Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Ladies Category Of The 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2016 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why. Editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr, as a jury member, is excluded from these early predictions, so you’re reading the opinions of the following panelists:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Alex Ghotbi (AG), watch expert at Phillips and contributor
Nancy Olson (NO), resident pen expert and watch writer
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
The GPHG foundation describes the Ladies’ category for watches entered as: “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 five-carat gem setting.”
IS: I am really looking forward to working through the categories this year as there are so many seriously strong contenders in each category.
MG: So let’s get right to it, Ian!
Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet
MG: My pick as the winner of this category is the Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet. By utilizing some of the most classical decorative ingredients in watchmaking – gold, diamonds, and a mesh (“Milanese”) bracelet – Piaget has succeeded in making a very contemporary ladies’ watch with very confident and powerful lines.
AG: Even though the Bulgari Serpenti Spiga is a quartz watch, I love it. It has a viciously cool 1970s look directed at the woman who is her own self; it has character and a real “f**k you” personality.
IS: I appreciate that this is the Ladies’ category and that quartz is common in small ladies’ watches, but I feel that women are starting to demand and deserve fine mechanical movements and that the GPHG should be encouraging this trend.
So, sorry, Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet and Bulgari Serpenti Spiga, but you’re out for me. While I’m a big fan of the Serpenti, I do not want to encourage quartz movements in this competition.
MG: Despite the fact that it is a gold watch with diamonds (and a quartz movement), Ian, I feel that it stays far away from the cliché that ladies’ watches often tend to be.
Also, just look at how the Milanese bracelet follows the shape of the case in every corner. This is sheer perfection and very difficult to achieve, but Piaget can do it because the brand still makes these bracelets by hand. As an added bonus, this Piaget will also be extremely comfortable to wear because such a fine Milanese bracelet will feel much like gold fabric.
GG: I dearly wanted to pick the sexy ceramic and pink gold Bulgari, and I love the price point, too. But the quartz movement knocked it out of contention for me as well, Ian.
Quick Facts Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet
Case: 32 x 7.4 mm, pink gold
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 37,300 Swiss francs
Audemars Piguet Millenary
NO: I am not normally an animal print kind of gal, but I am crazy about the zebra-like motif of this watch. The movement is part of the dial décor like the other watches in the Millenary collection, but here the onyx and diamond “stripes” add an element of animal-in-the-wild camouflage as they wend their way on the face, the offset dial, and the small seconds subdial.
The scrupulous matching of the stripes and the varying sizes of the diamonds reminds me of a perfectly tailored suit – a testament to the attention of the artisans who are responsible. The use of white gold tamps down the brilliance of the diamonds (in a good way) and the slightly oval shape of the case is a personal favorite.
I think this watch, my second runner up, is another reason why the Millenary line will be a mainstay of the brand for years to come: it lends itself well to a variety of fascinating interpretations without losing its heart.
IS: I really do like the Audemars Piguet Millenary cases and think this model is a perfect size and shape for the feminine wrist. But as artistically well executed the contrasting striped bands of diamonds and onyx are, Nancy, I have trouble divining a strong link between zebras and having a double X chromosome.
I like both zebras and the Millenary, and this is certainly a beautiful watch, but I feel that there are three better in this category.
GG: I picked the twentieth anniversary Millenary in this category last year (see Quill & Pad’s Predictions In The Ladies Category Of The 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève), and I’m back on the AP bandwagon in the Ladies category this year.
For me, the diamond-and-onyx look is a feast for the eyes, while the pink gold hands and logo provide just the right accents. Audemars Piguet also notes that the balance wheel and bridge were designed to function as parts of the decoration, and I think the result is lovely and harmonious, with the balance wheel as a rapidly moving complement to the identically sized, adjacent subdial.
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Millenary
Movement: manually wound Audemars Piguet Caliber 5205 with visible regulator
Case: 39.5 x 35.4 x 9.8 mm, white gold
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 72,400 Swiss francs
Bovet 1822 Blue Thistles
JM: Coming in at third place for me in the Ladies category is the Bovet Blue Thistles, which is part of the Amadeo collection and features a miniature hand-painted enamel dial done in collaboration with incredible artist and jeweler Ilgiz F.
