Last night, key leaders in the watch industry returned to Geneva for an annual tradition that began in 2001 - the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, celebrating achievements in the watchmaking industry. The creation of GPHG sought a collaboration of watchmakers, manufacturers, and organizations associated with Swiss watchmaking. The yearly event includes 15 categories of watchmaking excellence in which members of the Academy can nominate their top picks for a jury to ultimately vote on.
Open to all watch and clock brands, regardless of nationality, the GPHD has grown in its importance over the years and has become a prestigious event within the watchmaking community. Winning one of these awards is considered a significant honor in the watch industry, helping to raise the profile of the winning brands. So how did things turn out this year? Let’s look at last night’s big winners in each category and a few unsolicited opinions to go along with them.
Ladies’ (women’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases)
Piaget Hidden Treasures - I absolutely love how this piece combines jewelry and watchmaking. It reminds me of vintage ladies watches that perfectly balanced being both intentional in design and beautiful on the wrist. And that turquoise dial is just stunning!
Image Source Lifetime Magazine
Ladies’ Complication (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 (e.g. annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases, tourbillon, digital or retrograde time display, world time, dual time or other types of model))
Dior Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior - Honestly this one is a weird combination of quartz and mechanics that I just don’t quite understand. The timekeeping mechanics themselves are quartz, but there’s a mechanical element to the dial that, with the touch of a pusher, sends two shooting stars into the midnight blue sky. It’s unique in its own way, but I’m still not quite sure what I think of it. In general, I found most of the watches in this category quite underwhelming and would love to see this category grow more.
Image Source Dior
Men’s (men’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases)
Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans - Simon Brette may be the new kid on the block, but after launching this watch in April of this year, it is currently sold out through 2029. The craftsmanship and finishing on both the dial and the movement look as though they came from some of the most prestigious Swiss brands on the market (and at over $60,000, it sure is priced that way). Still, I’d love to check one out in person, even if there’s no chance of ever actually owning one.
Image Source Wristcheck
Men’s Complication (men’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 (e.g. world time, dual time or other types of model))
Voutilainen World Timer - I can’t help but love a world timer and this one is no exception. It’s both minimal but has that guilloche dial with so much detail it’s mesmerizing.
Image Source Voutilainen
Iconic (watches stemming from an emblematic collection or model that has been exercising a lasting influence on watchmaking history and the watch market for more than 20 years)
Ulysse Nardin Freak One - Obsessed is an understatement. I remember first seeing the Freak in Vegas a few years ago and they are truly just incredible. Being both recognizable from across the room and mistable for nothing else on the market, it’s easy to see why this wins the iconic category. And who doesn’t love a sporty tourbillon!
Image Source Monochrome Watches
Tourbillon (men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one tourbillon)
Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon - I’ve had pretty mixed feelings about this one since its January launch. As a watch enthusiast, one of the most prized complications in this hobby of ours is the tourbillon. To have such an incredible complication completely hidden just seems like a bit of a waste in my opinion. Aesthetically, it is an incredibly cool watch. A little bit retro and sporty as hell. But why have a tourbillon if you’re not going to show it off?
Image Source Laurent Ferrier
Calendar and Astronomy (men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g. date, annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases display, etc.))
Bovet 1822 Récital 20 Astérium - Insert a million heart eye emojis here. Visually, it is just a masterpiece with the night sky and map of the constellations (which are not only laser engraved but then filled with luminescence). The fact that it has 771 hand crafted components is simply incredible.
Image Source Bovet
Chronograph (mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication)
Petermann Bédat Chronograph Rattrapante - “Refined AF” seems to be an appropriate description for this Rattrapante. Again, we see these incredibly young independent Swiss brands putting out a product that competes in quality and finishing with some of the most premier and traditional Swiss brands which really gives me hope for the future of the industry. My biggest gripe - that the rattrapante mechanism for the movement is on the dial side, meaning we can’t see it through the sapphire caseback.
