Some watchmakers need a merchandizing deal with an carmaker to give their timepieces an automotive theme. Others bank on their sponsorship of racing teams. Girard-Perregaux had Luigi Macaluso.
A former racing driver himself, Macaluso served as president of both the Italian Motorsport Federation and the International Karting Federation. He won the European Rally Championship in 1972, and served on the FIA's World Motor Sport Council. In other words, a car guy (and racing enthusiast) through and through. And from 1992 until his passing last year, he served as president of Girard-Perregaux.
Macaluso's own ties to the automotive industry brought the likes of Ferrari and Pininfarina to partner with GP for their own branded timepieces – the former later switching to Panerai and the latter collaborating on a watch for the Rolls-Royce Hyperion and another for the P4/5 Competizione – but arguably its finest driver's watch bore no merchandizing partnership at all.
The R&D 01 is the product of several years of – you guessed it – research and development, consulting with Formula 1 racing drivers to create a timepiece designed around the requirements of the driver. In other words, the ultimate driver's watch.
The result is a chronograph whose push-buttons are inverted, as are their functions, for easier operation while driving. Its rotating internal bezel is inherently resistant to being knocked out of place like an external one. And the dials are styled after a car's dashboard gauges and the crown field after an F1 air intake. The design is sporty, but far more subdued than some of the more extroverted driver's watches we've featured on these webpages. And like all of Girard-Perregaux's timepieces, the movement is crafted entirely in-house, which, like the R&D's relatively subtle design, makes it an exception in a rapidly centralizing industry.