Thursday, October 29th, the world of watchmaking stopped and all eyes turned to the Grand Théâtre de Genève, where the 15th edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) was taking place. Everyone was curious to find out who will go home with a golden hand statuette, considered an equivalent of the Academy Awards, rewarding excellence and creativity in watchmaking.
The winners were selected by a group of 26 influential watch experts and collectors, this time awarding 17 prizes. If you read my predictions for GPHG 2015, you might understand the cocktail of feelings I was going trough while following the ceremony. It seems that with some of the prizes I was on the same page with the jury, in other categories the competition between the watches was so tight that while the award was given to a different piece than I predicted, I can totally understand the decision. I have to admit, that at least one decisions caught me totally off-guard… Well, de gustibus non est disputandum.
“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix
Let me start with the top prize, the most prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix that was awarded to Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes. Was I surprised? Absolutely, because my prediction turned out to be correct. This is an exceptional timepiece, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey’s third invention, a 24 second tourbillon.
Ladies’ Watch Prize
Embroidery is feminine by definition, a romantic and sexy material, used by Hublot to create this rebellious piece. Created in collaboration with Bischoff, a world leader in embroidery, the exclusive pattern was designed to fit the Big Bang iconic look. The skull pattern on a dial studded with 11 diamonds, and soft arabesques on the bezel and strap – a technical feat which took several months of R&D.
Part of the solution was found and developed in the Jura: in a process akin to the manufacture of high-tech carbon fibre components, the elements embroidered on tulle are encased and moulded – like a stack of sheets – in carbon fibre to amplify the texture. This is new and exclusive process.
Ladies’ High-Mech Watch Prize
No surprises here, this really stood out from the lot, I was expecting it to win.
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.
Mens’ Watch Prize
The Mens’ category was crowded with exceptional pieces, I had a really hard time to chose a winner and I’m sure the jury was in the same situation. While I picked Laurent Ferrier Galet Square, the prize was given to the Voutilainen GMR. I am really happy for master watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, his creations always impress with their sophisticated, yet clean designs. The Voutilainen GMR is no different, while it packs a 24 hour second time zone and a retrograde power reserve indicator, the dial decorated with hand guilloche has a clean layout. The movement crafted in German silver, has 250 components and 28 jewels. It allows you to adjust the second timezone by the crown, which then advances by jumping an hour each time rather than rotate freely, thus avoiding any loss of accuracy compared to local time. It is limited to 12 pieces, it comes at 108,000 CHF.
Chronograph Watch Prize
Presented at SIHH 2015, the Piaget Altiplano Chronograph is powered by the incredibly thin Calibre 883P, measuring only 4.65 mm. This is truly an exceptional horological feat, that I invite you to discover more in detail here.
Tourbillon Watch Prize
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to take a close look at the Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon, that features the constant Ulysse Anchor escapement, made entirely of silicon.
Challenging the principle of the traditional Swiss anchor escapement, the new constant Ulysse Anchor escapement features a circular frame with a pallet fork fixed in the centre, supported in space on two blade springs less than a tenth of the thickness of a hair in diameter. Mounted perpendicular to each other, these are subjected to a bending force that curves them and maintains them in a bi-stable state.
Price 88,000 CHF.
Calendar Watch Prize
This one too, I got it right, it was my favourite in the Calendar category. The clean design of the dial makes it a winner!
Striking Watch Prize
This watch is all about making the invisible visible, offering the opportunity to observe on the dial side both the components of the striking-mechanism and the hammers that produce its sound by striking the wires of the gongs. In a major innovation, this positioning of the components facilitates optimum sound transmission when the watch is on the wearer’s wrist.
Mechanical Exception Watch Prize
Pierre Jaquet-Droz was famous for his automata, and with The Charming Bird is Jaquet Droz is honouring this tradition. Words won’t do justice to this complex timepiece, let’s just discover it through a presentation video:
“Petite Aiguille” Prize
“Petite Aiguille” rewards watches priced under 8,000 CHF and after winning in 2013, the Austrian watchmaking couple behind Habring2 was invited again on the stage, this time for their Felix, an entry-level small seconds model that they’ve created to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the brand.
