By introducing the exclusive Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramic at SIHH 2017, Audemars Piguet opened up a new frontier in the luxury sports watch category. Your all-steel sports watch with the integrated bracelet was suddenly passé – an all-ceramic timepiece now had more swag than a pirate ship.
Now here’s the rub: creating an integrated bracelet in matching ceramic is no walk in the park. Consider this, it took the Le Brassus brand more than 600 hours of R&D and more than 30 hours to machine, polish, hand-finish and assemble a bracelet, a procedure that’s five times quicker when made using stainless steel. It also explains why these watches cost what they do.
The luxury sports watch has come a long way since the 1970s when a template of sorts was established by the now legendary designer Gerald Genta. This template primarily involved the use of a stainless steel case – hitherto shunned by the luxury watch industry – with an integrated matching steel bracelet. Pioneered by Audemars Piguet with the Royal Oak (Ref. 5402) in 1972, it was followed by Patek Philippe (Nautilus) and IWC (Ingeniur SI) and the Jorg Hysek-designed Vacheron Constantin Ref. 222 in 1977.
In keeping with the zeitgeist, Girard-Perregaux introduced the Laureato in 1975 as a quartz-powered chronometer. It was designed by an Italian architect who nobody remembers now, and was named for the dubbed version of Mike Nicholls’ classic The Graduate (Il Laureato in Italian) at the suggestion of the brand’s regional distributor.
The Laureato was in the same mould as the rest but instead of an all-steel look, it had a distinct gold octagonal bezel and a gold stripe running on the integrated bracelet. Also, it was powered by a high-precision quartz chronometer movement although later iterations would feature mechanical movements.
The brand introduced its first ceramic models in the revamped Laureato line in 2017 and followed it up quickly with skeletonized models and a white ceramic version with a diamond-crusted bezel for ladies. However, the most wearable of the lot remains the 38-mm three-hander with the date window so when I was offered a long-term loan, I had no hesitation in signing up.
The Laureato 38 MM Ceramic in black is every bit a stealth watch. Just 10.8-mm thick, it has quiet, understated presence on the wrist. Made entirely of lightweight black ceramic, the case (and matching bracelet) sports a linear, brushed finish.
The central link of the bracelet are polished to a high gloss, as is the circular disc that sits beneath the brushed ceramic octagonal bezel. The case and bracelet have thinly-bevelled edges that are again polished to a high gloss. This contrasting mix of polished and brushed surfaces plays off the light very well.
The case is fitted with a notched signed ceramic crown, a domed anti-reflective sapphire crystal on the dial side and a smoked sapphire crystal on the caseback. The inky black dial has the familiar Clous-de-Paris guilloché pattern so strongly associated with the Laureato. Highly polished sword-shaped steel hands indicate time and a central seconds hand sweeps the dial.
The polished GP logo is applied on the dial while all text is printed in contrasting white on the dial. The minutes ring, in white, is printed on the periphery of the dial and baton black baton indices are used as hour markers. The baton indices and the sword-shaped hands are coated with white Superluminova that glows green in the dark.
Thanks to its lightweight construction, the watch is comfortable on the wrist and the three link bracelet uses a triple-folding buckle in titanium with push-button release. The bracelet feels seamless and well-crafted and although the watch is also available with a rubber strap, bracelet is the way to go if you ask me.
It is powered by the self-winding manufacture caliber, GP03300-0139. A 4-Hz movement, the watch is made up of 218 components and has 46 hours of power reserve. Visible through the smoked sapphire crystal on the caseback, the movement has decorative flourishes like perlage and Geneva stripes and features a steel rotor that winds the mainspring.
It’s easy to like the Laureato Black Ceramic, it’s a discreet presence on the wrist and is made in an exciting new material. To its credit, Girard-Perregaux has paid a lot of details, as is evident in the design and execution of the case and the lovely serif font used on the dial and date window. It’s the kind of watch that people in the know will instantly recognize and not baulk at the AED60,000 ($16,337) price tag. The rest might mistake it for a D1 Milano; but you know, it takes all kinds.