What We Liked And What We Didn’t At The 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
In this final round table discussion, my Quill & Pad colleagues and I discuss the amazing evening of November 10, 2016.
Elizabeth Doerr (ED), co-founder and editor-in-chief
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
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Ryan Schmidt (RS), author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches and contributor
JM: The 2016 GPHG was full of surprises and delights as well as a few new additions that I rather enjoyed. It all began with an amazing vocal performance, which was a welcome change from previous shows due to the edginess of sound and lyrics. I immediately thought this was about to be the best GPHG I’ve seen yet.
Instead of last year’s oddly assembled and seemingly disconnected art school animations to break up the categories and provide moments of razzle dazzle, the incredible dance performances this year fit beautifully with the program and felt like a natural match. The dance performers came from Geneva’s University of Art and Design (as have the previous animations).
I truly enjoyed those additions; the artistic side of the show really shined this year and made up for some minor dialogue issues between the still-controversial Frédéric Beigbeder and Gaspard Proust (some jokes just aren’t universal) and the painfully obvious yet (as an American) distasteful references to the recent U.S. presidential election at random moments throughout the show. I still didn’t think it added to the night and proved to be a small but noticeable distraction from a good show.
While I did not agree with some of the winners, the flow and short interludes proved to make for a decidedly entertaining show considering its intended audience and core content.
When it comes to the winners of the categories, this is where the most entertainment took place though. Some watches came out of nowhere (at least according to our predictions) and others snuck by in very tight categories that could have seen a variety of winners.
MG: I find the GPHG a special event in which the watch world comes together and celebrates the art of haute horlogerie. All of the entries were winners in my book, only some more than others. That being said, I was very surprised by some watches that the jury selected as winners.
NO: The 2016 awards fulfilled some expectations and offered some surprises, and for the four category winners I predicted, I was off the mark for every one this year – though sometimes close! I must admit that it’s hard not to try to “get into the heads” of the judges when attempting to forecast the winners. Note to self: don’t overthink!
GG: Well, another Grand Prix in the books! As usual, I split the jury’s selections into three categories: clear celebrations, worthy winners, and head scratchers. I used to call the third set “what were they thinking,” but perhaps I’ve become a kinder, gentler GaryG over the years.
In any case, I think it’s important to remember that all of these pieces were labors of love for the people who created them.
For me, the clear celebrations were the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire in the Men’s category, the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual as a Calendar watch, and the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ in the Travel Time group. Each of these was a piece that I had on my “top 3” list within its respective category and each also featured on my Aiguille d’Or candidate list. Well done to all!
Other worthy winners in my view, which I hadn’t picked as the top watches in my projections but for which the rationale was clear, were the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition chronograph, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie repeater, Chanel Secret Watch Signature Grenat jewelry watch, and the Piaget Protocole XXL Secrets & Lights Venice Micro-Mosaic in the Artistic Crafts category.
JM: My choices turned out to be similar to last year, predicting six categories and missing on the other seven. I’ve stated the categories that really surprised me, but the rest I missed I can easily understand why the winners may have been chosen. Two of the categories’ winners ended up being my chosen runner’s-up, so they definitely did not shock me when they won, I already knew they were deserving of recognition!
In the end, aside from the Ressence Type 5B, all of the watches I thought were miles above the competition came away with awards; the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ, the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual, the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, and the winner of the Aiguille d’Or, the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1.
Each of these watches represents what I love about watchmaking in the first place: creativity, precision, engineering, craftsmanship, and that x factor that just makes your passion for watches jump with happiness.
RS: I was not able to make it to the ceremony, but I did enjoy watching it on the Quill & Pad-hosted stream. It was a great show with some impressive performances acting as a decent filling between the awards. The English interpreter was incredibly, almost off-puttingly, enthusiastic – can we have her host the ceremony next year?
ED: I wish I could have heard her, Ryan! Sounds like a great emcee alternative.
