Chronograph Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014
by Ian Skellern
From now until the end of October, we will bring you round table discussions on the pre-selected wristwatches in each category of the 2014 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
This will give you the chance to listen to well-known tastemakers and journalists in the world of horology talking about their favorites in each category and the watches’ chances. And please don’t hesitate to let us know if you agree or not: taste is subjective.
Note: each contributor is responsible for his or her own opinion, and it may not reflect the stance of Quill & Pad.
Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr may not participate in these round tables as she is one of the judges for the 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and must retain neutrality. In today’s edition you will read the following participants:
IS Ian Skellern, co-founder of Quill & Pad
JM Joshua Munchow, resident “nerdwriter” for Quill & Pad
GG GaryG, resident collector for Quill & Pad
RJB Robert-Jan Broer, founder of FratelloWatches
ER Ernie Romers, founder of WatchUSeek
Mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication. Additional indications and/or complications are also admissible.
It should be noted that our panel members did not discuss their final choices with each other beforehand and chose their predicted winning watches individually.
IS: My first reactions to seeing the preselected chronograph watches was: what a strong line-up, and . . .what an easy decision. I know black is the new black, but I think that a watch will need more than a dark coat (and even more than a dark ceramic case) to be a contender here, so that’s the Omega and Tudor out for me.
RJB: The Dark Side of the Moon is amongst my personal favorites from all of the GPHG pre-selected entries. It has been quite a project for Omega, as Speedmaster enthusiasts (I include myself here, which, I am sure, surprises no one) have been craving a black Speedmaster. In one of our Fratellowatches Speedy Tuesday posts, we even had a guy who submitted photos of his own DLCed Speedmaster Professional. I’ve also seen some prototypes of the Omega Speedmaster Pro with DLC finish at the factory in Biel, so they have probably been working on it for quite some time.
GG: In terms of real market impact, I can guarantee you that there have already been more wrist shots posted of the Omega Dark Side of the Moon than will ever be posted of all of the rest of the finalists combined!
JM: This Speedmaster finds a much-needed groove with an incredible ceramic case and dial in all-black, and may be the sharpest Speedmaster I have actually ever seen.
RJB: I think what surprised everyone is the fact that Omega decided to create a black Speedmaster out of ceramic. Even the dial is made out of black zirconium oxide ceramic. Although Omega already introduced a Speedmaster in 2011 with the new Caliber 9300, it is still one of the key features of the Dark Side of the Moon as well.
It is an awesome column-wheel chronograph movement that – together with the Caliber 8500-based movements – put Omega on a new level in the watch market, competing with brands that didn’t think of Omega as a competitor before. Anyway, the Dark Side of the Moon is not only my personal favorite, it is really on my personal want list even though I consider myself a Speedmaster purist, which means that most of the time it needs to be a hand-wound, Lémania-based movement.
The list price of the Dark Side of the Moon (€8,900 here in the Netherlands) might shock some people who’ve been away from Omega for a while, as it is more than twice the price of the good ol’ standard Moonwatch. But it is clearly a different watch, by far. Actually, the Moonwatch is one of the cheaper watches in the Omega collection and I am glad that the brand still keeps it in their collection and affordable for the fans out there.
GG: I’d like to see the Chopard L.U.C. get some love here, as it is a classic, hand-wound timepiece with some nice features that include a flyback on the chronograph and a stop-motion mechanism for resetting the running seconds (otherwise known as hacking seconds).
IS: I really like the Chopard chronograph movement, Gary, but those big, bold Roman numerals just don’t work for me.
GG: I don’t yet have an L.U.C., and this new one is really appealing – especially in the limited PuristS stainless steel edition that has the date indication removed, making it even more classical.
JM: The Chopard also features an amazing movement and incredible style, all while being finished to the standards of the Poinçon de Genève hallmark.
ER: The Chopard L.U.C. 1963 Chronograph, and the Zenith El Primero 410 both come in second place.
IS: Everyone loves the Zenith El Primero, but even with a triple calendar and moon phase, the fact is that it’s the chronograph that counts in this category. As good as it is, the El Primero isn’t far off from celebrating a half-century.
