Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Ladies’ High-Mech 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 director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Nancy Olson (NO), resident pen expert and watch writer
Note: as a GPHG jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these predictions.
According to the rules, the Ladies’ High-Mech category accepts women’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These watches may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications and do not fit the definition of the Ladies’ category.
JM: For the Ladies’ High-Mech category in the 2015 GPHG there are great examples of watchmaking that are overshadowed by fantastic examples of horology. It’s really hard to not feel as if they were outgunned from the start.
Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock
IS: The Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock was one of my top three favorite watches (both men’s and women’s) of Baselworld 2015, and my appreciation and respect for this timepiece has not diminished over the six months since the fair.
Quickly looking over the indications in the specifications reveals a paltry hours and retrograde minutes, making anyone wonder why it was even entered in this category at all, let alone pre-selected in the top six.
Retrograde minutes and that’s all? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, the only official complication is retrograde minutes; and no, that’s not all. It’s the way those retrograde minutes work – in a similar way to a Chinese fan being opened – that makes this watch so magical.
Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his team at Agenhor − which includes his two sons and wife − ranks among the most creative and inventive watchmakers today. The mechanism he developed for the Fabergé Lady Compliquée is Wiederrecht at his best: a concept so simple yet so elegant that it seems obvious . . . in retrospect. So obvious that you wonder why nobody thought of it before. I love it!
NO: I fell in love with Wiederrecht at the same time I fell in love with his company’s recent movement creation for the Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock. It was Wiederrecht who explained the workings of this watch to me while at Baselworld earlier this year using a large-scale model of the Agenhor-designed movement.
His warmth and obvious passion for his work certainly ramped up my interest in the watch, but had I not had the pleasure of meeting him there, this would have been my pick for winner anyway. Its manually wound retrograde movement is such a clever mechanism, with each of the four peacock’s tail feathers (indicating the minutes) moving simultaneously but at different speeds. Hours are read at the crown via a rotating outer ring on the dial.
All in all, I think this is a fresh and ingenious watch − not even mentioning its incredible décor and platinum case. I’m hoping the judges will agree.
JM: For the winner in this category, I have to pick what I think will be a crowd favorite that was developed with the help of a friend of everyone here at Quill & Pad.
My choice for winner is the stupendous and (of course) poetic Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock. The peacock’s tail feathers spread evenly (all at different rates) to indicate the time in minutes before snapping back to closed at the beginning of the hour. The exterior rim of the dial features a slowly counterclockwise rotating ring for the hour indication. Simple, beautiful, and very unique.
I love a lot of the watches in this category, and the others I chose as runners-up are incredible. But if I have to choose one as my favorite, it is without a doubt the Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock.
GG: This one really meets the criteria for “high mech” for me with the retrograde minutes indication made up of the peacock’s tail feathers and the revolving hour ring on the perimeter.
To make the minute indication work, the feathers need to move simultaneously but at different speeds; not an easy feat! This is another winner (for me at least) from wizard movement developer Agenhor. My only wish might be for the case to have a closed back, as seeing the “mech” of the movement itself is for me just a tiny bit out of character with the more poetic design of the rest of the watch.
For the full story on the Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock’s creation, please see Fabergé Inaugurates Rebirth With Exceptional Lady Compliquée.
Quick Facts Lady Compliquée Peacock
Case: 38 x 12.8 mm, platinum, bezel set with 54 brilliant-cut diamonds (1.83 ct)
Movement: proprietary manually wound Caliber 6901, 32.7 x 3.58 mm, 38 jewels, 242 components, 50-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph
Dial: 18-karat gold dial, 127 brilliant-cut diamonds (0.38 ct), 31 Paraiba tourmalines (0.23 ct), and 57 tsavorites (0.27 ct) snow-set; white gold peacock; time displays on mother-of-pearl; peacock tail crafted in LIGA nickel-phosphorous with white lacquer
Functions: hours (revolving dial), minutes (retrograde tail)
Price: 98,000 Swiss francs
Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower
IS: The Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower is a very close second pick for me in this category as it is so beautiful to look at the flower opening and closing. That and the fact that this watch doesn’t just have a sensational automaton complication, it also has an impeccably executed and well-finished automaton complication set into an impeccably executed and well-finished wristwatch.
That enamel butterfly over the guilloche dial and the meticulously set diamonds all add up to a watch that would not look out of place on a princess. And that should be the definition of this category: complications worthy of a princess!
While the Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower missed being my first pick by a whisker, I would not at all be either disappointed or surprised if it ended up taking the trophy.
