Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Men’s Category Of The 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2015 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) predictions in which we pick our favorites and explain why. Our panelists are:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical editor
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
What Makes Me Tick (WMMT), resident opinionator and storyteller
Note: as a GPHG jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these predictions.
The official definition of the Men’s category is that the timepiece in question must comprise two at most of the following indications: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, and second time zone. The timepiece may be adorned with gems of up to 5 carats only.
JM: For the Men’s category in the 2015 GPHG there are some very worthy examples. This is a hard category for me simply because I have my favorite, but in the end I know that will not hold the top spot as there is one in this category truly deserving of ultimate honors.
IS: When selecting which watches might win in these categories, it’s not enough to pick a personal favorite, Joshua, but rather one that we think the jury will think is the best. And while it’s not mentioned in the definition, juries over the years have tended to favor relatively conservative dress watches in the Men’s watch category.
So my top three are watches that would feel natural while wearing a suit and tie as much as jeans and a t-shirt. And if the jury goes wild and selects a crazier or more colorful watch, so much the better!
WMMT: The final list of men’s watch is a fantastic example of today’s offerings from the extremely classical to the audacious and from small artisans to major luxury brands. This is the only category where I actually like all six pre-selected watches.
Laurent Ferrier Galet Square
IS: My pick for the Men’s category in the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is the Laurent Ferrier Galet Square. It comprises an impeccably hand-finished in-house movement within a slim 11-millimeter case, which is important in a dress watch. It displays just the essentials: hours, minutes, and small seconds. The case at 41 x 41 mm is a sweet spot for size, and the cushion shape adds a touch more interest over ubiquitous round cases without being too flashy . . . what’s not to like?
WMMT: I felt smacking all those people in the face who said it looked like a Panerai! It’s like comparing a Big Mac to a burger made by Alain Ducasse!
“Galet” means “pebble” in French, and I love the way the tactile feel of a pebble has been maintained in the square case. The movement is just stunning with its micro rotor, direct-impulse escapement, and a touch of modernity with the silicon escapement and not to mention the superlative hand finish.
IS: And the beauty of the movement is more than skin deep. Much more.
While the micro rotor is a nice touch for keeping the thickness down, it’s the silicon escapement that deserves a closer look. The double direct balance has two escape wheels and is powered twice per oscillation. Be still my beating heart.
WMMT: The dial is pretty amazing as well as it looks simple yet so complex with the different finishes.
GG: This year, we’ve changed our format a bit, and no longer have separate categories for “what the judges should pick” and “my personal favorite.” My selection of the Laurent Ferrier is perhaps more based on the latter rationale, as it is hands-down the watch among this group that I would buy with my own money!
That midnight blue dial with white metal case is calling out for me. The case shape is a triumph, and the underlying micro rotor movement is pure class.
Quick Facts Laurent Ferrier Galet Square
Movement: in-house automatic Caliber FBN 229.01 with 72 hours’ power reserve and double direct impulse balance with silicon escapement
Case: 41 x 41 x 11.1 mm, stainless steel
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Price: 35,000 Swiss francs
Piaget Altiplano 900P
IS: GPGH juries have tended to be conservative in the Men’s category, but with its exposed gear train on the dial side, the Piaget Altiplano 900P is a nice blend of the classic dress watch with technical aesthetics. But looks are just the first course in this horological feast: the main meal is the thickness (or lack thereof). At just 3.65 mm, this is a world record-holding ultra thin of ultra thins.
To shave every possible fraction off the height, the Altiplano 900P dispenses with a main plate and uses instead the case back as its main plate. And though the mainspring barrel is suspended in the drive by a single bridge for thinness, the power reserve is still a very healthy 48 hours, which is unusual for a watch this svelte.
GG: The Piaget Altiplano 900P is my second pick.
JM: For my second runner-up I chose the Piaget Altiplano 900P for extraordinary mechanical feats of creating the thinnest mechanical watch in the world. Utilizing the case back as the main plate of the movement, and going for clean and modern styling, this watch stands out to me as a true modern man’s watch. Simply awesome.
Quick Facts Piaget Altiplano 900P
Movement: manually wound Caliber 900P, world-record holder as the thinnest mechanical watch
Case: 38 x 3.65 mm, white gold
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 25,500 Swiss francs
IS: If I had to choose one of the pre-selected watches in this category for myself it would be the Voutilainen GMR. Beautiful movement, superlative finishing, impeccable execution, sublime guilloche dial, drop-dead gorgeous teardrop lugs, and those hands need no superlatives from me. And exclusivity is assured in a limited edition of 12 pieces.
But I don’t think this will be the jury’s favorite because Voutilainen took the prize for best Artistic Crafts watch in 2014 and I think it will want to spread the love a little wider this year.
JM: There is no other winner than the inimitable Kari Voutilainen and his GMR. This watch is classic and still modern. It is an exquisite piece of horological workmanship, a cleanly designed and executed watch, and something that will never, ever look out of place on a man’s wrist. That is why it is a winner.
It checks every category one could want in a classic men’s watch, and then some. And when you consider the pedigree of the watchmaker (which is ever more important than branding) there can be no doubt which one deserves top honors as the winner in this category.
Quick Facts Voutilainen GMR
Movement: manually wound movement with 60 hours of power reserve; 18,000 vph
Case: 39 x 11.5 mm, white gold
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds, second time zone, power reserve
Limitation: 12 pieces
Price: 108,000 Swiss francs
WMMT: I love the concept behind this watch: most brands bring out expensive multi complications for their anniversaries, while MB&F presented its most affordable watch to date. And it isn’t any less exciting because it is cheaper!
GG: My third place is a tie between the Louis Vuitton Escale Time Zone and the MB&F HMX.
But while I’m at it, I’ll confess that perhaps second on the list of “my own money” watches in this category is the Louis Vuitton with its combination of time zone functionality, fun looks, and unbeatable price.
IS: The MB&F is by far the most interesting watch here in terms of design, but I can’t help feel that the jury will be looking for something more conservative in this category.
JM: For the first runner-up I painfully had to choose the MB&F HMX, one of my favorite MB&F pieces (okay, okay, I love them all for different reasons, this one is just the newest).
The mechanical ideas of this watch are incredible and clever, building on the success of the HM5. The reason it is painful is because I just get more viscerally excited by this watch compared to the rest of the category, and I want it on my wrist. And yet it still stands second best to another here (sorry, Max, I still love it).
For more on the HMX, please read The Independent Genius Of MB&F’s HMX.
Quick Facts MB&F HMX
Case: 46.8 x 44.3 x 20.7 mm, titanium and stainless steel; dual reflective sapphire crystal prisms with integrated magnifying lens
Movement: automatic Sellita caliber with jump hour and training minutes module developed in-house; 223 components
Functions: bi-directional jumping hours and “trailing” minutes
Limitation: four color schemes of 20 pieces each in Lotus Black, Ferrari Red, Bugatti Blue, and British Racing Green for a total of 80 pieces
Price: CHF 31,400
Bulgari Octo Finissimo
WMMT: It was a close call between this and the Voutilainen, but I love the way Bulgari has taken the Octo case and slimmed it down. The off-center small seconds is a fantastic twist, and the overall design is classical, contemporary and . . . sartorial.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Finissimo
Movement: manually wound movement, not specified which
Case: 40 x 5.15 mm, pink gold
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Price: 23,000 Swiss francs
Ian: Laurent Ferrier Galet Square
What Makes Me Tick: Laurent Ferrier Galet Square
Joshua: Voutilainen GMR
Gary: Laurent Ferrier Galet Square