Our Predictions In The Chronograph Category Of The 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2017 edition of Quill & Pad’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why.
The panelists are:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Ryan Schmidt (RS), author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches and regular contributor
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Note: as a jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from this panel.
The GPHG foundation describes the Chronograph category for watches entered as “mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.”
IS: I expected it to be relatively easy to predict a winner in the 2017 GPHG Chronograph category because I had already seen what I thought was an unbeatable winner in March; I was mistaken, yet again.
GG: What an excellent selection of watches in this category this year! I have to confess that I’m finding that to be the case across most of the GPHG categories this year, making me wonder what all those folks I met wandering the halls of SIHH and Baselworld moaning about this year’s new introductions were talking about.
JM: Right you are, Gary: the chronograph category of this year’s GPHG might very well be the most important and, at the same time, underrated horological collection in the contest. The category boasts some amazing chronographs, but two stand apart due to their mechanically fresh and highly impressive movements as well as the inventions they hold. The real difficulty was deciding which watch should take third place.
MG: As for me: while chronographs have a lot of fans, I don’t count myself among them. I enjoy them from time to time, but hardly ever use the complication. Few excite me, and I often find them too busy to even look at. However, I do feel that some of the finest new examples have made it into this category.
Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic
RS: When the AgenGraphe was announced, even before it was presented within a watch, it bowled me over. The movement has been extremely well documented here on Quill & Pad, and I urge anyone who has not read Ian’s article to do so. Technically, as a piece of fresh engineering, it wipes the floor with the competition. But there are two AgenGraphes with different outfits on in this group! Well, for me the choice is easy. First, for my tastes the Fabergé is the most attractive overall package. Second, the Visionnaire DTZ was an early adopter of this movement base and a vote of confidence in Agenhor’s concept; the aesthetic is such a match that it’s hard to believe this is not a fully in-house product (though that does document the close way that Agenhor works with Fabergé’s creative product manager, Aurélie Picaud). While I love to see these movements realized in other watches, it is the Visionnaire that I think deserves to cross the finish line first.
MG: This is the chronograph for the modern gentleman, Ryan! Of course I love this watch, but not quite as much as I enjoyed the Visionnaire DTZ. The case is still superb and I love how Fabergé integrated the chronograph functions at the center of the dial, which makes reading it bliss. The movement is a work of art by itself, but who would have expected less from Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Agenhor?
JM: This is a game-changing watch, no doubt about it, guys. Based on a brand-new (and highly technical) movement developed by Agenhor, the Visionnaire Chronograph is the inaugural implementation of Caliber 6361. Focusing on a shared central axis for all the chronograph counters (hours, minutes, and seconds), it seeks to make reading a chronograph much faster and more natural using familiar layout. There is way too much to say about this watch, but if you have read anything about it then you know the movement is astounding. The design of the Fabergé is a mix between sporty and simple avant-garde. The seconds counter is a bit small, as are as its indexes, and that is the only reason that it is in second place instead of first in my book!
IS: When I first learned the details of the Agenhor AgenGraphe chronograph movement (see The AgenGraphe By Agenhor: The Most Significant Chronograph Since . . . Since The Invention Of The Chronograph) and saw the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph, which was the first watch to come out with the new movement, I was blown away. I thought then and there I was looking at 2017’s best chronograph . . . and the winner by a long way because the AgenGraphe is such a generational leap forward for chronographs.
The Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic is a masculine watch in a subdued, dark, scratch-resistant ceramic case that makes the markers, numerals, and especially those red-tipped central chronograph hands really pop out of the darkness. A chronograph is a functional instrument above all, and Fabergé has delivered functionality and legibility in spades along with a very strong and distinctive design. This would have been a sure winner except that a usurper roared down the track at the last minute and pipped Fabergé for the checkered flag. And that said, I still think there’s a good chance that the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic will win this category (more on that below).
Quick Facts Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic
Case: 43 x 14.35 mm, ceramic/titanium
Movement: automatic AgenGraphe Caliber AGH-6361 with dial-side rotor, twin spring barrels, 3 Hertz/21,600 vph, patented regulator
Functions: hours and minutes displayed by hands inside the dial perimeter; chronograph with elapsed hours, minutes, and seconds displayed on inner dial
Price: $34,500 / 34,500 Swiss francs
For more information, please visit www.faberge.com/collections/faberge-visionnaire and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/faberge-visionnaire-chronograph-ceramic.
Longines Avigation BigEye
MG: To me, Longines is still a brand that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. This brand has a history packed with interesting watches and, fortunately, it is bringing some models back on a regular basis. The Avigation BigEye is one of those chronographs that dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts. There is not a detail that I would like to change about it, yet at the same time it doesn’t really excite me the way a watch should. Probably has a lot to do with personal taste.
