In a few days, on October 29th, we will finally know the name of the watches that will receive a reward in one of the 16 categories of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, plus the big prize, the most coveted, “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix.
I empathize with the jury that has to decide on the winners, I can imagine the challenge facing Aurel Bacs, the president of the jury, to get all the 25 members of the jury to agree on only one winner per category, when there are so many exceptional pieces to chose from. In the first round there were 193 pieces, a number that they reduced to 72 preselected watches (you can find here), still their job did not got any easier.
As I did last year, just to make the wait more fun, let me share with you my list of — let me call it — Fantasy GPHG.
Ladies’ Watch prize
Rewarding women’s watches comprising two at most of the following indications: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, second time zone; may be adorned with a maximum 5-carat gemsetting.
I’m just starting the list and I already have a hard time deciding. First of all this is a hard category for me to judge, then there at least four out of the six watches preselected that I really like. Well, it breaks my heart to name only one, but it is the Ulysse Nardin Jade. The overall design is very feminine: the slightly oval case, the mother-of-pearl dial, the numbers, the curved decoration on the dial, and I can go on and on. I like the fact that it has a date function and a power reserve complication, as I think these can really useful for a modern lady. Operating the automatic UN-310 in-house movement does not require any pulling or pushing of the crown, a little help from Ulysse Nardin engineers to protect delicate nails.
Price: 25,500 CHF
Ladies’ High-Mech Watch Prize
Women’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These watches may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications and do not fit the definition of the Ladies’ category.
The Lady Compliquée Peacock is a magnificent example of modern watchmaking rooted in the traditions of its maison. Since its early days, Fabergé was known not only for its mastery of haute joaillerie, but also for the little surprises hidden in his creations. The overall look of the watch is inspired by Peter Carl Fabergé’s Peacock egg of 1908. The mother-of-pearl disk on the dial rotating and the hours can be read at the crown, while for the minutes a retrograde complication is moving the tail of the peacock, to open it as fan.
The movement was created exclusively for Fabergé by Agenhor, a famous Geneva based manufacturer, whose innovative solutions can be found in exceptional watches, such as in the Romain Jérôme Spacecraft, or the Temps Suspendu by Hermes, which was actually rewarded in 2011 at GPHG the Best men’s watch prize.
The Peacock really stands out in this category, not too many bells and whistles, the complications it has are superbly integrated. For me, it’s a winner!
Price: 98,000 CHF
Men’s Watch Prize
Men’s watches comprising two at most of the following indications: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, second time zone; may be adorned with a maximum 5-carat gemsetting.
Another difficult category… We got the super-thin Piaget Altiplano 38mm 900P, the futuristic MB&F HMX, and the classy Voutilainen GMR. I would love to have all of these in my collection, but I think the prize will go to the Galet Square by Laurent Ferrier.
The french word galet, meaning pebble, and it describes well the soft cushion shaped 41 x 41 mm square case. The dark blue dial has a vertical satin-brushed finish, the perfect background to the 11 white gold indexes and the elegant hands. At six o’clock a small-second subdial, decorated with sunray finish, breaks the rhythm of the indexes.
Pure, masculine, classic and with a huge charisma.
Price: 35,000 CHF
Chronograph Watch Prize
Mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
For this category, My first choice is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher, a split-second chronograph that AP developed at the request of Schumi himself. Back in 2010, he asked for a mechanical wrist watch designed specifically for use in motorsport which would measure and record an extended series of consecutive lap times. AP took up the challenge and they delivered with brio: a pending patent covering its unique functionality, incorporating no fewer than three column wheels (one column wheel, located at the six o’clock position, controls the chronograph sequence, while the two at the 12 o’clock position control the complex laptimer sequence); a new oscillating wheel coupling mechanism has been developed for jerk-free action when the chronograph is stopped or started; even the lubrication is different because of the unusually long and slim components, AP chose solid lubricants that won’t deteriorate easily.
For more details and a really cool video, check out our article about the Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher.
Price: 226,800 CHF
Tourbillon Watch Prize
Mechanical watches comprising at least one tourbillon. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
There several superb timepieces preselected in this category, but I would be really surprised if the jury would not give an award to MB&F for what they have achieved with the Horological Machine N°6 ‘Space Pirate’.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, in the case of this timepiece a video is worth a thousand pictures. This timekeeping sculpture is inspired by the a Japanese anime TV series from Maximilian Büsser’s childhood: Capitaine Flam (Captain Future in English). For a full description of Space Pirate, check out our story.
