Only Watch 2021: Charles Girardier 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock

Peripheral rotor, flying tourbillon, and grand feu enamel.

While named after a late-18th century Swiss watchmaker, Charles Girardier is a startup, having been established in 2018 by Patrick A. Ulm, a Swiss private banker with a passion for watches.

The brand focuses on tourbillon wristwatches, but enhanced with elements inspired by vintage Charles Girardier pocket watches, such as paillonnee enamel dials and its whimsical “mysterious” complication. Its Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse Fleur de Sel won the Ladies’ Complications Watch Prize at last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve, beating out competition from big names like Bulgari and Piaget.

For Only Watch 2021, Charles Girardier created the 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock, a wristwatch with a figure-of-eight dial layout in grand feu enamel and an unusual automatic movement with a peripheral rotor.

Initial thoughts

Being relatively young, Charles Girardier only has one model to its name so far, the Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse. Still, it’s a technically interesting watch, making it a useful starting point for an Only Watch edition.

The Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse is symmetrical  – both on the front and the back. The dial is arranged in a figure-of-eight, with a flying tourbillon at six, and the “mysterious” complication at twelve.

The “mysterious” complication is the brand emblem that spins freely, thanks to a weight on its back that’s hidden under the dial. It gives the dial dynamism, though the “mysterious” complication feels a bit gimmicky since it serves no technical function. That said, it does fulfil the purpose of creating visual balance on the dial.

The Tribute to Jackson Pollock is like the brand’s other watches in having a grand feu enamel dial – but one that is notably more elaborate, finish in graduated colours and paillons, abstractly evoking the style of Jackson Pollock.

Equally interesting is the movement, which is an automatic wound by a peripheral rotor, revealing the movement in all its glory. While the movement finishing appears good, it does have one shortcoming – the Etachron regulator index for the tourbillon. It’s perfectly functional, but typically found on less pricey watches.


Both the front and back of the Tribute to Jackson Pollock are decorated by hand.

The enamel dial, for instance, is first painted, before being fired in an oven – a process repeated several times. According to the brand, it takes about six days to complete one dial.

The dial’s delicate texture is meant to echo brushstrokes of a painting. Interestingly, the dial is also decorated with gold paillons, which are tiny pieces of gold foil. Traditionally paillons are in decorative shapes, but here they appear to be impressionist accents.

Going by the pictures, the finishing of the movement is good, most notably the wide, rounded anglage and countersinks – a sign of handwork. The bevelling contrasts again the fine frosting on the surfaces of the bridges, which is created via an old-fashioned method of brushing the bridges with silver powder and a metal brush, a delicate technique that requires light, even pressure.

Also appealing is the clean, symmetrical form of the bridges, especially the two smaller ones that flank the tourbillon bridge, which have an elegant curvature and sharp outward corners.

Arguably the only weakness is the exposed tourbillon regulator on the front, which appears somewhat flat.

That’s perhaps because the components of the tourbillon are basic: the balance wheel is smooth, and the curb pins and stud of the Etachron regulator look inelegant. A free-sprung balance with poising screws and adjustable weights on its rim would have given it a more intricate, traditional look.

Patrick A. Ulm, founder of Charles Girardier

All images © Guy Lucas de Peslouan

Key Facts and Price

Charles Girardier 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock
Ref. CG.OR5.01.BOW

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 12.2 mm
Material: 18k pink gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water-resistance: 30 m

Movement: CG1809/6
Functions: Hours, minutes, and flying tourbillon
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 46 hours

Strap: Fabric strap with pink gold folding buckle

Limited edition: Piece unique
Availability: To be sold at Only Watch on November 6, 2021
Estimate: CHF75,000-90,000

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