IS: As a reissue of a historic Longines chronograph, the Avigation BigEye has already fallen foul of my “I’m more interested in rewarding watches of today and tomorrow than yesterday” philosophy. And while priced at a very reasonable 2,300 Swiss francs, price isn’t supposed to be a factor in the jury’s decision, so that’s a handicap as well (though not to potential buyers of the watch). The Longines Avigation BigEye is a nice, legible pilot’s chronograph, but one that looks too similar to what I’ve seen before, and it’s a long way from being enough to be a contender here.
GG: I like the Longines – a lot, in fact, and will be keen to see it in the metal as soon as I can. My current “big eye” fascination is with vintage Breguet Type XX big eyes, so I may not actually buy one of these Longines pieces, and of course I’ll need to operate the chronograph pushers before getting too excited, but I very much like what Longines has done here.
RS: I must say that while I am quite skeptical about vintage re-imaginings as you are, Ian, it is often because the brands can’t help themselves from inserting something into them that says, “This is the new version, okay?” Longines has a lovely spread of vintage watches out there, and I have been consistently pleased to see the brand stay closer to the original inspiration than most. After a quick slap on the wrist for putting “automatic” on the dial, the BigEye gets a thumbs-up and a well-earned third place positioning for me. The large 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock is probably not the most readable of formats, but it’s got character!
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/longines-avigation-bigeye.
Quick Facts Longines Avigation BigEye
Case: 41 x 14.45 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber L688.2 (base Caliber Valjoux 7750)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph
Price: 2,300 Swiss francs
Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100
MG: Am I the only one that is still bothered by the fact that the movement says “Minerva” but the dial “Montblanc”? Yeah, probably, so it’s about time I get over this as the watch deserves it. The movement is top notch, and I am happy that Montblanc went for a monopusher integrated into the crown. Not a fan of the bronze case, though. It simply doesn’t make sense for a chronograph with a water resistance of 30 meters, plus I don’t think that this watch will look better once it has obtained the patina people love so much about bronze.
GG: It’s hard not to give a tip of the hat to the Montblanc with its Minerva-inspired movement (all the way down to the arrow-tipped lever and V-shaped bridge). That said, for me it’s just overwhelmed this year in a very strong field of entrants.
IS: I love the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 even though the name is a real mouthful. Despite my loud protests in these predictions about rewarding re-editions and inspired-by-history designs, I’m really not at all against re-editions or historically inspired designs, I’m just against the GPHG rewarding brands for looking to the past (as if they need encouragement) rather than the future. I don’t like the 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter because of its vintage looks; I like it because it looks fantastic. Bronze case (like), non-allergic titanium case back (like), beige Super-LumiNova in the hands (great detail), plus an absolutely stunning in-house chronograph movement. If it weren’t for two watches in this category powered by the (in my opinion) unbeatable AgenGraphe chronograph movement, the Montblanc would be a strong contender for me.
For more information, please visit http://www.montblanc.com/en/collection/watches/montblanc-1858-collection/montblanc-1858-chronograph-tachymeter-limited-edition and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/1858-chronograph-tachymeter-limited-edition-100.
Quick Facts Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100
Case: 44 x 13.5 mm, bronze with titanium case back
Movement: manually wound Caliber MB M16.29 with monopusher column wheel chronograph, red gold-plated German silver plates and bridges, 2.5 Hz (18,000 vph)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, monopusher chronograph
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: €27,500 / 26,018 Swiss francs
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire
IS: Parmigiani has really gone all out with the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, and it shows as an in-house, integrated split seconds chronograph movement regulated by a fast (read: accurate) 5 Hz balance. This is an incredible achievement. And not one but two column wheels (one to switch the chronograph, the other the split seconds), gold movement, and large date.
But for most, I suspect, the attraction of the Chronor Anniversaire is that gorgeous deep blue (also available in white), fired enamel dial, which beautifully complements the pink gold case. In any other year, the Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire would be in with a very strong chance to take the award for Best Chronograph, but in 2017 Parmigiani has brought a knife (albeit a beautiful knife) to the fight, while two brands here have guns. BIG guns!
MG: As taken as I am by the movement of this watch is how indifferent I feel about the dial. I find its design too one-dimensional to be pleasing, and the big date is an eyesore because of its harsh, white background. I believe that Parmigiani has a lot of reasons to celebrate, but this was not the design to do it with.