The beautiful and dreamlike painting of blue thistles makes for a stunning centerpiece for the dial, especially when surrounded by 94 diamonds on the Amadeo convertible case. The dial and stone options for the collection are fantastic in their own right, but the Blue Thistles is definitely the most alluring and peaceful beauty of the bunch.
MG: Have you seen the details in the blue thistles on the Bovet? Incredible that you can get such depth and detail in grand feu enamel. It reminds me of those highly detailed nature sketches you would expect to see in a British country estate. As it’s a Bovet. you can also take it off the bracelet and wear it as a pendant, adding an extra dimension toward enjoying this watch.
AG: Bovet teamed with Russian jewelry enameler Ilgiz Fazulzyanov to create this lovely piece. The case construction looks both complicated and light as a breeze at the same time. The dial, of course, takes center stage: and I’m pleased to see a really creative dial as in the past years the majority of enamel dials I’ve seen have been poor, kitsch taste. Icing on the cake is that the watch can be removed from the outer frame and worn as a pendant.
IS: The Blue Thistles is a stunning ladies wristwatch, and the pastel blue design on the oven-fired dial contrasts beautifully with the diamond-set bezel and lugs.
And I’d like to compliment Bovet on the bold choice of thistle as the motif rather an all-too-predictable flower. Credit where credit is due, Bovet, I’ll grant an A for that. And perhaps of even more significance, my wife also loves the Blue Thistles . . . that’s an A+ for Bovet in what really counts in this category: the opinion of women.
Quick Facts Bovet 1822 Blue Thistles
Movement: automatic Caliber 11BA13 72 hours’ power reserve and Fleurisanne engraving on the gold hand-engraved rotor
Case: 39.5 x 12.33 mm, white gold
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: 99,500 Swiss francs
Chopard L.U.C XP 35 mm Esprit de Fleurier Peony
IS: It was tough for me to choose between the Bovet Blue Thistles and the Chopard Espirit de Fleurier Peony, but I put the Peony a petal ahead because of the three-dimensionality of its sophisticated dial.
Discreet peony motifs in the mother-of-pearl dial are complemented by elegantly embedded diamonds and sensuous gold strokes. That’s an A, and I’m also awarding Chopard another A for the Peony’s comprehensive explanation text on the GPHG website.
GG: The Chopard has the high-quality L.U.C. movement going for it, to me the floral movement decoration looks great, and there’s some technical inventiveness in there as well with stacked spring barrels and a micro rotor packaged in a thin 7.5 mm watch.
JM: My runner-up in the Ladies category is another botanically themed watch, the Chopard L.U.C XP 35 mm Esprit de Fleurier Peony. This watch is a bit more on the bold side of things with a peony on the dial crafted from Tahitian mother-of-pearl, gold, and diamonds.
The dial is a bit more abstract than that of the Bovet Blue Thistles, but the real star of the show for me is the meticulously engraved movement on the flip side. The technique, Fleurisanne engraving, results in a high relief image with a contrasting background, in this case a micro dimpled surface. The effect is absolutely entrancing, and it would have made this watch a winner for me had the dial been done in the same technique!
NO: I thought it was thrilling when Chopard came out with a 35mm L.U.C XP intended for women in 2014. In 2015, when the Esprit de Fleurier was introduced, I was equally excited since I really love Fleurisanne engraving.
This year’s L.U.C XP 35mm Esprit de Fleurier Peony ramps it up even further, and though I’m not usually a fan of pink-hued dials, I will make an exception for obvious reasons: the artistry here is pretty incredible, with the peony motif decorating both the dial and Caliber L.U.C 96.23-L. As someone who also really enjoys the luxe anonymity of a decorated movement visible through an exhibition case back, this watch gets my vote for a close second place.
This in-house-decorated watch is the result of the precise editing of materials, which I guess is the very definition of Fleurisanne engraving at its finest.
Quick Facts Chopard L.U.C XP 35 mm Esprit de Fleurier Peony
Movement: automatic Caliber L.U.C 96.23-L covered with Fleurisanne engraving
Case: 35 x 7.5 mm, pink gold
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: 98,000 Swiss francs
Fabergé Lady Levity
NO: I think that Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Agenhor produced a first-place winner with the AGH 6911 caliber, which not only creatively powers the watch’s timekeeping capacity but also beautifully impacts its unique dial display.