Price: 213,900 CHF
Calendar Watch Prize
Mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g. annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon-phase display, etc.). Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
Calendar watch dials can easily get overcrowded with subdials, windows and indicators and this is why I’m voting for Slim d’Hermès. They have managed to create a minimalist look with a perpetual calendar, while also adding a moonphase indicator and a second timezone, packaging everything in a 9.06 mm thick case. It is powered by the automatic Manufacture Hermès H1950 ultra-thin movement, which is a 2.6mm base Vaucher caliber with a 1.4mm Agenhor module.
Price: 32,600 CHF
Striking Watch Prize
Watches with at least one acoustic indication or complication, notably watches equipped with repeater, striking, musical or any other acoustic function. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
This is a category filled with a few hard-punching heavy-weights. We got A. Lange & Söhne with the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, Girard-Perregaux and their Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges, or Cristophe Claret Allegro, Hublot Big Bang Alarm REpeater, Franc Vila Inaccessible Tourbillon Minute Repeater, and finally a newcomer to the independent haute horlogerie, Akrivia with the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour.
Founded in 2012, by master watchmaker Rexhep Rexhepi, I see Akrivia as a rising star in haute horlogerie and I would be really happy to see Rexhepi going home with a prize. He already developed an original and recognizable style, characterized by bold shapes that are very well balanced. His lines denote a firm hand, charisma and vigour, almost a macho, a very elegant macho. Just look at the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour and you will see what I mean.
The dial, crafted from mat-polished black steel is dominated by 13.7 mm tourbillon with a 60 seconds rotation. The hour is displayed in the window at the centre of the dial. When the minutes hand gets to the 12 o’clock position, with the circle at its base perfectly covering the hour window, the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour comes alive to show all it can do: the numeral in the hour window will instantly change and the striking mechanism get activated.
The push button at three o’clock serves to switch the striking mechanism to silent mode which is indicated to the right of the hammer at 12 o’clock.
The single barrel hand-wound movement is capable of 100 hours of power reserve.
Price: 180,000 CHF
Mechanical Exception Watch Prize
Watches featuring a special mechanism, such as an innovative or sophisticated display, an automaton, a belt-driven movement or any other original and/or exceptional horological concept.
I have the feeling that this is one of the riskiest bets that I’m taking with my list of predictions. The Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One is the kind of timepiece that brings a new dimension to high-end watchmaking, a dimension that some might find rather esoteric.
In most watches, the regulating organ oscillates between 21,600 to 36,000 alt. per hour, making it impossible for the wearer to observe in detail the inner working of the mechanism. The Complication One has frequency of 18,000 alt. per hour, kept deliberately low to pay homage to traditional watchmaking and let wearer admire the escapement and understand how time works mechanically.
The 72 hours of power reserve is the result of the double barrels, one barrel drives the going train to the escape wheel, regulated by a free-sprung balance on a Breguet type overcoil. The second barrel keeps the transmission escapement on the dial under tension. This escapement snaps forward every fifteen second to replicate what goes on in the other escapement five times a second. The center wheel of the first train rotates an elliptical triangle, which turns in the lever fork on the dial, swinging it aside every fifteen seconds to unlock and lock the double escape wheel.
Price: 98,400 CHF
“Petite Aiguille” Prize
Watches with a retail price of under CHF 8,000.
2015 will go down in the history of Tudor as the year when they unveiled their first in-house movement, the MT5621. Beating at 28,800 vibrations/hour, the MT5621 is fitted with a variable inertia balance with silicon balance spring, held by a transversal bridge that is secured at each end to fully withstand shocks and vibrations. One of the first watches to get the new movement was the North Flag, a model honouring the members of the British North Greenland Expedition that int he early 1950s wore Tudor Oyster Prince watches while carrying out a series of experiments in extremely hostile conditions.
The 40 mm stainless steel case of the North Flag is satin finished and it features a screw-down crown, offering 100 meters of water resistance. The matt finished black dial with its contrasting bold white indexes and hands, offers excellent readability. At three o-clock we find a date window, while at 9 the power reserve indicator with its yellow markings is proudly showing the 70 hours of power reserve that the MT5621 is capable of delivering.
Price: 3,500 CHF
Sports Watch Prize
Watches linked to the field of sports, whose functions, materials and design are suited to physical activities.
Limited to 700 pieces, it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Seiko’s diver’s watches.
Its design echoes that of Seiko’s very first hi-beat 36000 diver’s watch in 1968, but its specifications are the most advanced in the field. It has a one-piece titanium case and, thanks to this, the L-shaped gasket and other features, the case is impermeable to helium, there is no need for an escape valve and the watch is suitable for saturation diving. The rotating bezel is securely fixed to the case with four screws next to the 12 and 6 o’clock positions. The hands and hour markers are coated in a new-generation Lumibrite for enhanced legibility.
