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The GP Olimpico 1968 Mexico Olympics Chronograph - Excelsior Park Replica Mystery?

  1. WatchCheck Dec 30, 2019

    To Girard-Perregaux and Excelsior Park fans, here's a mystery that needs solving.....a quick back story.

    In early 2019, I was offered a number of watches by a friend of mine on behalf of an old watchmaker who was retiring, one of them being this lovely triple-register Excelsior Park chronograph, which I purchased.

    The old watchmaker told me that he had bought it in 1972 from the Excelsior Park distributor, as they couldn't sell it for some reason. He was asked not to wear it for a while and he just stuffed it in a safe and forgot about it.

    A few months later I was in a cafe and someone on the next table commented on the beautiful Girard-Perregaux Olimpico that I was wearing. I told him that he was mistaken, as it had Excelsior Park on the dial and presumably Witrand was the brand. (It turns out that Witrand was the name of the EP distributor in Johannesburg, which has since closed down many years ago.)

    After doing some further research, I discovered that EP made watches for Girard-Perregaux, Gallet, and a number of other leading brands back in the day. GP had a tradition of releasing 'Olimpico' watches for the Summer Olympic Games. They released 999 pieces of their Olimpico for the 1968 Olympic Games, and my one is practically identical to that model. No wonder the guy mistook it for the GP version.I can only imagine that my one is very rare, as I can't find another example anywhere on the Internet. It's in beautiful condition.

    I found a reference to it in an old Japanese EP catalogue page, as well as one on an ad showing a similar model under an Excelsior Park banner. I'm sure that GP must have been very unhappy to discover that EP were competing with them, by advertising a 'replica' model (if I can call it that.) I haven't come across something like that before where a contracted watch manufacturer to a big brand, can come out with their owm 'version' that looks exactly like the original.

    If you have any reference material or similar EP watches that could help solve the mystery, it would be appreciated. GP Olimpico 1968 Mexico.jpg EP Olimpico 3.jpg EP Olimpico 3a.jpg EP Olimpico.jpg Excelsior Park Waprand Jewellers.jpg GP Olimpico Models.jpg EP Catalogue 1972.jpg EP Ad 1972.jpg
  2. Rumar89 Dec 30, 2019

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  3. Rumar89 Dec 31, 2019

  4. Joe_A Dec 31, 2019


    I would not refer to your watch as a "replica."

    You may be able to solve your mystery by applying to the current owner representatives of Gallet at either the Gallet or Excelsior Park Facebook groups. EP and Gallet have had a long and close association and Gallet may have cased your watch.

    Here is a tangential comment from an exchange I had with the Gallet G.M.

    "Most watches that were powered by Excelsior Park calibres had the movements made in the cousin Jeanneret Brehm's EP factory and cased by Gallet. Other than supplying Gallet's professional and institutional clients, they produced more watches for other brands than they did under the Gallet brand name. Some prime examples are the EP powered Girard Perregaux watches and the Zenith Sextant."

    To the above, we may add a select Sinn model.

    I'd guess your Witrand/Excelsior Park would have an EP40-68 within, possibly unsigned.

    The GP version would have the same basic movement but signed in script near the crown and with the calibre GP 073 on the bridge - a fine movement.

    ~ Joe

    Edit: Spending only 15 minutes, I was unable to find a list of GP dealers/distributors during the 1961 to 1970 period (or any earlier period.) Perhaps GP may help?

    RSA was formed in 1961. The Mahlabatini Declaration of Faith - a blueprint aimed at ending racial disparity - didn't come until 1974 and apartheid ended over two decades later. I recall that for many years, the RSA was blacklisted. I wonder whether GP chose not to conduct business in the RSA at the time? Witrand may have come and gone during the period when many entities would not do business in the country.
    Edited Dec 31, 2019
    arcadelt and Eve like this.
  5. Vintage-Hermes Mar 30, 2020

    It's definately an unusual execution. More recent research has shown that the Girard Perregaux Olimpico was not released before 1976, this has been backed by the curator of GP. Would you mind sharing a picture of the movement and inside caseback, they will provide valuable information as to the approximate year of production?
  6. F.Antl Oct 8, 2023

    I cannot contribute any new insights regarding the Witrand here - but I can introduce another quite similar oddball to the "Poor Man's OlĂ­mpico" (albeit the use of the term "poor" is a clear contradiction in terms) family:


    The Luftman Chronograph shown on the right (together with my GP) is just another double of the GP 9075 AF reference. It is powered by the same - yet unsigned - EP 40-68 movement and has a serial number on the inside of the caseback that falls into the range of the known GPs. Its bezel is slightly darker and has a thinner font which I have come across on only a small minority of other OlĂ­mpicos (all of them being GPs). Other than the Witrand's lumed hour indices the Luftman dial layout looks the same as the GP dial - except for the brand name, of course. The font used on the subdials appears slightly thinner (see e.g. the "30" print on the minutes subdial), though, and I believe the same thinner font is also to be found on the examples branded with "Excelsior Park" (including the above Witrand).


    The Luftman brand seems to have been sold to Portugal, in particular, as a couple of other watches with this branding can be found there. An import mark (known from other Portuguese vintage watches) on the upper left lug also supports this assumption.

    Kind regards,
    Edited Oct 9, 2023
    Ron_W, fibonacci, Eve and 1 other person like this.