Several years ago, Girard-Perregaux released a series of watches called the Operas. As the name suggests, all boast musical complications.
The Opera One is a minute repeater with a Westminster chime on four gongs; it is activated by a typical slide on the left of the case. When activating striking watches, it is important that the slide is moved as far as possible to avoid a jammed movement. Likewise, the slide should not be touched until the watch has stopped chiming and the striking regulator can no longer be heard. It also has a tourbillon escapement, some variants of which are housed under Girard-Perregaux’s traditional three golden bridge architecture. The movement is the manually wound GP9899, featuring a leisurely 3-hertz beat rate and 75-hour power reserve.
The Opera Two is based on the Opera One but adds a perpetual calendar to turn the movement into the GPME0980, which is also manually wound. Owners must be sure to wind this timepiece daily to avoid the calendar failing to advance. It, too, has a 75-hour power reserve. From our experience, this piece sounds slightly different than the Opera One, though this may have been due to small sample variations, a possibility afforded by the model’s handmade spiral gongs or by the additional volume in the case to accommodate the perpetual calendar module.
The final piece is said by some to be the simplest of the three but also the most enchanting. It doesn’t have a minute repeater mechanism, traditional gongs or hammers; instead, the Opera Three contains a music box with your choice of two melodies: Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” or Tchaikovsky’s “No Greater Love”. The melody can be chosen using a switch on the side of the case, with the corresponding selection displayed on a small segment of the dial to the left of the governor. The watch can be set to play the music hourly or on demand. The music box itself is driven by a separate barrel that is wound by turning the crown in the direction opposite to winding the timekeeping train. Both melodies are produced by a series of offset pins set into a drum at different heights and intervals; these pluck a keyboard of 20 metal strips which in turn resonate and generate the desired sound. It isn’t loud, but it is instantly recognizable as the intended tune. The escapement is a conventional Swiss lever, with a more common 4-hertz beat rate and 50 hours of power reserve.
Unfortunately, the images were made in the days before HD SLRs, so no video is available. Regardless, these striking watches exude magic for their owners, whether chiming for the first time or the thousandth.