date, and weekday and is integrated and evolved.
Although Casquettes are not worth much, this one seems fairly priced for the condition. It’s well used but said to be in working condition and includes the original box. It will be sold at auction by Auctionata/Chrono24 on Friday, May 30 with a € 900 opening bid.