JM: For the first runner-up I have chosen the exquisite Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower for its incredible automaton combined with a mostly separate movement into an unusual but unique case. The flower atop the watch opens with a center “pistil” of diamond that rotates before the flower returns closed until the next press on the pusher at 2 o’clock. Like all Jaquet Droz pieces, the expertise with automata is awesome and this piece deserves to be honored.
NO: I’m kind of an easy mark for automata – no, not THAT kind – and this rendition of the Jaquet Droz Lady 8 is a nice example of the company’s roots in this skill that began with Pierre Jaquet-Droz.
GG: Me, too, Nancy. They had me at “automaton”!
NO: The automaton in this case is the opening and closing of the enameled and engraved lotus under a roomy domed crystal at the upper part of the stylized figure eight. The beautifully decorated dial on the lower part of the watch is home to a butterfly with outstretched wings and the central hours and minutes hands.
The timekeeping elements of Jaquet Droz Caliber 615, a self-winding, single-barrel mechanical movement, include hours and minutes. But the automaton, actuated by a pusher, deserves some attention all its own. The graceful ballet of the petals as they open is really captivating, showing the swiveling diamond inside.
This watch gets my vote for second runner-up not only for its mechanics, but also for helping to keep the art of the automaton alive.
GG: This is a gorgeous piece, and I’m sure that the lucky owners of this watch will enjoy both the lovely butterfly motif and the on-demand opening of the lotus to reveal the diamond.
For more information on this timepiece, please see Jaquet Droz In Bloom: The Astonishing Lady 8 Flower Automat.
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower
Case: 35 x 12.76 mm (17.60 mm with dome), pink gold, set with diamonds (IF to VVSI, D to G)
Dial: 18-karat red gold with guilloche, enameled grand feu butterfly
Movement: automatic Jaquet Droz Caliber 615 with silicon balance spring, platinum micro rotor; power for the automatic is spring-driven using power from the pushed button
Functions: hours, minutes; lotus flower automaton that opens and closes on demand
Limitation: 28 pieces
Price: 162,000 Swiss francs
Piaget Altiplano 1200S
IS: The Piaget Altiplano 1200S has just three indications: hours, minutes and power reserve, and only the latter is a complication. So what’s it doing here as my third pick, you might reasonably ask? Because I consider “ultra thin” as a complication in itself, and with a world record-breaking thinness of just 3 mm for the movement and 6 mm for the case the Altiplano 1200S well and truly meets the criteria of ” . . . remarkable in terms of mechanical creativity and complexity.”
But that’s not enough to be in the top three in this category because “ . . . remarkable in terms of mechanical creativity and complexity” could describe a men’s watch. Where the Piaget Altiplano 1200S shines as a ladies’ timepiece is in its incredible artistic skeletonization − and remember this watch already has been pared down to the very bare minimum − and yet enough metal remains in that ethereal filigree of bridges to securely embrace an impressive 360 brilliant-cut diamonds.
NO: I love this watch. Even with the current profusion of skeletonized watches, this Piaget Altiplano 1200S is a real standout for so many reasons. Not only is it a beautiful ladies’ jewelry piece with its diamond-covered movement and case, it also takes the double prize for thinness for a gem-set skeletonized automatic timepiece at just 3 mm for the movement and 6 mm for the case.
In my opinion, Piaget has gone above and beyond with this watch. There are not very many high-end ladies skeletonized watches out there to begin with, so that alone deserves some kudos. But beyond that, the exquisite attention to detail is amazing.
Apparently it takes about four days to finish one 1200D movement, including the gem setting, and even the tiny screw heads are concealed under black sapphire cabochons so as not to interrupt the jewelry-like display − nice touch. The geometry of creating a skeletonized movement is not easy, and the stones only make it that much more ambitious. Add to that its svelteness and I think you have one very fine example of Piaget’s talent in both jewelry and watchmaking. This watch has my vote for first runner-up.
GG: At the end of the day, I just couldn’t bear to leave the Piaget off the list; its combination of thinness and mind-blowing gem-set skeletonization really impressed me. At the same time, it’s great to see Chaumet in the mix, and the expression of time on the Hortensia is both creative and attractive, so my number three is a tie between the Chaumet Hortensia Creative Complication and the Piaget Altiplano 1200S.
Quick Facts Piaget Altiplano 1200S
Case: white gold, 38 x 6 mm
Movement: automatic Caliber 1200D, only 3 mm in height with 44 hours power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Availability: only in Piaget boutiques
Price: 165,000 Swiss francs
Ian: Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock
GaryG: Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock
Joshua: Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock
Nancy: Fabergé Lady Compliquée Peacock