Sports Watch Prize
2015 is a groundbreaking year for Tudor, for the first time in the history of the brand, they’ve came out with an in-house calibre the Tudor MT5612. Presented at Baselworld, Tudor launched two models that are powered by the new calibre, the North Flag and the Pelagos.
A well deserved award!
Jewellery Watch Prize
With the Diamond Punk, AP showed us that the haute joaillerie can be rebellious, fun and magnificent in the same time. It was my choice too, I’m glad the jury thought the same.
Artistic Crafts Watch Prize
Japanese in origin, shakudō is an alloy principally composed of copper and gold, which acquires a dark patina between blue and black, according to variations in its composition and texture.
The black patina is obtained following a process called passivation, which calls for the application of a solution. This solution, which is composed of copper acetate (green gray), has been traditionally fabricated in Japan where it is known as rokushō. According to the number of applications of the rokushō solution, the black becomes successively deeper and more intense.
Rarely seen in the world of watchmaking, Blancpain has brought this art form forward to today with a series of unique pieces which reflect the expertise of the Manufacture in the practices of Métiers d’Art.
Price: 150,000 CHF
Revival Watch Prize
This model is inspired by 1970’s, Piaget’s most daring period, when numerous extravagant cuff watches were launched.
It is a reversible cuff offering two different watches:
– On side 1, a natural opal dial and a delicate diamond snow-setting on the bracelet.
– On side 2, a natural onyx dial and a vintage hammered gold bracelet.
Innovation Watch Prize and Public Prize
With the Tourbillon of Tourbillons, Antoine Preziuso won not one, but two distinctions, the Innovation Watch Prize and the Public Prize.
The Tourbillon of Tourbillons has three tourbillons arranged around a revolving plate that resonate together – oscillating at a stable frequency like three hearts beating in unison. This technical tour de force, protected by three international patents, is made possible by a differential, installed in the centre of the movement, that required many years of effort, calculations and imagination.
The central planetary triple-differential is blend of physical laws and mathematical formulae: the watch’s veritable ‘brain.’ It is of such complexity that no computer programme has succeeded in accurately simulating its way of functioning. It even required the creation of the smallest ball-bearing in the world: scarcely 1.6mm in diameter! The challenges involved were tremendous: the differential has to distribute constant energy from the twin-barrel to the three tourbillons; it must also deliver this energy through the centre without disturbing the axis of the hands; and it must correct any variations of frequency and even, if necessary, adjust as necessary should one of the tourbillons stop working.
Price: 480,000 CHF
“Horological Revelation” Prize
The Galet Square was my choice for the Men’s watch price, the jury rather decided to invite Laurent Ferrier on the stage to give him the “Horological Revelation” Prize. This is an optional prize that rewards a watch, created by a young brand (less than ten years of existence since its first model was commercialized) and entered in one of the twelve categories.
The Galet Square is powered by the automatic FBN 229.01 calibre with unidirectional pawl-fitted micro-rotor and a three-day power reserve. It is equipped with silicon escapement featuring double direct impulse on the balance. This innovation developed by Laurent Ferrier enables the balance to be impelled twice per oscillation, a principle that requires two escape-wheels and an appropriately shaped lever.
In terms of finishing, the 41×41 mm Galet Square proposes a blue dial featuring a vertical satin-brushed finish that is a favourite with Laurent Ferrier and creates a velvety sheen that is particularly pleasing to the eye. This variation features 11 white gold hour-markers.
Price 35,000 CHF
Special Jury Prize
This is a prize that rewards a personality, institution or initiative that has played a fundamental role in promoting high-quality watchmaking. It cannot be awarded to a watch, nor to a brand as such.
This year, the prize went to Micke Pintus, Yannick Pintus, Jean-Luc Perrin, a trio of Vacheron Constantin Master watchmakers working eight years to create the Reference 57260, a one-of-a-kind piece featuring 57 horological complications, several of witch are unprecedented, including multiple calendars and a double retrograde split-second chronograph.
For more details on the Reference 57260, check out our story presenting this mind-boggling watch.