Laureates of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014 : Bart and Tim Grönefeld (co-founders of Grönefeld), Kari Voutilainen (Founder of Voutilainen), Felix Baumgartner et Martin Frei (co-fournders of Urwerk),  Pierre Jacques (CEO De Bethune), Walter Lange (Founder of A. Lange & Söhne), Christophe Claret (Founder and President of Christophe Claret), Aldo Magada (President & CEO of Zenith), Dr Helmut Crott (Owner of Urban Jürgensen & Sonner),  Johann Schneider-Ammann (Federal Councilor), Jean-Christophe Babin (CEO of Bulgari), Jean-Charles Zufferey (Vice-president of Breguet), Ricardo Guadalupe (CEO of Hublot), Carlo Lamprecht (President of the Fondation du GPHG), Ryuhei Maeda (HE Ambassador of Japan in Switzerland) and Naoko Maeda, Wilhelm Schmid (CEO of A. Lange & Söhne), Pierre Maudet (State councilor), Stephen Urquhart (CEO of Omega),  Susumu Kawanishi (Senior Vice-president of Seiko), Vincent Becchia (Product director of Blancpain)

Laureates of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014 : Bart and Tim Grönefeld (co-founders of Grönefeld), Kari Voutilainen (Founder of Voutilainen), Felix Baumgartner et Martin Frei (co-fournders of Urwerk), Pierre Jacques (CEO De Bethune), Walter Lange (Founder of A. Lange & Söhne), Christophe Claret (Founder and President of Christophe Claret), Aldo Magada (President & CEO of Zenith), Dr Helmut Crott (Owner of Urban Jürgensen & Sonner), Johann Schneider-Ammann (Federal Councilor), Jean-Christophe Babin (CEO of Bulgari), Jean-Charles Zufferey (Vice-president of Breguet), Ricardo Guadalupe (CEO of Hublot), Carlo Lamprecht (President of the Fondation du GPHG), Ryuhei Maeda (HE Ambassador of Japan in Switzerland) and Naoko Maeda, Wilhelm Schmid (CEO of A. Lange & Söhne), Pierre Maudet (State councilor), Stephen Urquhart (CEO of Omega), Susumu Kawanishi (Senior Vice-president of Seiko), Vincent Becchia (Product director of Blancpain)

On October 31st, while in many parts of the world, kids were busy dressing up for Halloween, in Geneva the cream of watchmaking was dolling up for the big night at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).

After a long period of deliberation, waiting and guessing — check out our predictions here – finally, we got to know what the jury had to say. The 24 member jury, consisting of people recognized for their exceptional contribution to the watchmaking sector – such as master-watchmaker and Swiss design genius, Philippe Dufour, was presided by Aurel Bacs.

The winners

The most prestigious prize, the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix, was awarded to Breguet for the Classique Chronométrie.

The most prestigious prize, the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix, was awarded to Breguet for the Classique Chronométrie.

Ladies’ Watch Prize went to Blancpain Women Off-centred Hour.

Ladies’ Watch Prize went to Blancpain Women Off-centred Hour.

There is no surprise when it comes to the Ladies’ High-Mech Watch Prize: Christophe Claret Margot.

There is no surprise when it comes to the Ladies’ High-Mech Watch Prize: Christophe Claret Margot.

Men’s Watch Prize: Urban Jürgensen & Sonner, Central Second

Men’s Watch Prize: Urban Jürgensen & Sonner, Central Second

Chronograph Watch Prize: De Bethune, DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon

Chronograph Watch Prize: De Bethune, DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon

The Tourbillon Watch Prize went to Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon.

The Tourbillon Watch Prize went to Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon.

Calendar Watch Prize: A. Lange & Söhne, Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar "Terraluna"

Calendar Watch Prize: A. Lange & Söhne, Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar
“Terraluna”

Striking Watch Prize: Hublot, Classic Fusion Cathedral Tourbillon Minute Repeater.

Striking Watch Prize: Hublot, Classic Fusion Cathedral Tourbillon Minute Repeater.

Mechanical Exception Watch Prize: Urwerk, EMC, again, no surprises here.

Mechanical Exception Watch Prize: Urwerk, EMC, again, no surprises here.

“Petite Aiguille” Prize, rewarding watches under CHF 8,000, went to Seiko, Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

“Petite Aiguille” Prize, rewarding watches under CHF 8,000, went to Seiko, Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

Sports Watch Prize: Zenith, El Primero Lightweight

Sports Watch Prize: Zenith, El Primero Lightweight

Jewellery Watch Prize: Bulgari, Diva High Jewellery Emeralds

Jewellery Watch Prize: Bulgari, Diva High Jewellery Emeralds

Artistic Crafts Watch Prize: Voutilainen, Hisui.

