Quill & Pad’s (Near Unanimous) Predictions In The Men’s 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 (GPHG) predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why. You are 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
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Alex Ghotbi (AG), watch expert at Phillips and contributor
Ryan Schmidt (RS), author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches and contributor
As a GPHG jury member, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these early predictions.
The GPHG defines the Men’s category is defined this way: “Men’s watches comprising two at most of the following indications: date, power reserve, classic moon phase; may be adorned with a maximum 5-carat gem setting.”
IS: Before I go any further, I’ve one thing to get off my chest regarding the six pre-selected watches in the Men’s category: AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
I cannot remember ever seeing a category in which I would be happy to not only own any of the pre-selected watches, but could not fault the jury for selecting any of the six as the winner. They are all absolutely superb!
Czapek Genève 33 bis Quai des Bergues
JM: For my second runner-up I chose a relatively new brand on the scene that I really enjoy, Czapek. The 33 Quai des Bergues watch represents the most classic of styling with delicate Fleur de Lys hands, thin Roman numerals, a grand feu enamel dial, and dual subdials for the day of the week/power reserve and running seconds.
The watch is extremely elegant and also demonstrates a brand’s ability to partner with the best suppliers in the industry to launch an extremely solid watch. It definitely deserves to be recognized as one of the best men’s watches of 2016.
AG: I’m not a fan of reviving old names but I like the approach these guys had with their crowd-funding project and the fact that they try to offer something new and different at a relatively reasonable price.
MG: Naming your brand Czapek is one way of creating high expectations, too, Alex! And: this brand doesn’t only live up to them, but has managed to surpass them.
The 33 bis Quai des Bergues has a regal look achieved by a strong design for the case and a very natural re-interpretation of its classical dial. Hands that would look whimsical on any other watch become a character trait you wouldn’t want to go without. All of this is backed by that lovely seven-day manual wind movement, making for utter perfection!
IS: I am conflicted about the Czapek Genève 33 bis Quai des Bergues (as I am about many things): on one hand I’m not a fan of modern watches trying to look old or “historic,” but on the other hand I like just about everything else Czapek does and represents.
And in all honesty I cannot justifiably hold its historic style against the Quai des Bergues when its whole raison d’être is to celebrate a pocket watch dating from 1850.
And there is much to like about the 33 bis Quai des Bergues, including the seven-day movement and timeless oven-fired domed dial. It really is an excellent wristwatch.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/33-bis-quai-des-bergues.
Quick Facts Czapek Genève 33 bis Quai des Bergues
Case: 42.5 mm, red gold
Movement: manual winding Czapek SXH1 by Chronode with twin spring barrels for 7 days’ worth of power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication and weekday
Limitation: 188 pieces
Price: 23,980 Swiss francs
Tudor Heritage Black Bay
IS: Last year I successfully predicted the Tudor Heritage Pelagos as the winner in the 2015 Sports Category (see Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Sports Category Of The 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève). But as much as I like the Heritage Black Bay, I can’t help but see it as just a darker version of the Pelagos . . . or in other words, it’s a great Sports watch, but not a great Men’s watch.
And to emphasize that even more, a Tudor Black Bay Dark, which is to all intents and purposes the same as the Heritage Black Bay, has been preselected in the Sports watch category. And there’s yet another one, the Black Bay Bronze, pre-selected in the Petite Aiguille category. Having three nearly identical (apart from color) watches pre-selected in three different categories just goes to show just how versatile the Black Bay is, but I can’t help but feel that enough is enough.
The Tudor Black Bay looks like it’s becoming the new perennial to take the mantle of the here-it-is-again-year-after-year Zenith El Primero.
It’s also worth highlighting that at 3,250 Swiss francs (similar price in USD) the Black Bay is a fraction – a small fraction at that – of the price of the other watches in this category. It offers incredible value for money.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/heritage-black-bay.
Quick Facts Tudor Heritage Black Bay
Case: 41 x 13.3 mm, stainless steel, water-resistant to 200 m
Movement: automatic Tudor Caliber MT56-02 with 70 hours of power reserve; officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 3,250 Swiss francs
Hermès Slim d’Hermès Email
AG: I have a soft spot for Hermès: whatever this brand does, it does it with subtlety, elegance, and sophistication – and the Slim is no exception. The watch may look simple, but there is a cavalcade of small details making it really attractive. And I particularly love the numerals that have been designed especially for this watch.
IS: I mention the importance of “elegance” in this Men’s watch category in relation to the Chopard below, but the Hermès Slim d’Hermès Email takes elegance to a completely new level. When I first heard an explanation of how the brand had developed a new font, I must admit that I was underwhelmed and had no idea just how important that seemingly small detail could – and would – be.