RS: Of the additional prizes I was particularly delighted to see the George Daniels Educational Trust receive further recognition. In terms of the main event, I was happy to have correctly guessed a couple of the winners, and I was pleased for a few of the surprises. But there were one or two surprises that I am still scratching my head over!
IS: All in all I thought that the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève went down very well with a few expected winners, a few surprises, but nothing way outside what might be expected.
I would like to encourage the GPHG to look for another presenter though as the childish and often sexist comments of Beigbeder sound more and more dated with each year. He may be entertaining to some, but lacks the class of the event and is long past his sell-by date for what I expect from the GPHG.
I found the English translation of the livestream, while generally accurate, was quite wooden and if the Grand Prix committee really wants to broaden the international appeal of the event, I suggest that they consider an English language presenter with a French translation.
The GPHG might also go some way towards atoning for the misogynistic style of Beigbeder by − trigger warning men − choosing a female presenter next year!!! I vote for “Bye Bye Beigbeder.”
NO: While the Piaget Limelight Gala has been around for a while, this year’s Limelight Gala Milanese Bracelet obviously turned the judges’ heads with its articulated mesh bracelet, which is on trend and, of course, finely executed. I was surprised at this choice, but there’s no doubt that this is a beautiful watch from a well-respected brand. It just didn’t inspire me to the same extent as some of the others.
MG: My first surprise was when the Piaget Limelight Gala won! It was my personal favorite, but the competition was very fierce in this category, and the Piaget has a quartz movement, which I thought could be seen as a disadvantage against the competition.
However, this is not the Ladies High-Mech category, and I think that with awarding this prize to Piaget the jury rightfully highlighted the wearability of the Piaget, and most of all the craftsmanship needed to make such a supple and unique Milanese bracelet, which Piaget’s crafts(wo)men do by hand!
IS: The Piaget Limelight Gala was the biggest disappointment for me: a quartz watch that I feel I’ve seen every year. I wonder if next year will be an Hublot Big Bang or Zenith El Primero with a nice bracelet. I feel that the jury still has a lot of trouble judging ladies’ watches, even though the number of women in the jury has increased now to six (around 25 percent).
GG: Picking the Piaget entry over both the delightful Fabergé Lady Levity and my selection, the Audemars Piguet Millenary, made no sense to me.
JM: One interesting thing I noticed was that all of the female-oriented categories went in ways I didn’t predict or our panels wouldn’t have thought, either.
But the jury this year featured six female members, the most ever, which means there was a strong contingent of those who would actually care about and wear the watches in those categories. This is still less than a quarter of the jury, though, and the female-oriented categories only account for one-sixth of the total categories awarded. But it is clear that the voice for the female watch market is growing in the jury faster than the industry is perhaps recognizing if the category breakdown is any indication.
RS: The Limelight is a very nice watch, but I thought the Fabergé Lady Levity was a stronger offering. I dare say that Fabergé’s rather similar “travel time” and “ladies” offerings led the jury into an either/or decision tree. But then that didn’t hurt Girard-Perregaux . . .
ED: Not so, Ryan: that was not a consideration in any way.
And I know how you all feel here – I almost immediately discounted the Piaget Limelight Gala in my own head because of its quartz movement! It’s a gorgeous watch, the workmanship and attention to detail as well as outward design undeniably of the highest quality, but to me – as an aficionado – its movement wasn’t inspiring enough.
That having been said, I can understand how it came out on top after listening to the discussions of my peers – and please do remember that the jury is now large at 27 people (only 6 of which are female) and that mathematics play a large part in determining the actual winner because we vote on all six finalists, awarding each an empirical number between 1 and 6.
The discussions mainly involved trying to second guess what a prospective client of a ladies’ watch might want to wear. And this is again where the predominately male jury shows its hand: men really have a hard time understanding women; it became incredibly apparent in this and the High-Mech categories.
And I’m not dissing the winners here, please don’t understand it that way. It’s just that there were so many interesting choices in both categories that it seems impossible that what I might term “industry staples” would come out on top. But maybe that does just reflect popular tastes? Seems to me like that could be true.