Artistic Crafts Watch Prize: Voutilainen, Hisui.

“Revival” Watch Prize: Omega, Speedmaster "Dark Side Of The Moon"

“Revival” Watch Prize: Omega, Speedmaster “Dark Side Of The Moon”

Urwerk EMC Black was awarded also the Innovation Watch Prize.

Urwerk EMC Black was awarded also the Innovation Watch Prize.

Walter Lange received the Special Jury Prize.  This prize rewards a personality, institution or initiative that has played a fundamental role in promoting high-quality watchmaking.

Walter Lange received the Special Jury Prize. This prize rewards a personality, institution or initiative that has played a fundamental role in promoting high-quality watchmaking.

The public, after votes cast on internet and at the international exhibitions, selected its own favourite which won the Public Prize: Breguet, Classique Dame.

The public, after votes cast on internet and at the international exhibitions, selected its own
favourite which won the Public Prize: Breguet, Classique Dame.

The losers

Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari watch

Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari

OK, probably it is too harsh to talk about losers when it comes to a competition with such a high standard. Those that did not won, especially the timepieces that got preselected, are all examples of superlative watchmaking.

As I mentioned earlier, a few weeks ago, we have posted a list of watches, that we were expecting to win. Excluding the Special Jury Prize, from the 15 prizes rewarding timepieces, we got right five: Blancpain Women Off-centred Hour winning the Ladies’ Watch Prize, Christopher Claret Margot receiving the Ladies’ High-Mech Prize, Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon receiving the Tourbillon Prize, Urwerk EMC receiving the Mechanical Exeption Watch Prize and finally, we guessed right that Voutilainen Hisui will be crowned in the Artistic Crafts category.

I’m rather surprised by some of the pieces not receiving enough love from the jury to have an award; I’m thinking of the Hublot MP-05 LaFerrari or the Montblanc Collection Villeret 1858.

The absentees

Yesterday, on the eve of the GPHG award ceremony, W THE JOURNAL, published a story called GPHG 2014 – And the winners are… Patek Philippe, Rolex and Cartier!

The title is a satirical reference to the fact that many major brands preferred not to participate at this year’s event. The author considers that the absence of these brands weakens the importance of GPHG, and that the this situation should be fixed by making the preselection, without the consent of the brands:

Of course, while it’s easy to point the finger at the absentees, it’s impossible to ignore the absurdity of a situation in which the biggest and most prestigious brands in Swiss watchmaking snub an event aiming to become the industry’s most coveted podium.

The trouble is that the brands can choose whether they wish to participate, and the GPHG refuses to oblige them to take part. As long as the regulations forgo a selection by the organizers in favor of self-selection by the brands, the competition’s Achilles heel will stand out like a sore thumb. What makes this situation even more frustrating is that the GPHG has greatly improved many other aspects of the competition over the past few years.

In any case, we’re looking forward to this evening: the winners will be eternally grateful to the many absentees!

Other than Patek Philippe, Rolex and Cartier, the author also mentions other brands that are absent: Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, IWC, Piaget, Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Longines.

Without having access to the complete list of participants at past events, I just found this PDF with winners of GPHG from 2001 to 2012. We can see that, in the past Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Jaeger LeCoultre, Longines, Patek Philippe, Piaget and Vacheron Constantin, have not just participated, but they also won prizes on several occasions. These are all great brands, with iconic watches and I’m too far from Geneva to know why they chose not to participate this year. Is it political? Is it business? Or simply, they just felt that it’s better to skip the 2014 edition.

For the brands that never bothered to participate, again, I have no idea why they felt it’s worthless to send in their best models. Watchmaking is not a sport and probably the judges know better than anyone that it’s not easy to select a winner. By giving the award to one piece, in the same time, they take away that award from the other competing models. A situation that brands consider twice before sending in their piece.

“What!? Rolex did not win this year’s “Aiguille d’Or”?” For sure, that is a scenario that the big R, doesn’t want to risk and I’m not expecting them anytime soon to participate.

Should GPHG select the watches on its own, without the accord of the brands, as the author of the article suggests? I don’t think so. The GPHG rules, as they are set right now, require a brand to be self-confident and to have the guts to go out and say, “we think that our tourbillon piece is the best in the world”. If a brand prefers not to participate, in my opinion, does not weaken GPHG, on the contrary, it makes it stronger, because it gives place to surprising results. If I would think only 2014, Urban Jürgensen & Sonner comes to my mind, the winner of the Men’s Watch Prize. There you go.