“Slim” is a much-desired attribute in a men’s watch as it makes it so much more comfortable for the watch to be worn with formal attire. And “slim” is also generally a prerequisite to elegance.
While the in-house micro rotor-powered automatic movement is a beauty to behold in its own right, it’s the absolute simplicity of the triple-level, oven-fired dial that grabs the eye in a big bear hug and doesn’t let go. And I particularly like the fact that those bespoke numerals are not merely printed but also oven-fired in black enamel.
If the Hermès Slim d’Hermès Email took this category, it would be very well justified.
MG: Hermès is always on point with its design, Ian, and the Slim d’Hermès Email is perhaps the best example of this. A clean, distinct design, contemporary yet never out of style, with details for true connoisseurs. Perhaps the ultimate watch for the urban gentleman.
GG: If the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire is held aside as the winner of the Aiguille d’Or, in my view the “lucky loser” should be either the Chopard or the Hermès, Martin. Both are lovely dressy watches, and each has its appeal: the Chopard with its well-finished L.U.C movement and super-thin form, and the Hermès with its lovely enamel dial.
Further reading: Introducing The Exquisite Slim d’Hermès Email Grand Feu.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/slim-dhermes-email.
Quick Facts Hermès Slim d’Hermès Email
Case: 39.5 x 9.6mm, 4N pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber H1950, ultra-flat at 2.6 mm in height; micro rotor; 3 Hz balance; very fine finishing
Dial: white enamel, three-piece
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: €19,400 / 21,000 Swiss francs
Chopard L.U.C XPS 1860
IS: Disclaimer: I have a serious soft spot for Chopard. The first haute horlogerie watch I ever bought was a Chopard L.U.C Sport, which featured the same beautiful Caliber 96.01-L micro rotor movement beating in the XPS 1860.
From its gold baton hands to the impeccably executed guilloche dial, the XPS 1860 just oozes elegance – and elegance is what a men’s dress watch is all about. I am also a big fan of small seconds, but if I’m nitpicking (and I am), it’s those small seconds that highlight two very minor flaws in an otherwise flawless dial: the date aperture to my eyes is like a scratch on the paintwork of a new car, and the position of the date and small seconds highlight the fact that the movement was developed for a smaller case diameter.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/luc-xps-1860.
Quick Facts Chopard L.U.C XPS 1860
Case: 40 x 7.2 mm, pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 96.01-L with micro rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 250 pieces
Price: 20,250 Swiss francs
Urban Jürgensen Reference 2340
JM: For my first runner-up, the styling advances a bit and we find ourselves in the first half of the twentieth century with the Urban Jürgensen 2340. This watch would fit perfectly with the roaring 1920s with its angular corne de vache-inspired lugs and the highly stylized serif numerals.
The movement is beautiful, the moon phase is a modern classic, and the shaped hands seem timeless yet historical. And the delicate grenage finish on the dial creates a very subtle contrast that makes this watch extremely versatile as a formal or casual timepiece.
IS: As far as men’s watches go, the Urban Jürgensen Reference 2340 is nearly perfect. I might lament the loss of those drop-dead-gorgeous teardrop lugs that the brand is so well known for, but I do have to admit that the corne de vache lugs on the Reference 2340 do give an otherwise quite traditional style a more contemporary look.
The frosted grenage of the solid silver dial provides a near perfect matte backdrop to the bright colors of those to-die-for signature Urban Jürgensen flame-blued-steel and gold hands and eye-catching blue moon phase. I just wish that the date was either eliminated (it seems such a shame to break that otherwise perfect dial) or that the date disk matched the grenage dial.
Dials this good do not come without an incredible amount of work and attention to detail: the markers and numerals are engraved, filled with enamel then oven-fired before being polished flat. And then there’s that in-house movement.
The Reference 2340 is yet further proof that Urban Jürgensen is going from strength to strength under its relatively new stewardship. And it represents yet another truly great men’s watch in this category.
MG: Such a refined watch, yet it takes a true connoisseur to recognize! Urban Jürgensen stays very true to its tradition with Reference 2340. The brand only allows itself two frivolities: the corne de vache lugs and the typical Urban Jürgensen hour hand. I love the atypical moon phase display that doubles as the power reserve indicator, while the date function gives the watch a practical edge.
GG: I beg to differ here, guys: the Urban Jürgensen was a bit of a disappointment for me when I saw it at Baselworld this year. While the grenage dial is an interesting feat of watchmaking craft, the dial’s finished appearance left me flat. And the squared-off lugs on the case are for me a clear step down from the lovely teardrop lugs for which the brand has traditionally been known.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/reference-2340.
Quick Facts Urban Jürgensen Reference 2340
Case: 40 x 11.04 mm, white gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber P4
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, moon phase, power reserve
Price: 43,100 Swiss francs
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
JM: Of course only one watch can win, and I have to go with my favorite independent horological brothers, Tim and Bart Grönefeld and their Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire.
