Unanimous Predictions In The Sports Category Of The 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2016 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why. Please enjoy the opinions of the following panelists:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Ryan Schmidt (RS), author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches and contributor
As a jury member, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these early predictions.
The Sports category is defined by the GPHG as, “watches linked to the field of sports whose functions, materials, and design are suited to physical activities.”
IS: I’ve generally thought a true sports watch should be rated water resistant to 100 meters (which requires a screw-down core). But the GPHG rules do not specify water resistance, or even water sports, so I am going to try and keep a more open mind.
The standard of the watches in the other categories is very high this year, and I am going to hold the Sports watches to the same high standard as the rest. To win this year it’s not enough just be an excellent sports watch, because that’s a given, that gets you pre-selected. To win you need to bring something new to the table, something innovative, and, ideally, exciting. And that makes this prediction much easier.
JM: The sports category always provides an interesting task because different sporting adventures would require different things from a timepiece. The two strongest types of watches that are considered sports watches are divers and chronographs, so the battle begins with watches with very different strengths.
The pre-selected watches demonstrate this, and make judging a fair bit more subjective. But there are standouts, and this makes for a few amazing choices.
RS: I am not very impressed with the lineup this year; actually, I think my issue is as much with the category as the range of watches that made the cut. In my opinion, the sports watch category should include watches with superior shock resistance, scratch resistance, and waterproofing. Instead, it seems to be enough to simply look sporty or to be associated with a pursuit like sailing. So bearing in mind that there are only two or three watches in the category that I would dare do any sports while wearing, I am going to be fairly liberal with what should constitute a sports watch in order to arrive at my favorite as well, Ian.
IS: With it’s high legibility, unidirectional diver’s bezel, helium escape valve, expandable bracelet (for fitting outside wetsuit), and 300-meter rated water resistance, the Eberhard & Co Scafograf 300 is a serious dive watch for a very reasonable price (2,640 Swiss francs). I’m just not convinced that the world needs yet another great dive watch.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/scafograf-300.
Quick Facts Eberhard & Co. Scafograf 300
Case: 43 x 12.6 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber ETA 2824-2
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 2,640 Swiss francs
IS: I like the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon and I can appreciate that the red accents on black make for a sporty look. And you might relate a chronograph with timing sporting events. But as a contender for the category that aims to define the “Best Sports Watch for 2016,” I find the connection between “sport” and the ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph to be just too tenuous for me to take it seriously here.
A great watch, yes, but not a great sports watch in this competition. I can’t help but feel that this is a good watch that did not neatly fit any other category in the GPHG.
GG: I’ve been a big fan of Montblanc’s chronographs for years and find the TimeWalker to be very impressive, but to me it’s just not a sports watch either, Ian.
JM: My choices begin with a chronograph, and a truly cool one at that. The ExoTourbillon combines a monopusher chronograph with interesting dial readout and, of course, the patented ExoTourbillon mechanism.
The case is made from a “cage” of titanium that contains a monoblock carbon fiber mid case. The bezel comprises DLC-coated titanium, resulting in a very contrasted case construction that is light and rugged, perfect for a sports watch.
The accuracy of the chronograph is a bit lacking due to the seconds indicator, which impairs its functionality as a piece of sports technology and limits it from being chosen higher.
Regardless, the design and mechanics make this an impressive watch and something that is still a fantastic contender in the category.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/timewalker-exotourbillon-minute-chronograph-limited-edition.
Quick Facts Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Limited Edition
Case: titanium with carbon fiber and DLC, 44 x 16.27 mm
Movement: automatic Caliber MB 29.24 with micro rotor and one-minute tourbillon and hacking seconds; 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: 39,000 Swiss francs
JM: Simply look at the TAG Heuer Heuer Monza Chronograph and you will know why it is a cool watch. Only printed with the Heuer logo, tickling every vintage collector’s WIS-bone, it harkens back to the days of Heuer’s relationship with Niki Lauda and Ferrari.
The functionality of the chronograph is perfect with a double scale for tachometer and pulsometer and clear markings in high contrast. The case is made of titanium instead of steel like the original Monza, though the design is kept fairly close to the original. All in all it is a great, racing-inspired chronograph for motorsport enthusiasts and definitely deserves to be recognized as the awesomazing chronograph that it is.
IS: The TAG Heuer Heuer Monza Chronograph makes it very clear up front in the name “Monza” that the chosen sport here is motor racing. That also makes the chronograph function quite useful. This is a fortieth anniversary re-edition that brings the latest technology and aesthetics to an old model while retaining the design cues, including pulsometer, tachymeter scale, and the original font that made the original model so beloved.
