Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Petite Aiguille 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, to qualify for the Petite Aiguille category, watches must sport a retail price under 8,000 Swiss francs.
IS: It wasn’t so long ago that nearly everything in the Petite Aiguille category was powered by generic third-party movements. Now, you can not only expect in-house movements in this price category (even under the 5,000-franc line), but absolutely great movements that would not be out of place in watches costing ten times as much.
JM: In the Petite Aiguille category we leave behind the impressively complicated and the dazzlingly beautiful for the simple and most reachable versions of pure horology on the market.
Tudor North Flag
IS: If I was an environmental inspector at the Rolex headquarters in Geneva, I’d investigate what has contaminated the water supply in the last few years and then take every step possible to ensure that the contamination continues.
Not only has Rolex, whose models previously appeared to run for decades without obvious evolution, erupted with a complicated model in the Sky-Dweller (with annual calendar and GMT), but this year also presented a bevy of (for Rolex, anyway) widely-colored dials (perhaps indicative of low-dosage hallucinogenics in the water). See Spending Time With The Most Complicated In-House Rolex: The Sky-Dweller and Give Me Five! A Radiant Rolex Rainbow At Baselworld 2015.
And not only that, Rolex’s quiet baby brother Tudor, who we have hardly ever heard a peep from until recently, has been launching one great watch after another . . . the latest in line being the North Flag.
JM: As a second runner-up I chose the Tudor North Flag, a simple and clean tool watch that features the brand’s first manufacture movement. Now this is almost anachronistic for Tudor as it has always been a brand using Rolex build quality while sourcing movements from ETA. This means that Tudor is now even closer to Rolex in the family lineage and represents a true value and an amazingly good watch.
IS: The Tudor North Flag gets my vote because of its highly legible, cool, clean design and superb in-house movement. Great looks, ceramic bezel, 70-hour power reserve, and silicon hairspring all for 3,500 Swiss francs. That’s an unbeatable combination in my book.
See Simon Cudd’s original photos of the Tudor North Flag in Legendary Explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes And The Tudor North Flag With In-House Movement.
Quick Facts Tudor North Flag
Case: 40 mm, stainless steel with ceramic bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5621 with silicon balance spring and official C.O.S.C. certification
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve
Price: $3,550 on strap and $3,674 on bracelet / 3,500 Swiss francs
Hermès Slim d’Hermès
GG: As a collector, ultimately the watches you pick have to be ones that you would love to see on your own wrist! So I pick it for my winner.
Of the pieces in this group, my sense was that the Hermès was the one that would find its way onto my wrist with the greatest frequency and would stay in my collection the longest. The Vaucher-developed H1950 ultra-thin movement, at only 2.6 mm in thickness including the self-winding micro-rotor with simple-yet-attractive finishing, is very much to my taste.
JM: For my first runner-up I chose the Hermès Slim d’Hermès for the clear reason that it is an awesome design with a sweet movement. Running a micro rotor automatic with a total movement thickness of 2.6 mm, the price point is great for such a movement. I’ve mentioned before that the design of the typography (the new numerals) is really stunning from a graphic sense, and the clean, layered dial is highly attractive. I would wear this watch a lot if I owned it.
IS: The Slim d’Hermès makes my top three because, like the Tudor North Flag, it looks so good (Hermès really has designed a fantastic dial for the Slim d’Hermès collection) and contains a superb movement with automatic winding and micro rotor. The Slim d’Hermès is a watch that would look and perform superbly on anybody’s wrist.
For more information, please see Introducing Slim d’Hermès: The Elegant New Backbone Of The Hermès Collection.
Quick Facts Slim d’Hermès
Case: 39.5 x 8.14 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber H1950, ultra-flat at 2.6 mm in height; micro rotor; 21,600 vph; very fine finishing
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Price: €6,000 / 6,400 Swiss francs
GG: I’ve owned three different Habring2 watches over the years and enjoyed them all. And having had the chance to photograph the new Felix and briefly place it on my wrist, I continue to be impressed with the great work being done by this husband-and-wife watchmaking team. See Elizabeth’s story Habring2 Gets Happy (And Serious) With Felix, Featuring First Austrian Movement for a look at some of those photos.
Behind its clean looking façade is the new house-made A11B movement, which I’m sure will both be robust and keep great time in true Habring2 style.
Quick Facts Habring2 Felix
Case: 38.5 x 7 mm, Austrian stainless steel,
Movement: manually wound Habring Caliber A11B
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds
Price: €4,450 / 4,450 Swiss francs
Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
IS: My third pick was a close call between the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum and Habring2 Felix, two watches that couldn’t look more different. But while Felix wins more points for the movement, its dial design is just too bland for my taste, a fact accentuated by the very strong design of other watches in this category.
So I’m picking the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum purely for the fact that it offers a nice looking worldtimer complication for under $6,000. That’s excellent value for money in anybody’s book.
GG: Indeed, Ian, a worldtimer from a solid brand for only 5,400 CHF! Really an excellent accomplishment, but when I had the watch on my wrist at SIHH my sense was that in this case Montblanc was trying to do just a bit too much at this price point, as the look and feel of the piece really weren’t up to the solid standard I would prefer. It’s my third-place pick in this category.
Quick Facts Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
Case: 41 x 12 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber MB29.20
Functions: hours, minutes; worldtime
Price: 5,400 Swiss francs
Zenith Elite 6150
JM: My winner in this category is something of a surprise to me as it is the simplest watch in the category, but it is also the most striking to me: the Zenith Elite 6150.
It is a watch that looks like it came straight out of history; that is if history had become self-aware and learned from itself and figured out how to make the most perfect simple watch ever.
Vintage and modern collectors alike are in love with this watch, and I see it as one of the best examples of timelessness in a watch. I could not tell you when this watch was made, but I would know it will last me a lifetime. Simply put, it is one damn beautiful timepiece.
For more information, see Elizabeth’s article Zenith Turns 150 And Rediscovers Its Roots. Again.
Quick Facts Zenith Elite 6150
Case: 42 x 9.45 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber Elite 6150 with 100 hours of power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 7,500 Swiss francs
Ian: Tudor North Flag
GaryG: Hermès Slim d’Hermès
Joshua: Zenith Elite 6150