This watch represents a modern take on classic mechanics, and does so in a very specific way: the bold, angular style creates a perfect everyday watch while still allowing it to be a standout formal piece. The movement makes my mouth water with incredible complexity and finishing.
And the mechanical design of the complication is unique, definitely deserving recognition for its implementation. All of the watches in the Men’s category are great watches, but this watch is the one that stands out to me the most and makes me ponder all the ways I can raise the funds to make this watch mine. It definitely is the best watch in this category!
AG: This is the obvious winner and the one that is closest to my heart. I love independent watchmaking, and the Grönefeld brothers have done it again: superb looks, ingenious mechanism, and mouth-watering movement finish. What else can one want?
GG: For me, the choice in this category is an absolute no-brainer: the 1941 stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field.
Everything about this watch is brilliant, from its inspiration originating in the remontoire mechanism of the Oldenzaal tower clock maintained by Tim and Bart’s grandfather and father to the sculpted case with replaceable, screw-on lugs to the beautifully finished bridges in the shapes of Dutch rooftops to the clever eight-second constant-force mechanism itself.
I’ll go so far as to say that if the Grönefeld watch is not announced as the winner of this category on the evening of the Grand Prix, the “Horological Brothers” can start rehearsing their acceptance speeches for the top award of the evening, the Aiguille d’Or.
RS: Constant force has been something of a stomping ground for innovators in recent years and the remontoir could arguably be seen as the new tourbillon: the method by which a watchmaker expresses his or her intent and abilities.
The 1941 Remontoire is a fascinating exploration of this exotic mechanism, and this one takes inspiration from the childhood of the Grönefeld brothers in order to create something new on both sides of the watch. On the matte silver dial you have the “speed brake” governor, which bursts into life every eight seconds and is the visual ambassador of the remontoir. On the back you have the unmistakable Grönefeld relief-engraved and micro-blasted bridges with contrasting chamfers as well as the anchor, spring, and remontoir configuration.
One foot in the past, one in the future; one part elegantly simple, the other devilishly complex. If this watch doesn’t win I will gather my thoughts for eight seconds before releasing one large gasp of disbelief.
IS: Many, many years ago, I interviewed a then youngish French watchmaker who had recently launched his own brand. His first watch featured a tourbillon outfitted with a then unusual device on a wristwatch: a remontoir d’égalité providing more constant force to the escapement.
That watchmaker’s name was François-Paul Journe, and when I asked why his first watch had a tourbillon and a remontoir d’égalité, he replied (and I paraphrase), “The tourbillon is just there because collectors will pay for the remontoir, the remontoir is there because it improves chronometric performance.”
How times have changed! I think that Journe would both approve of and like the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire. In this, the most competitive field that I can remember in the Men’s watch category, I have chosen the 1941 Remontoire because it is both a superlative men’s watch and the most original model in this category.
As good as they are, all of the other five watches in this category are powered by movements we have already seen in other models. The Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire is a 100 percent completely new model for 2016 from the ground up, rather than a new variation of an existing model and/or using an existing movement.
And the historical inspiration for the Remontoire mechanism is the icing on the cake. I quote this from the press release: “Ever since Bart and Tim were young boys they would frequently play to the sounds of the Saint Plechelmus church clock movement, close to the location of the company’s workshops. This movement has always played an important part in the history of Grönefeld.
“Johan Grönefeld, the brothers’ grandfather, was responsible for maintaining the church clock. When Johan passed away, this responsibility passed to their father, Sjef.
“The church turret movement, created in 1913 by Royal Eijsbouts, is equipped with a remontoire mechanism. The rationale for the remontoire being used in the church clock was that the clock’s display was positioned much higher than the movement, necessitating significant force. However, the magnitude of such force would prove too great for a conventional escapement, hence a remontoire, or constant force mechanism, was fitted. Moreover, the minute hand was calibrated to jump every 30 seconds, breaking any ice which may have formed in cold weather and, in so doing, preventing the clock hands from freezing.”
Tim and Bart Grönefeld are great watchmakers; their Parallax Tourbillon took the prize for Best Tourbillon at the 2014 GPHG, and I predict that their 1941 Remontoire will take best Men’s watch this year.
Further Reading: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire In The Horological House Of Orange.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/1941-remontoire.
Quick Facts Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
Case: 39.5 x 10.5 mm, red gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber G-05 with 8-second remontoire
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 188 pieces
Price: €49,500 / 54,880 Swiss francs
Ian: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
GaryG: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
Joshua: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
Alex: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
Martin: Czapek Genève 33 bis Quai des Bergues
Ryan: Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
And the winner of best Men’s watch at the 2016 GPHG went to the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire (see Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire In The Horological House Of Orange).
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