GG: At the end of the day, though, to me this is a brawl between the De Bethune and the Montblanc. I’ve handled both and found each of them really impressive. The DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon is a deeply impressive technical piece with the patented “total clutch system” that uses three different clutch types, actuated by three column wheels, to govern the three chronograph time indications. Not to mention that the engine behind this watch is a 36,000 vph tourbillon.
It’s a big piece at 46 mm, but there are some super aesthetic touches as well, including a sculpted case back that is made to clear the brand-typical torpedo lugs. To be honest, I don’t see the jury picking anything but the De Bethune.
IS: In nearly any other year, the Montblanc Timewalker 100 would take the prize for best chronograph, but unfortunately this year it is up against what to me is one of the best chronograph movements I’ve ever seen: the De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon.
GG: That said, the Montblanc was just delightful to hold and operate, and its 1/100th-second chronograph is based on a second, tiny balance wheel that hums along at the incredible rate of 360,000 vibrations per hour when the chronograph is actuated. This is a real 1/100-second timekeeper, not a mystery movement with a hand that stops on a random position on a dial labeled “1/100.”
ER: If money were no problem, then I’d buy the De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon in the blink of an eye. I’m a sucker for design and looks; and I very well appreciate lots of brands and models with (extreme) complications. Aesthetics, design, complications, and knowing there will only be 20 pieces make me want to pick this watch.
IS: The monopusher Maxichrono is a real time-measuring instrument with high-legibility, central hands, a high-frequency 5-Hz balance and three column wheels, Ernie. And the real jewel inside the movement is not the tourbillon, but the patented De Bethune clutch, which has the benefits of both lateral and vertical clutch mechanisms with the drawbacks of neither.
GG: The De Bethune is mind-blowing, although I’d forego the tourbillon-driven DB29 in favor of the DB28 Maxichrono with its conventional escapement and somewhat less scream-inducing price point.
JM: For the chronograph category, from my point of view there isn’t actually much competition. There are many wonderful pieces, and the skill and expertise behind them is undisputable. But nothing holds a candle to the incredible wonder that is the De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon.
First, it’s a De Bethune, so it already has Aiguille d’Or pedigree built in. But it also happens to be fantastic looking, have a beautiful (and completely legible) dial, a marvelously finished movement, and a case that begs for its photo to be taken. Oh, and did I mention it contains three column wheels and the De Bethune patented total clutch system, all while being a monopusher? Nobody can come close to those claims. To me, it is the belle of this ball and the odds-on favorite to win.
GG: If I had to choose only one of these to add my collection, it would be a tough call. Bottom line, though, is that if one is coming home with me, it’s probably going to be the Montblanc, as it neatly fits into a niche between my “beater” chronographs and the two full-on dress chronographs I already own.
IS: Putting my head above the parapets again, I predict if the De Bethune Maxichrono Tourbillon doesn’t win this prize, then the Montblanc Timewalker 100 will and the De Bethune will be awarded the big one, the Aiguille d’Or.
The results are in, and the panel’s – nearly unanimous – decisions are:
Ian Skellern: De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
GaryG: De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
Joshua Munchow: De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
Ernie Romers: De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon
Robert-Jan Broer: Omega Dark Side of the Moon
So our 4 to 1 majority pick for top Chronograph goes to the De Bethune Maxichrono Tourbillon.
For more information on the pre-selected Chronograph watches:
You can partake in the fun as well by checking out the competition and voting for your favorite in the Public Prize category. If you vote, you will be in the running for a Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 XXL Petite Seconde model worth more than 10,000 Swiss francs. Note: you only have one vote in total, not one vote per category, so choose wisely!
Click here to vote www.gphg.org/watches/en/grand-prix-dhorlogerie-de-geneve/2014/PRE.
For more information on this year’s GPHG, please read New Jury And Categories At The 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
For more on Zenith, don’t miss Adventure, Adrenaline, And The Zenith El Primero Lightweight.
To find out more about the De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon, please read: Two Very Different Chronographs Launch At Baselworld: Glashütte Original And De Bethune.
To read other GPHG round tables, please click:
Ladies’ Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Ladies’ High-Mech Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.
Men’s Pre-Selected Watches: Round Table Discussion Of The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014.