Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Striking 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
Note: as a GPHG jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these predictions.
According to the GPHG’s rules, the Striking category is for mechanical watches with at least one acoustic indication or complication, notably watches equipped with repeater, striking, musical or any other acoustic function. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
JM: In this category we have a gander at some incredible striking watches, and I come to my first surprise, something I didn’t know would ever happen for me: wanting a watch more than an A. Lange & Söhne. Surprising, I know.
Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
IS: Despite its sensational Germanic good looks and impeccable technical pedigree, I nearly bumped the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater off my top three due to the fact that when it was first presented at the SIHH in January this year, it sounded flat. And while we were assured that the chimes would be much louder and clearer in the production models − and I’ve no reason not to be confident in that − first impressions count. A lot.
However, after realizing that I have only actually heard four of the six watches pre-selected in the Striking category for myself, I will judge them all on the photos and specs available and leave it to the jury to make the aural tests.
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is my first pick principally because it is a decimal repeater. That means it chimes the hours, the tens of minutes, then minutes, rather than a traditional repeater chiming the hours, then quarter hours, then minutes. Even if that sounds a little confusing, for most people trying to work out the time from a traditional repeater is much more so.
GG: The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, my runner-up, is a technical tour de force, and the choice of a decimal repeater format, with the time chiming as hours, tens, and ones, is completely consistent with the digital visual time display of the Zeitwerk.
IS: The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is a winner because it’s the only practical (in that you can easily understand the chimed time) minute repeater in this category.
JM: For the winner I chose the best watch (and my favorite if the AkriviA weren’t involved): the inimitable A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. It simply boasts an awesome movement with incredible features that deserve mentioning: decimal repeater, no chiming when the power reserve gets to a certain level, a safety feature that doesn’t allow the crown to be pulled while chiming, and a delay function that postpones the changing of the display until the chime has finished, thus always chiming the time shown.
GG: However, Joshua, some of the technical innovations such as the lock-out of crown and time indication motion during chiming and the inability to chime the watch during the final 12 hours of its 36-hour power reserve seem more like compromises or workarounds than true features to me.
IS: The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater looks as good as any watch has a right to. I loved the Zeitwerk without a repeater and the chimes just make this great watch even better.
JM: Then there’s the incredible Zeitwerk design, large digital time display, and awesomely shaped gongs that follow the profile of the raised portion of the dial. The only thing it is missing (to me) is the Handwerkskunst decoration on some other Zeitwerk models. Regardless, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater stands alone as the most impressive striking watch in this category.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
Movement: manually wound Caliber L043.5 with decimal minute repeater, 771 movement components
Case: 44.2 x 14.1 mm, platinum
Functions: jump hours, jump minutes, seconds; decimal minute repeater, power reserve display
Price: 440,000 Swiss francs
AkriviA Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour
IS: My second pick for best striking watch is the AkriviA Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour. It looks a bit different, but not so different as to scare conservatives away, and it looks to be immaculately designed and executed.
Talk about minimalistic, though: the dial of the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour is practically empty, with a small (and I’d like it bigger) window for the jump hour in the center, a cutout at 12 o’clock to see the hammer and gong, a beautifully finished tourbillon at 6 o’clock, and a solitary central hand indicating minutes around the dial perimeter.
And I like the fact that the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour isn’t a repeater, but chimes the hours in passing (or not if the user so chooses). That’s probably a feature that is more likely to be used on a regular basis − in other words, a chime more often heard − than the chimes of a more complex (and expensive) minute repeater.
GG: I have to confess that while I had a relatively easy time narrowing down the choices to a top three, I had a devil of a time deciding how to sequence them! I finally went with the AkriviA because I found the combination of jumping hours with simultaneous en passant hour chiming very appealing, and I also very much admire watchmaker Rexhep Rexhepi’s dedication to movement symmetry and fine finishing.
The 100-hour power reserve is pretty impressive, and the visible hammer and gong combination at 12 o’clock seems just right, but for me the inclusion of no fewer than 56 hand-finished internal angles within the movement really clinched the deal.
JM: My first runner-up is the watch I want the most out of this group, not because I know it is the most advanced or has the most incredible movement (both go to the winner), but because it is the most pure watch made by a good group of guys looking to make great watches.
The AkriviA Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour is awesomely simple (well, relatively) and has my favorite BWC complication (see Joshua’s The Jump Hour: A Love Story for explanation) the jump hour. And the chime in passing is such a lovely and understated chiming function that I feel could be used much more. I have been following this boutique brand for a while now, and I am super excited to see its accomplishments and follow its rise in the independent watchmaking ranks.
Quick Facts AkriviA Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour
Movement: manually wound in-house caliber with one-minute tourbillon and 100 hours power reserve on one spring barrel
Case: 42.5 x 12.9 mm, stainless steel
Functions: jump hours, minutes; en passant hour chime and silence mode
Price: 180,000 Swiss francs
Christophe Claret Allegro
IS: My third pick goes to the Christophe Claret Allegro, which beat out the Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges by a very short nose.
I am surprised by just how subdued the Allegro is, especially compared with Christophe Claret’s wilder models. But what I really like about the Allegro is the slightly smoky dial that allows us to see into the mechanisms and movement without distracting so much as to make reading the time a struggle.
Having heard this watch, I can say the sound is excellent, which isn’t surprising as it has cathedral gongs that circle the movement not once but twice for a richer tone. I think that potential clients for this watch will also appreciate the big date and second time zone.
JM: My second runner up is a close call, and I would say is a tie between the Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges and the Christopher Claret Allegro. Both watches are, of course, fantastic. The Claret Allegro presents a minute repeater with cathedral gongs, not to mention a GMT and big date all in a modern format. The Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater has a dial-side mechanism for easy viewing of the magic while it happens, and is gorgeous with its golden bridges. I can’t choose, so they both tie for my third!
Quick Facts Christophe Claret Allegro
Movement: manually wound Caliber ALG89 with 60 hours power reserve; 520 individual components
Case: 45 x 14.11 mm, white gold
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; large date, second time zone, minute repeater
Limitation: 20 pieces
Price: 268,000 Swiss francs
Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges
GG: The Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges is my third pick, and in a very tight race, this one could easily have been my number one as well!
The visible dial-side striking mechanism (save the spinning regulator, which is deep within the movement to mute its sound) is really attractive; and the “Gold Bridges” theme is both classic and in this watch extends all the way to the shape of the hammers for the repeater.
For more information on this timepiece, please see Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon With Gold Bridges.
Quick Facts Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges
Movement: manually wound Caliber GP09500-0002 with one-minute tourbillon and minute repeater; 58 hours power reserve; 406 individual components
Case: 45 x 15.63 mm, pink gold
Functions: hours, minutes; minute repeater
Limitation: 10 pieces
Price: 375,000 Swiss francs
Ian: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
GaryG: Akrivia Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour
Joshua: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater