YPCAI, You Probably Can’t Afford It, looks at watches which would cost most people the equivalent of two year’s salary. At $420,000, the Girard Perregaux Opera Three is the kind of watch even the average Wall Street bonus couldn’t cover.
Originally launched way back in 2003, this watch is designed for the music lover, as it is not only a watch, but also an ingenious musical box capable of playing music from Mozart or Tchaikovsky and your favourite melody is able to sound crystal clear upon the hour.
The beautifully discreet and simple dial features of the Opera Three reveal a small second at 6 o’clock and two indicators: the power reserve of the carillon and the selected melody. The GP00950 movement, created in collaboration with Christophe Claret, has a 4hz frequency and that power reserve is an impressive 50 hours.
Girard Perregaux’s remarkable ability to make watches of such intricate complexity is within the genes of the company. The founder of Girard Perregaux, Jean-François Bautte, excelled in irresistible watch jewellery known as ‘watches of shape’. These were watches disguised as miniature musical instruments, butterflies or flowers, and even a watch in the form of a perfume-dispensing gun, an enamelled pistol that fired not bullets but perfume.
There is simply no guessing what he might have created today, with all the advantages of modern technology, but it’s interesting to note that one of the playable melodies on the Opera Three is by Mozart, who died in the same year that Bautte started to make watches, so it’s quite likely that the melodies would be familiar to him.
By any standards, the Opera Three is a remarkable piece of engineering. Components within the case enable the watch to perform like a high quality musical box. Within the complex mechanism of the watch are 20 blades and a drum along with 150 hand-mounted pins, no hammers as with most striking watches. A lever allows the music to be played on demand and it can be personalised according to taste.
Needless to say, a watch of this intricacy takes skilled watchmakers months to assemble, which is amply reflected in the price tag. Wil there be an Opera 4? Maybe, Christophe Claret is already experimenting with synthesized musical sounds with the Soprano Minute Repeater, so this may pave the way forward for an even more ambitious watch from Girard Perregaux.
The Opera Three comes on an alligator strap and can still be acquired on various websites, but it’s undoubtedly the most expensive opera ticket in town.