I think that TAG Heuer did a great job with this Monza Chronograph and it looks to be a very desirable watch, but I think that it will take more than a re-edition to win this category.
RS: Just to get it out the way, the most disappointing thing about this watch is that TAG Heuer did not go even further toward reproducing the Monza, or Modena, of the 1970s. Nevertheless, I really like the package here: grade 5 titanium coated with titanium carbide and a legible well-combined pulsometer and tachymeter scale (you count 15 pulsations for a pulsometer reading of up to 15 seconds/60 beats per minute, and then the tachy scale takes over).
It’s pretty easy to make a motorsports watch that is fit for purpose, but its also easy to go overboard with the various design elements, and I believe TAG Heuer was on point with the Monza.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/heuer-monza-chronograph.
Quick Facts TAG Heuer Heuer Monza Chronograph
Case: blackened titanium, 42 x 42 x 13.5 mm
Movement: automatic Caliber 17
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Limitation: 2,650 pieces
Price: 4,900 Swiss francs
IS: I’ve liked the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon ever since having a chance to play with it at Baselworld and it perfectly encapsulates the brand’s long heritage with the sea and sailing. The Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is beautiful watch to grace the deck of any yacht, but it isn’t a watch that you would use to time the race and I feel that real utility must play a serious role in a sports watch.
The Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is a watch that I would happily wear the next time I’m sipping champagne at an America’s Cup soirée, but it isn’t a genuine sports watch by my definition.
GG: I’ve liked the somewhat polarizing Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck quite a bit since our visit with Ulysse Nardin at Baselworld, but to me it’s just not a sports watch.
MG: A completely useless complication that is so much fun! Only Ulysse Nardin could and would make a watch like the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon! With this watch, Ulysse Nardin captures the true spirit of large sailing ships, not only with the retrograde minute hand, but also with the wood dial and overall design of the watch.
RS: Without a regatta timer or tide meter, and with a fairly shallow depth rating, this is very much a nautical-themed watch as opposed to a watch fit for the waves. But what a watch it is! I just love the look of it: that wood marquetry dial, the big jumping hour aperture, the railings, the boom! It will go to prove that this category is a little lost if the Grand Deck wins, but I will still be satisfied if it does!
Further reading: Boom Times! Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/grand-deck-marine-tourbillon.
Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon
Case: 44 x 15.5 mm, white gold
Dial: wood marquetry with blue spinel in center of dial
Movement: manually wound Caliber UN-630 with two spring barrels, one-minute tourbillon, and unique boom display
Functions: double-digit jump hours, retrograde minutes (shown by the “boom”); boom display
Limitation: 18 pieces
Price: 280,000 Swiss francs
IS: I am aTudor Heritage Black Bay collection fanboy. So much so that I thought that the Tudor Pelagos, which is basically a blue Black Bay, had a very good chance to take the Aiguille d’Or last year (see Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Sports Category Of The 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève). I really do want one.
But I can’t help feel that to win that it requires more than a fresh coat of paint, and Tudor did win the Sports category in 2015 with the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Blue, aka the Tudor Heritage Pelagos. And lest we forget, Tudor also won the GPHG Revival Prize in 2013 for the Tudor Heritage Black Bay.
And there’s another near identical (apart from color) Tudor Black Bay called the Heritage Black pre-selected in the Men’s category of the GPHG this year. It’s an incredible testament to just how good and just how versatile the Black Bay is that it’s already won the prize for Best Sports watch 2015, is also nominated for Best Men’s watch 2016, and Best Sports watch 2016.
Tudor Heritage Black Bay, I love you. You are the Volkswagen Golf of watches, a great choice to excel in any situation. But you can’t just win all of the GPHG prizes by changing the color of the watch, no matter how good you are. I know that’s not stated in the rules, but it just seems fair to me. I do intend to buy a Black Bay of my own, but can’t vote it a winner here.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/heritage-black-bay-dark.
Quick Facts Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark
Case: black PVD-coated stainless steel, 41 x 13.3 mm
Movement: automatic Caliber MT5602
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 4,250 Swiss francs
Remark: comes with two straps
GG: After I had to agonize at length over the Calendar category, it was a bit of a relief to see that among the pre-selected Sports watches, for me anyway, the Ressence Type 5B was the clear winner. At first I was tempted to dismiss it as a “non-sport” watch in the same way that I eliminated the tourbillon-equipped Ulysse Nardin and Montblanc pieces, but upon more careful inspection I ended up being convinced that this is a legitimate dive watch – and perhaps even a superior one.
