Monday, March 19, 2012

A Grand Day Out - Part 2

For those of you just joining, here is Part 1:

And now if you're caught up -

So having put on our white coats and zipped-up, I found myself in a room with some incredibly complicated looking machinery.  The above photo gives you a hint as to what is made in this area.  Those of you hard-core Girard-Perregaux fans will no-doubt recognize the cut out shape at the bottom of this photo.

And it was at this point where Willy first uttered what would become a bit of a slogan for the rest of the morning - and I apologize for not writing it down at the time, but the general statement was "as you can see, our grandfathers are no-longer working here."  Essentially telling me that I would not see people hunched over with wooden tools, slowly making individual parts all by hand.
 Girard-Perregaux is a modern facility with cutting-edge technology.  Elvis (or at least the watch maker of 100 years ago) has left the building.
What was truly remarkable - at least to "little me" who barely got through trigonometry, was the amount of mathematical calculations and programming that had to go in on the front-end to get these "automated watch makers" performing at the insanely uncompromising tolerances required.

And behind every machine and function - people.  And as odd as it sounds, and as impressive and amazing as the machines are - it is the people who really struck me.  Think about the amount of patience and concentration to not only get the processes going, but to monitor, update, and if necessary correct them?  And by the way - I've been in a few work-spaces and I don't think that I've ever encountered such a friendly and positive group of people.
This is man (and woman) and machine working together.

And one of the other repeating themes in Willy's tour was the unbending attention to detail.  At Girard-Perregaux, it is safe to say that good-enough really isn't good-enough.  At EVERY step of production there are several stages for quality control.  Off by even the slightest variance?  Back it goes until it is as close to perfect as possible - and within tolerances.

The other aspect that really "rocked my world" was the vertical integration of the entire process at Girard-Perregaux.  For those of you out there thinking that they make their own movements, but the rest is "ordered out" - think again.
Cases, bracelets, bezels - you name it!
In a time where the majority of watch companies are essentially acting as "assemblers" - movement from ETA, Selitta, maybe a case and bracelet from a specialist supplier... Girard-Perregaux are doing ALL of these things themselves!
So we moved from one area, down a hallway and traversed another set of stairs -

And for you movement junkies out there - this is where the "heart" of each Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard timekeeper begins to be brought to life.

And in this area, a group of incredibly skilled folks start to put the pieces together - yes a GP or JR movement REALLY IS more than just the sum of its parts.

So although on the front end, the individual components are crafted by computerized machinery, once it is time to assemble, the people of Girard-Perregaux are at the forefront.
More to come - stay tuned!

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