Image Source Petermann Bédat
Sports (watches linked to the world of sport, whose functions, materials and design are suited to physical exercise)
Tudor Pelagos 39 - An unsurprising winner here. There’s no denying that Tudor has been on fire in the last few years and dare I say, seem to actually be listening to their consumers. While this category was a tough one with the DOXA Army, IWC Ingenieur, and Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence competing for the win, the Pelagos by category description was a clear winner. Though I’m still not sure many of us are ever going to use anything outside of a G-Shock for “physical exercise”.
Image Source Tudor
Jewelry (watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewelry and gem setting, and also distinguished by the choice of stones)
Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra - I’m not going to lie, obsessed is an understatement on this one. I always find the jewelry category to be a welcome distraction from the more serious categories competing each year. A category filled with playful, unique pieces of art. The Serpenti Cleopatra features a combination of topaz, rubies, tanzanite, amethyst, and 86.5 carats of diamonds in a gorgeous rose gold cuff that looks straight out of ancient Egypt. It’s not practical in any way and as much as I fear scratching my steel watches, the concern of knocking out a diamond would be so much worse. But sometimes, the heart just doesn’t want practical. At almost $1 million dollars though, the wallet keeps me humble.
Image Source Bulgari
Artistic Crafts (watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enameling, lacquering, engraving, guilloché (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc)
Piaget Altiplano Métiers d'Art - Undulata - An absolute work of art! I love the creativity that this category exudes. The dial focuses on a mixture of textures by including layers of various materials including wood, straw, and leather that are hand assembled to achieve this effect - three materials that you would never associate with watch dials at all. Just incredible.
Image Source Piaget
Petite Aiguille (watches with a retail price between CHF 2,000 and CHF 8,000. Smartwatches are admissible in this category)
Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto - Firstly, a huge congrats to these guys for being the first British brand to win a GPHG award. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve been a Christopher Ward fan for quite some time and seeing how far the brand has come is inspiring. The C1 Bel Canto is watchmaking at its best; creating high horology timepieces that are accessible to collectors at large. More than 60 components sit on top of a standard SW200-1 base movement to create a chiming jumping hour movement. While this variation competing was a limited edition, the C1 Bel Canto is still available for preorder starting at $3,795.
Image Source Christopher Ward
Challenge (watches with a retail price equal to or under CHF 2,000. Smartwatches are admissible)
Raymond Weil Millésime Automatic - It’s easy to get caught up in the high-horology, watches of our dreams, hype that comes around GPHG. How could you not with watches easily in the six figures all around; but this category is made for the little guys that hold their own. The Raymond Weil wouldn’t have been my first choice here, but it does a great job at retaining a classic design and attention to detail in finishing.
Image Source Raymond Weil
Mechanical Clock (mechanical instruments whose main function is time measurement, such as longcase clocks and table clocks. Wristwatches are not allowed in this category)
L'Epée 1839 Time Fast II Chrome - The category proving that long-gone are the practical clocks that adorned the fireplace mantle in your grandparents’ house. This year’s winner proved exactly that. I was fortunate enough to see one of these clocks in person earlier this summer and there genuinely are no words to describe just how incredible it is in person. I still don’t even know how to begin describing how it operates but it has to be one of the coolest things I’ve gotten hands on with this year and brings a bit of joy into this sometimes overly serious hobby of ours.
Image Source L'Epée 1839
Innovation (the best competing timepiece offering an innovative vision of time measurement (in terms of technique, design, display, materials, etc.) and/or opening up new development pathways for the watchmaking art (sustainability, traceability, ethics, etc.))
Hautulence Sphere Series 1 - Straight out of an episode of The Jetsons is the Sphere Series 1. The TV screen case makes for an unexpected housing to such a unique time display that is surprising in the most delightful way.
Image Source Hautulence
GPHG may be a one night event with weeks of voting leading up to it, but there’s a much greater impact that it has on the industry as a whole. The annual awards show plays a crucial role in promoting and encouraging excellence in watchmaking. Much like our favorite music, television, and film awards, by highlighting exceptional watches and their features, GPHG contributes to raising the overall standards of the industry as a whole and serves as a platform for watchmakers to push the boundaries of their crafts. All this while encouraging diversity by recognizing excellence across a multitude of categories and price ranges. We may have a whole year to wait for next year’s awards, but I do look forward to seeing how the industry continues to push towards excellence in the meantime.