1970s Girard Perregaux Electronic (Caliber ESA 9154)

Girard Perregaux Electronic Feature

My fascination with  short-lived technological transition pieces continues with this Girard Perregaux Electronic. Unlike the original Hamiltons, the electronic movements designed by this maker (ESA) that came out in the 70s were easy to service, robust, and way less temperamental. They also have a much higher beat rate than their predecessor. At 28,800 vph they run accurately and unbelievably smooth. It also comes with a crude but efficient hacking mechanism. One interesting thing about these movements is that the gear train must fit into a seemingly small portion of the movement in order to accommodate the electronics and the coil. It was a relatively straightforward service, but a fully enjoyable one nonetheless.

Generally when I work on a movement for the first time, I try to get one that is in running condition. In my conversations with many hobbyists who became quickly frustrated with the craft, the common thread was that they made the choice to buy broken movements and learn from there. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to diagnose why something is not working if you have not taken the initial time to learn what makes it work, and how to properly take down, clean, and assemble a movement. The advantage to starting with a running movement is that you know that if you did everything right the piece will tick when you are done. That was my hope with this one.

I bought this watch as just a head in “working order.” Once again, a victim of believing everything you read in an eBay description, I found that while this watch was in absolutely pristine condition externally and on the dial, the electronics didn’t seem to want to work. I also noticed immediately that the circuit insulator had blistering on it from heat. Fortunately the ESA 9154 was a commonly used movement (unlike the super rare ESA 9176 which I am dying to get my hands on) and so I was able to get a harvester movement for at least the circuit insulator.


Next I set about disassembling the movement. While the electronics in these are a bit of a mystery to me, the rest of the mechanism is like any other watch, and so I took it all apart, cleaned everything (other than the electronics of course), gave it an inspection, oiling and reassembly. I then did what I assumed would be a logical step which was to inspect the coil for any defects or dirt. When I found none, I proceeded to put the whole thing back together (with the new circuit insulator) and with a fresh battery it came back to life.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Main Plate Girard Perregaux Electronic New Circuit Insulator

I am unsure entirely why, but I love the balance on this watch. Its construction so perfectly encompasses classic and unchangeable balance elements with modern technology. It feels much more like a balance wheel than the Hamilton electric balances, and is much cleaner aesthetically. The movement of this balance wheel is also mesmerizing.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Balance Wheel



The only odd problem with this movement is the absence of a quick release for the stem. It was quite a procedure to take out the stem, fit the movement in the case and then refit the whole works. Other than that though I love this movement. It runs super smooth and accurately.

Girard Perregaux Electronic Battery Bridge Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 1 Girard Perregaux Electronic Movement 2

All together it is a wonderful watch from the 70s. The case and dial are in phenomenal condition and the faded brown band helps to complement the watch without further accentuating how gold, clunky, and 70s it is as a gold band would have done. Although this is from a time when Girard Perregaux was not yet the brand it is today, it is still a great looking, well made, and accurate runner and a great piece of Girard Perregaux and horlogical history.

Girard Perregaux Electronic DialGirard Perregaux Electronic SideGirard Perregaux Electronic Angled

Vintage Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk (ETA Caliber 1081)

Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Feature

In the past I have written (as one clearly can’t write in the future) about how all too often companies downgrade from manufacturers to assemblers. Occasionally though there are companies that go the other way. Girard Perregaux is a company that went from manufacturer to hybrid assembler/manufacturer, and back to a manufacturer again. They now produce a number of innovative, well designed, and well made movements and watches.

To their credit, even when they based their pieces off of other movements, they still managed to innovate. Examples include the first high-frequency movement in 1966 mentioned in my previous post on the Longines Ultra-Chron. They also produced a quartz watch that vibrated at 37.768 Hz. To put that in perspective of mechanical watches (and briefly explain what makes quartz so accurate) a 36,000vph watch is only 5Hz. This rate became the industry standard for all quartz watches.

For a long time, they were a watch group without a strong identity. They bounced back and forth between the uses of their own super high-end manufactured movements like the famous Three Bridges Tourbillion and assembled ones, such as the example here and the well-known Gyromatic series. They dabbled everywhere which meant they were never really identifiable as a brand with a particular characteristic. This has changed under the leadership of the current CEO Michele Sofisti. They have moved to be almost exclusively manufacturers and have built a strong brand identity. While that means I will not be able to service those pieces for now (as in-house manufacture tends to mean the supply of parts is highly restricted) I must applaud and respect them for their step into full-on manufacturers. They have produced a myriad of new innovations and awe-inspiring pieces that bode very well for the future of the brand.

This particular Sea Hawk uses a manual ETA caliber 1081. While this is a well-made movement it is a far cry from the modern calibers that currently come out of their factories.

I got this watch with a broken balance, knowing that because it is an older ETA, parts are relatively cheap. The good condition case and perfect patina are what drew me to this particular example. The unique hands make this stand out as a Sea Hawk of the time and are unmistakably Girard Perregaux.

Once I got it all together and polished the case, I got a band that helps to accentuate the patina. While it is most certainly a far cry from the current Sea Hawks, it is a great piece that shows that even when they were an assembler Girard Perregaux still added fantastic touches big and small to make pieces their own.

Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Movement Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Front Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Side Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Flat Angled Black Girard Perregaux Sea Hawk Flat Angled White