Immersing the ROCS time-display module in oil allows it to be viewed underwater from any angle; it also has the advantage of being incompressible, making the watch more robust at depth (although the chamber containing the 2824-derived base movement is still air-filled). Ressence claims a 10 ATM water resistance rating, and between that and the appealing aesthetics of this watch it’s a real winner to me.
IS: Gary, I could have copy-pasted your first paragraph word for word here. I felt as though I had a decent idea of what a top-three-of-2016 sports watch looked like, and my initial-glance-cut eliminated the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, the Montblanc TimeWalker ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph, and the Ressence Type 5B. The Ressence is a great watch, but great Sports watch? What are these crazy Belgians thinking? In the immortal words of John McEnroe, (Ressence) you cannot be serious!
Now I thought that I knew Ressence and understood the refraction-free fluid-filled dial concept pretty well (see How Do They Do That? The Ressence Type 3). And what I knew had little to no claim on being any kind of sports watch, let alone Best Sports Watch 2016. Then I read the following and thought about how the brand related to the majority of water sports we are likely to do:
1. Water resistant 100-meters, no need for screw in crown . . . because there is no crown.
2. Only mechanical watch readable under water regardless of the viewing angle. Oil-filled dial eliminates the internal mirror effect. All other mechanical diver’s watches must be viewed straight on.
3. Oil-filled dial enhances legibility in reading the display, which is the main function of a watch.
4. The oil-filled dial halves the volume of air in the case, air that compresses underwater. The less air inside, the less the case is affected by water pressure (depth) outside.
MG: The 5B redefines the category in every way by offering a unique array of complications in a unique way. By turning the Ressence concept into a functional diving watch, the brand has successfully surpassed its own boundaries as well as those of the industry. And it did so without compromising its own concept and actually increasing the visual functionality of the watch, while successfully meeting the demands of the ISO norm for diving watches.
RS: While I imagine that only one in 100 Type 5b’s will actually venture more than a meter or so below the surface of the sea, you have to tip your hat to Ressence for doing far more than most to ensure that the watch meets the diver watch criteria. Despite its radical departure from your average time indication, this is a surprisingly readable and competent diver. The oil-filled dial is even more useful when viewed underwater than during a desk dive as it cancels out “total internal reflection,” something you may have already experienced when looking at your watch underwater from a slight angle.
The shock absorber that Ressence has built into the magnetic transmission, the quirky 90-second runner, and the view when the lights go out, add to a veritable banquet of “tool” design accents. It’s fun, it’s serious, it’s attractive, it’s unusual, and it’s my favourite Ressence model to date.
JM: Though there is one other watch in this category that strayed from the pack with new mechanical features, the Ressence Type 5B is the only watch to truly push the boundaries of what a sports watch is.
Most of the timepieces in this category are predictable — and for good reason: they work. But this watch actually strove to address a specific critical issue and succeeded marvelously. The Type 5B is arguably the only mechanical dive watch that is perfectly readable regardless of viewing angle due to its awesome liquid-filled dome design.
I’ve always had a great interest in Ressence as it is a brand that has tried things from a more different perspective than almost any watch company in the business. And after years of testing and development it has made a watch that is fully ISO 6425 compliant, looks awesome, and is mechanically very interesting.
The Ressence Type 5B is the standout in this category, and without debating the value of a diver’s watch versus a chronograph, the Type 5B is the most sports-oriented watch having been developed specifically to overcome a problem for divers. Simply put: it’s fantastic.
IS: One of the biggest problems in using a mechanical dive watch while diving or snorkeling is that the crystal usually looks like a small bright mirror and that actually telling the time requires precise and deliberate arm contortions to get the dial exactly perpendicular to the eye so you can read the time.
The Ressence Type 5B makes every other mechanical underwater sport watch obsolete. It’s the first underwater watch that you can easily read the time while underwater. The Type 5B not only gets my vote for best sports watch, I’d give it another prize for just recognizing its potential as a sports watch. As a great sports watch!
Quick Facts Ressence Type 5B
Case: titanium, 46 x 15.5 mm, no crown
Movement: automatic Caliber ETA 2824-2 base with patented ROCS 5 module comprising 142 components
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 30,800 Swiss francs
Ian: Ressence Type 5B
GaryG: Ressence Type 5B
Martin: Ressence Type 5B
Joshua: Ressence Type 5B
Ryan: Ressence Type 5B
And the winner of best Calendar watch at the 2016 GPHG went to the Eberhard & Co. Scafograf 300.
For more of our predictions in the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), please see:
Ladies’ High-Mech Category
Artistic Crafts Category
Travel Time Category
Mechanical Exception Category
Also published on Medium.