For more information, please visit www.piaget.com/limelight-gala-milanese-stella-watches.
NO: The Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon with Gold Bridge was my third choice in this category. I should mention here that I agree with Ian that the explanation of what constitutes a Ladies High-Mech could use a little tweaking. Though the GHPG’s definition points to exceptional creativity and intricacy, the pre-selections don’t necessarily comply, often lauding feminine beauty over complexity. Sound familiar?
MG: My second surprise was the winner of the Ladies High-Mech. All deserving watches, but to me, the Girard-Perregaux was one that I felt I had seen before, and for that reason didn’t stand out of the crowd. A great classic, but for me not the ultimate high-mechanical ladies watch of the six that made the final cut.
IS: The Girard-Perregaux Cat’s Eye Tourbillon with Gold Bridge is another extremely nice watch, but also another indication that the jury does not appear to take the fact that this is the 2016 GPHG rather than the GPHG. I feel that too many of the winners this year should not have even made pre-selection because they offer too little in the way of innovation. I’d like the jury to be at least encouraged to award a premium (like Uber surge pricing) for genuinely new models where appropriate (not for Jewellery and Artistic Crafts).
RS: The Cat’s Eye Tourbillon is lovely looking, but I am genuinely shocked that it knocked the Marguerite, the Upside Down, and the Spin Time aside! I guess the approach of the jury was not to compare the models on mechanical merit, but instead to assume that the minimum criteria had been met by all and then pick the one that is the most visually appealing?
ED: See my comments above, Martin and Nancy. A deserving watch to be sure with its stunningly engraved mother-of-pearl, but once again the result of a predominately male jury, which perhaps doesn’t have someone like me in their mind’s eye when considering the “typical” consumer for a high-mech offering for ladies.
And in terms of the Christophe Claret Marguerite and Louis Vuitton Spin Time, I would just like to say that their special elements were not working properly, which discounted them – what a shame!
GG: Girard-Perregaux took home two prizes for variants of their gold bridge tourbillon, which is certainly emblematic of the brand but hardly innovative; in the Ladies’ High-Mech category it wasn’t even the best tourbillon in my opinion.
For more information, please visit www.girard-perregaux.net/collection/collection-details-en.
IS: With this their second win in the GPHG, the first being for Best Tourbillon in 2014 for their Parallax Tourbillon, Bart and Tim Grönefeld are on a very well-deserved roll. The 1941 Remontoire was my pick for best Men’s watch this year and the majority of our panel agreed. It looks easy: great watchmakers + great design + great movement = worldwide recognition, but finding their groove took many years and a lot of hard work. Congratulations to Tim and Bart on yet another sensational wristwatch.
MG: Very deserved win for the Grönefeld brothers, and it already gets me excited to see what the next step is going to be in the development of their collection.
RS: Of course the 1941 Remontoire won; enough said!
For more information, please visit www.gronefeld.com/collection/1941-remontoire.
IS: I, and most of our panel, did not expect the Montblanc 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition to win this category, but Ryan bucked the trend and called it correctly. I did choose it, though, as a strong runner-up so cannot say that I am disappointed with the jury’s selection. I suspect that price played a significant factor in this category because while I do not think that the Montblanc is the best chronograph here, it does offer a superlative chrono at an attractive price.
MG: Solid choice of the jury to go for the Montblanc: it unites part and presence in such a harmonious way. I consider this one of the best watches in Montblanc’s current collection, and the jury must have thought the same way.
RS: I was not shocked to have incorrectly or correctly guessed some of the other winners this year, but this one I am surprised to have got right. Congratulations to Montblanc because the 1858 a handsome, traditional, not-too-fussy yet very special chronograph.
ED: I kind of think it was that superbly finished and crafted Minerva chronograph caliber that won the majority of the jury over. It really ticked all the boxes so perfectly.
MG: I’m starting to sound like a Girard-Perregaux hater, but I honestly cannot get my head around a win for the La Esmeralda Tourbillon. A fantastic watch, love the automatic winding system, which is ingenious, but it is a tourbillon with three golden bridges. A classic, and one of the few tourbillons I would personally even consider purchasing.