JM: The third-place pick for me came down to the movement and what it means for those who created it. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is a great example of a brand finally having the ability and desire to create its own fully integrated chronograph movement. The gorgeous split-second PF351 chronograph movement is a modern and visually dynamic example that emphasizes its dual column wheels as feature guests. Given the very recent increase in new chronograph movements, this watch shows that even established brands are working on what is considered one of the hardest creations possible aside from repeaters. But even with its new “from-scratch” movement, my top two watches in this category make this awesome piece seem like an average Joe.
RS: I have had the privilege of playing with this watch. The vertical clutch has a great snap to it, and the column wheel counters the edge with buttery goodness; the added rattrapante function doubles the pleasure. The integrated chronograph movement is stunning and really unusual. I think I can say that this is the most handsome vertical clutch movement I have ever seen. This is an easy second place for me in this competition, even though in most years it would have easily been first.
GG: How frustrating must it be to be Michel Parmigiani in this year’s competition, Ryan! How could a brand-new, fully integrated split-seconds chronograph movement made from solid gold, with stunning concentric semi-skeletonized bridges, an integrated big date, and fronted with a mind-blowing “Bleu Roi” fired enamel dial that undergoes a striking color change from blue to purple depending on the light possibly fail to win?
My mouth is watering over this watch right now, in fact. It’s just bad luck that this year Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his Agenhor team have pulled an ace out of the hole.
Of course, I suppose that it is possible that the jury’s votes will somehow be split between the Fabergé and Singer, allowing the Parmigiani to slip in. More likely (to my way of thinking, at least) if the Singer is not called out as the winner of this category on the evening of the awards the Singer folks should pull those index cards labeled “Aiguille d’Or” out of their pockets and start rehearsing.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/tonda-chronor-anniversaire.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire
Case: 42.1 x 14.6 mm, pink gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber PF361with column wheel chronograph, vertical clutch, gold movement parts, 5 Hz (36,000 vph)
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; large date, split-second chronograph
Limitation: 25 pieces
Price: 135,000 Swiss francs
Singer Reimagined Track 1
GG: My pals and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Agenhor in January of 2017, and we were shown the AgenGraphe movement in development and given a detailed description of its design. A definite “wow” moment, and from that time forward when I heard that the AgenGraphe was going to be introduced in not one, but two watches this year my only question was which one would have the more compelling presentation.
For me, while both the Fabergé and the Singer are laudable embodiments, the Singer comes out above the Fabergé. Singer goes “all the way” in leveraging the potential of the central chronograph display by giving it the great majority of dial-side real estate, while at the same time displaying the hours and minutes at the periphery in a way that I find quite intuitive. It’s intended to be a chronograph that also gives the time, and for me it fulfills that charter extraordinarily well.
The chronograph indications on the Fabergé seem to me just a bit cluttered toward the center of the dial, and the relatively thick chronograph hands amplify the clutter. The “time first, indication second” model that worked so splendidly on last year’s Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ falls just a bit short for me here, but such is the inventiveness of the AgenGraphe movement that it slots into second place for me.
MG: I have a feeling that the jury will go for this one. I have never been a sucker for 1970s design, and compared to the elegance of the Fabergé, which uses the same movement, this one is too butch for me (I am Quill & Pad’s Resident Gentleman after all!). Also, the Fabergé is much easier to read in my opinion.
JM: Internally speaking, this watch is the same as the Fabergé, but it takes the design to an entirely different place with a focus on the chronograph as the important tool. The chronograph hours and minutes are not very different from the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph, but the seconds are much larger, allowing for more precise reading, and therefore, use of the chronograph. The twin rotating disks for the regular hours and minutes replace a set of hands on the previously released Fabergé model and feel much less important in the overall scheme of things.
Clearly the Singer Track 1 was, in every understandable way, made to be a tool for timing laps. The shape of the case is reminiscent of bullhead chronographs from the 1970s, and the expanded clarity is awesome. While I may prefer the look of the Fabergé for an everyday watch, the Singer Track 1 is the best chronograph in the group thanks to its inspired design and the fantastical movement ticking inside. As chronographs go, the Singer Track 1 really doesn’t have much competition aside from its older cousin, which is why they are a one-two punch in this category.
IS: As soon as I learned about the Agenhor AgenGraphe chronograph movement (see The AgenGraphe By Agenhor: The Most Significant Chronograph Since . . . Since The Invention Of The Chronograph), I knew that for me the only contenders for Best Chronograph at the 2017 GPHG had to either have this movement, which is so far ahead of every other chronograph movements on so many levels that it’s dizzying, or be even better (which didn’t happen).