The newly developed 8L55 movement is specially optimized and adapted for use in a diver’s watch with this structure. This caliber beats at 36,000 vibrations per hour and has a power reserve of 55 hours, thanks to the mainspring made of Seiko’s proprietary alloy, Spron 530. For longer durability and higher antimagnetic resistance, Seiko’s proprietary alloy, Spron 610, is used for the balance spring. The escapement wheel and pallet fork are made using MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) technology and have the high precision, durability and lightness necessary for a hi-beat caliber.
Price: 6,700 CHF
Jewellery Watch Prize
Watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewellery and gemsetting, and also distinguished by the choice of stones.
AP wants you to know that Punks Not Dead and they are ready to break the rules of gem-set watches. The Diamond Punk is a haut joaillerie cuff piece decorated with 7,848 diamonds that cover the pyramid faceted bracelet and a secret sliding cover will reveal the dial decorated with 300 more diamonds.
At 702,000 CHF this AP is not exactly in the budget of your average punk…
Artistic Crafts Watch Prize
Watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enamelling, lacquering, engraving, guilloché (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc.
Among the watches in this category, I really like the Blancpain Villeret, cadran Shakudo, but I have the feeling that the prize will go to Romain Gauthier for the Logical one Secret Kakau Höfke.
This unique piece that pays tribute to Rio, is a beautiful blend of haute horlogerie with contemporary art. The white gold cover is decorated with a reproduction of a Kakau Höfke painting. This Brazilian artist is a long-time friend of the Gauthier family and responsible for designing the Romain Gauthier logo when the brand was founded in 2005.
Höfke’s design has been beautifully adapted and recreated using an intricate micro-marquetry technique based on traditional stone marquetry, carried out by artisans at the Geneva atelier of Olivier Vaucher. No fewer than 352 unique, mirror-polished, miniature tiles of jade and agate – each one 0.5mm thin and painstakingly hand-finished and hand-applied – make up this exceptional micro-marquetry, the complexity of which is evidenced by its bombé profile and double layer of tiles.
Price: 225,000 CHF
Innovation Watch Prize
This prize rewards the best watch, presented in one of the twelve categories and featuring a remarkable technical innovation and/or an innovative design.
DeWitt’s 4th Concept Watch, is the fruit of months of research and development. Far removed from the conventions of traditional watchmaking, the numerals indicating the hours and minutes give the impression that they have been scattered, thrown into chaos so that in the end they can give the precise time. There are no hands, but rather totally autonomous jumping numerals that come to life by lighting up in the centre of the watch to indicate the passage of time.
The result is a truly innovative way of displaying the time and I think it deserves to be rewarded.
Price: 210,000 CHF
Revival Watch Prize
This prize rewards the best watch presented in one of the twelve categories, which features a contemporary re-edition or reinterpretation of an iconic historical model.
The Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph is directly inspired by the original 1963 Carrera model, designed by Jack Heuer.
At 39 mm, the Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph is slightly bigger than the original chronographs of the collection. The push buttons, the glassbox, hand-applied indexes, «Heuer» vintage logo and aged calfskin leather strap are in line with the collection design codes while taking us back to the past.
The timepiece has a telemeter scale, graduated in kilometers enabling to calculate the distance where a phenomenon including both sound and light takes place. A vintage look that will appeal to motoracing lovers looking for the original spirit and heritage of the races.
Price: 5,100 CHF
“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix
THE Grand Prix, the most prestigious award, rewarding the best overall watch among all categories.
Finally, the big prize, the best of the best!
To be honest, this is a wild guess, as there are many watches in the preselected list that would deserve this prize. Among all of them, I have a particularly good feeling about the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes.
To make the case as slender as possible, they incorporated a dome into the sapphire crystal on the back of the timepiece.
Particular care has been given to the design of the hand-finished blued-steel hands, which immediately and precisely indicate the time. They have been lightened to the maximum degree and their form, in the shape of a lance, leads the eye straight to the indexes that are first engraved and then “oven-fired” enamelled into the solid gold dial.
The fast-rotating 24 second tourbillon is also an integral part of the graphic composition of the entire piece. Set inside a light-well, it creates an animated scene that is an irresistible invitation to explore the movement-side of the timepiece.
Price: 290,000 CHF
Before you would go, don’t forget to cast your vote for your favourite watch on the GPHG website and enter automatically in the prize draw to win the DeWitt, Glorious Knight Chronograph watch worth 17,280 CHF.