The central “man in the moon” appears as peaceful as a clear night sky, belying all that’s going on inside the watch, while the stylized indexes appear to effortlessly float about him thanks to the movement’s unique configuration. I like that the moon image, inspired by a Fabergé table clock from around 1910, is obviously apparent only at certain angles, adding a bit of surprise for the observer that is in keeping with Fabergé’s reputation for whimsy.
The use of pink gold for the case, indicators, and buckle was a brilliant choice given the otherwise sober palette of the dial, strap, and gray Arabic numerals. Incidentally, the choice of gray for the numerals is another good move, since I think black would have been too startling a contrast.
For me, this watch perfectly blends a bit of Fabergé history with modern mechanics, genuinely honoring the company’s opulent origins without being mired in the past. This is a serious watch that doesn’t take itself so seriously, and I like that.
MG: Faberge is killing it lately, and the Lady Levity is a great example. That mysterious cloud staring at you from the midst of the dial with a smirk on its face quite resembling the Mona Lisa gives the watch a personality very few watches possess.
GG: The Fabergé Lady Levity was a hard piece to choose against! I love its whimsy, as well as the fact that the centerpiece peering out from the central segment (a moon face in the standard example) can be customized by the buyer on request.
And the Agenhor movement is both attractively executed and innovative, allowing the central platform comprising printed platinum on a domed sapphire crystal that is topped off by white mother-of-pearl to be mounted directly to the movement.
AG: What a surprising watch, which is all about subtlety and elegance! I just love the way the hands are hidden behind moon face that can only be seen from a certain angle. I find this watch poetic, elegant, and so feminine. If I were a woman I would definitely wear it.
JM: The winner that I have chosen for the Ladies category is the one that remains the most feminine while introducing a different look, thereby deeply in contrast against the competition.
My winner has to be the Fabergé Lady Levity. While the other watches are beautiful and elegant – with the Bulgari Serpenti Spiga is definitely the most unique watch in the category – the Lady Levity by Fabergé might end up being the most functional, versatile, and understated of the whole group.
Heavily gem-set watches are always stunning, but sometimes a woman wants to keep her elegance to herself while still feeling she hasn’t made a compromise.
The Fabergé Lady Levity provides that option in a very cool way: the watch allows for a customizable motif that is subtle and only appears in the right conditions.
This means that any woman can keep a little secret to herself while wearing the watch in the open. Surrounding the center disk is a floating golden sun and moon pointing to the hours and minutes. These indicators hover above printed numerals and a cloud-like mother-of-pearl ring.
The white and gold combination does not scream “Look at me!” like many jeweled women’s watches. Instead, the Fabergé Lady Levity states in no unclear terms that the wearer is a woman who knows what she wants and enjoys her possessions for herself.
And, like always, with tweaks to colors and hand shapes, I would totally wear this watch myself and that is why I feel it is clearly the best watch of the category.
IS: I’m predicting that Fabergé will be the laureate in the 2016 Ladies category due to its harmonious combination of artistry and technicality. The Agenhor movement isn’t an off-the-shelf afterthought just there to power the indications, but a bespoke work of art in its own right. That’s an A for the movement before I even look at the dial!
Then there is that unusual dial with the sun and moon indications orbiting around the periphery of the dial, respectively pointing to the minutes and hours. That’s an A for innovation.
But there’s more, a mysterious moon face in the center of the dial, which is printed in platinum on a domed sapphire crystal before being covered by a translucent layer of mother-of-pearl. Stepan Sarpaneva, watch out! That’s a hat trick of As for the Fabergé Lady Levity, which I’m looking forward to seeing on red carpet come November!
You will find the full list of GPHG 2016 pre-selected Ladies watches at www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/grand-prix-dhorlogerie-de-geneve/2016/DAME.
Quick Facts Fabergé Lady Levity
Movement: manually winding Agenhor Caliber AGH 6911 with 50-hour power reserve
Case: 36 x 12.07 mm, pink gold
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 21,000 Swiss francs
Ian: Fabergé Lady Levity
Nancy: Fabergé Lady Levity
Joshua: Fabergé Lady Levity
GaryG: Audemars Piguet Millenary
Alex: Fabergé Lady Levity
Martin: Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet
And the winner of best Ladies watch at the 2016 GPHG went to the Piaget Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet.
For more of our predictions in the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), please see:
Ladies’ High-Mech Category
Artistic Crafts Category
Travel Time Category
Mechanical Exception Category