Among these six I feel that there were watches that brought more to the table regarding ingenuity, breaking new ground, and developing a tourbillon from new ground. To me, these would be the criteria to determine the winner.
GG: How the latest Esmeralda beat the Bovet, De Bethune, and Rudis Sylva entries in the main Tourbillon group will forever remain a mystery to me.
IS: The Tourbillon category was another in which none of our panel, including myself, selected the winner. My bet, and that of half of the panel, was on the Bovet Ottantasei Flying Tourbillon, which I think is an outstanding watch. And unlike La Esmeralda, the Ottantasei is both outstanding and completely new.
But, there is no debating the quality of the La Esmeralda Tourbillon. My comment in the prediction was, “I can’t remember ever seeing a Girard-Perregaux Three Gold Bridges that I didn’t like, and La Esmeralda is no exception.” And that sentiment was echoed by all of our panel members. I found the Girard-Perregaux a surprising winner, but I do agree with the jury that La Esmeralda is a superlative tourbillon, just not that it was the strongest in this category.
RS: I knew that the Rudis Sylva was going to be a tough sell, perhaps largely because it was not new; but in a group of far more compelling escapements I am bowled over that the Girard-Perregaux won this category. Regardless, I think it is absolutely beautiful, I bet it’s a dream to handle, and it must have been a close vote for the win with some of the others being a little more love/hate.
ED: Ryan, I think you have nailed the reasoning. I am sure it must have been close.
For more information, please visit www.girard-perregaux.com/watch/la-esmeralda-tourbillon.
IS: Here is one category where both myself and the majority of our panel were successful in predicting the winner. The MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual was an no-brainer for me, and I was pleased to learn that the jury agreed. I also thought it worth noting how gracious Maximilian Büsser’s acceptance speech was in highlighting and thanking Stephen McDonnell, the Irish watchmaker/movement designer who both conceived and developed the Legacy Machine Perpetual movement.
MG: Another well-deserved win for Max Büsser’s MB&F. I really like this watch and the innovation that it brings to the perpetual calendar. The competition was either more traditional or really on the completely other end of the spectrum. The Legacy Machine Perpetual took the high ground in the middle, and rightfully so.
RS: Despite such incredibly strong competition, the Legacy Machine Perpetual was an easy pick. The only doubt I had was that the sheer awesomeness of the watch and the range of deserving alternatives in this group would make the LM Perpetual the obvious choice for the Aiguille d’Or. Any other year and the trophy would have been Svend Andersen’s or Andreas Strehler’s for the taking.
Further reading: Why Legacy Machine Perpetual Catapults MB&F Into The Big League.
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/legacy-machines/lmperpetual.
IS: There were a few categories in which myself and most, if not all, of our panel got it wrong, and a few categories in which most of us got it right: happily this was one of the latter. Despite this being a very strongly contested category, the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ looked a clear winner to me and I was very pleased to see that when the results were announced the jury agreed.
MG: Another well-deserved winner is in my book the Visionnaire DTZ by Faberge. Again a category with adamant competition, but I felt from the beginning that the Fabergé was the most refined in bringing the complication in a new way.
ED: This is a funky, interesting watch – and I’m glad it captured so much attention. The possibility was strong that it would be too niche for a large jury, but its interesting and unusual mechanics won out.
RS: I was pretty confident that the Visionnaire would win this, although I bet the DB25 inspired quite a lot of discussion!
For more information, please visit www.faberge.com/products/1694_faberge-visionnaire-dtz-18-karat-white-gold.
MG: This was for me the candy store category! What fantastic watches and what a fabulous winner! I thought that it was good for Audemars Piguet to once again flex its considerable horological muscles. We tend to forget these capabilities from time to time due to the huge success of historically significant, yet technically fairly straightforward Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore models. This watch shows once more why this brand is part of the “horological trinity” – and for a good reason!