And for the months to follow there was only one watch with the AgenGraphe movement: the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph. So that was my easily selected, obvious winner. And then Singer Reimagined slipped in at the last minute with the Singer Track 1, and I thought it not only my new Best Chronograph pick for the GPHG, but one of the best watches I’ve ever seen. I’ve had the pleasure of handling a lot of incredible watches over the years/decades, and the Singer Reimagined Singer Track 1 is easily in my top ten.
Singer Reimagined is a sister brand to Singer Vehicle Design, which “restores” vintage Porsche 911s and makes them much better than new, so the Track 1 case and dial design details take cues from 1970s 911s – and it’s been nailed to a tee. When it’s on your wrist, you could be looking at a attractive vintage chronograph in immaculate condition. It’s like wearing a well-settled-in tailored suit or comfortable shoes in that the watch doesn’t draw attention to itself, but when noticed Track 1 entices and rewards closer inspection. And the closer the better!
So you then add a sensational design (did I mention I like it?) to the most legible and logical-to-read wristwatch chronograph display I’ve ever seen, and have it all powered by the world’s most advanced chronograph movement. That’s the winning hat trick for me! If you would like to know more about the Singer Reimagined Track 1 By to understand why I’m enamored, please see Track 1 By Singer Reimagined Is The World’s Most Advanced ‘Flat 6’ Chronograph: It Might Not Sound Like An Air-Cooled 911, But It Sure Laps Like One! (Live Photos, Fast Cars And Price).
And it’s worth emphasizing in this category that the Singer Reimagined Track 1 is first and foremost a chronograph, a chronograph to be used: telling the time is secondary.
Regarding GaryG’s comment above regarding the Track 1, “More likely (to my way of thinking, at least) if the Singer is not called out as the winner of this category on the evening of the awards the Singer folks should pull those index cards labeled ‘Aiguille d’Or’ out of their pockets and start rehearsing,” I wholeheartedly agree. While I suspect that the GPHG jury is likely to play safe and choose a big complication from a big brand for the Aiguille d’Or, if I was on the jury I’d be voting the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic as Best Chronograph and the Singer Reimagined Track 1 for the Aiguille d’Or.
Quick Facts Singer Reimagined Track 1
Case: grade 5 titanium, 43 x 15 mm, transparent display back, water resistance 100 meters
Movement: AgenGraphe column wheel chronograph, 60-hour power reserve, automatic winding with peripheral rotor under the dial
Functions: hours and minutes on disks; central coaxial chronograph displaying jumping hours (to 60 hours), jumping minutes and seconds
Price: 39,800 Swiss francs (excluding taxes)
TAG Heuer Autavia
MG: I know that the chances that the Autavia actually wins are slim, but what I love about this watch is that it will make a lot of people happy. TAG Heuer is sometimes all over the place, but with this one the brand nailed it. The process started by letting people actually decide how this Autavia should look by introducing the interactive “Autavia Cup” among 50,000 web users, which to me is LVMH watch division chief Jean-Claude Biver at his finest! Caliber Heuer-02 is a solid movement and the design of the watch, although not completely new, is balanced and very well executed (love how the date was integrated). A big plus for me is also the bezel, which can act as a second time zone indicator, making it a perfect, rugged, yet good-looking travel watch. Combine this with the price TAG Heuer wants for this watch and you have a very tempting proposition.
IS: I could copy/paste my comments about the Longines here and simply change the brand and model names. Like the BigEye, the Autavia is nice enough and will do everything you would expect a chronograph to do very well. At 4,583 Swiss francs it’s around double the price of the Longines, but for that you get a date and 100-meter water resistance (the BigEye goes to 30 meters). The press blurb touts the “bidirectional notched bezel” as if that was a good thing, but it’s worth pointing out that the original reason for notched bezels was for divers to monitor time underwater to avoid nitrogen narcosis, and the bezel should be unidirectional to avoid accidentally “shortening” the dive time.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/autavia.
Quick Facts TAG Heuer Autavia
Case: 42 x 15.64 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber Heuer-02, 4 Hz (28,800 vph); 80-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Price: 4,583 Swiss francs
Ryan: Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic
Martin: TAG Heuer Autavia
Gary: Singer Reimagined Track 1 (or Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic if the former takes the Aiguille d’Or)
Ian: Singer Reimagined Track 1 (or Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic if the former takes the Aiguille d’Or)
Joshua: Singer Reimagined Track 1 (or Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic if the former takes the Aiguille d’Or)
You might also enjoy:
Our Predictions In The Men’s Category Of The 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, And They Are All Different
Our Predictions For The Ladies Category Of The 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
Also published on Medium.