IS: While Joshua and I correctly predicted that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie would win this category, I think that Ryan really deserves the credit as he predicted the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 would take this category, which only missed out here because it won the Aiguille d’Or.
RS: When the Supersonnerie won I was torn. It is such an obvious candidate for the prize and I was very pleased for AP, but I felt bad for my favorite, the FB 1, which I assumed was to be forgotten. Little did I know that the jury had bigger plans for it!
ED: Ryan, interesting you should bring this up. The rules dictate that we must find 5 watches from among the entire offering of 72 pre-selected entries to vote on for the Aiguille d’Or. Narrowing them down to five is so much harder than you would ever think and one of the longest discussions of voting day. We then vote the winner in secret.
What the narrowing process achieves is that we privately know what to look for on the evening of the GPHG in order to guess the results. Remember that we do not know the winners ahead of time. As the evening progressed and the usual suspects took their category awards, my mind raced. There weren’t many possibilities left in terms of the big prize winner. But as soon as I realized what it must be, I kept an eye on Chopard’s Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the man behind this watch’s existence, who wasn’t sitting too far away from me. I think I saw the exact moment he realized what was coming. The look on his face was truly delightful to me.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/en/watch-collection/royal-oak-concept.
IS: I thought that the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze was the best watch in this category, but I didn’t select it as the winner because as I wrote, ” I love the Black Bay, I want a Black Bay, and I think it is the best watch here, but . . . this is 2016 and I’m looking for the best watch under 8,000 Swiss francs over the last year. For me, a new coat of paint on a watch from 2013 isn’t enough to win against the tough competition here, even if it’s enough to make me want to buy one.”
I am not at all surprised that the jury selected this Tudor Black Bay, but I am disappointed that simply a fresh color was so highly rated because this is only more likely to stifle expensive innovation rather than encourage it.
MG: Again a category where my personal taste interferes. Of all these watches the Tudor is probably the most successful regarding sales and its share of admirers, but I am not a fan of bronze cases, and that seems to be the highlight of this watch. However, as an industry professional I wouldn’t say that the win is not well deserved because Tudor did launch an incredible comeback, mainly thanks to the Black Bay.
The new manufacture movement is alone reason enough to buy the watch, and we all know that this watch is a future classic.
GG: I get that some folks considered my pick, the Seiko Presage Automatic Chronograph Enamel Dial, to be too crude in finishing to win, but how a Tudor movement slapped into a bronze case beat the lovely (and updated) Vulcain 50s Presidents’ Watch Tradition beats me.
JM: Two categories that I have to disagree with are the Sports watch and Petite Aiguille. I don’t disagree that the watches that won are great; I personally would wear both the Tudor Black Bay Bronze and the Eberhard & Co. Scafograf 300, but when considered next to others in the categories, I found these to fall behind in innovation, style, uniqueness, and functionality. I still contend that the Vulcain 50s Presidents’ Watch is incredible and was probably the best value in the Petite Aiguille category.
RS: This year it seems that the GPHG rewarded those brands that entered a handful of models. With an horological shotgun, Tudor shot no fewer than three Black Bays into the competition. But was the Bronze the right one for the win? As far as I was concerned the Black Bay stood a greater chance of winning in the Sports category. I must admit to being very disappointed that the Vulcain missed the mark, and that the Seiko nearly missed the lips of the announcers during the award introduction!
ED: Yeah, that seemed incredulous to me, too, Ryan. That guy needs to get his stuff in order!
IS: My comment regarding the Eberhard & Co Scafograf 300 was, “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.” Obviously the jury disagreed with me, and not for the first time. I think that the winner in this category was highly influenced by its price.
The GPHG might clarify the rules to reflect this because in many categories the jury is obviously taking value for money into account rather than simply selecting what they think is the best watch in each category. There is nothing at all wrong with using price as one of the criteria, but at present there is no mention in the rules in any category that value for money should be taken into consideration.
It was interesting that this category was the only one in which our panel was 100% in agreement that another watch would win, the Ressence Type 5B.
JM: We were unanimous in predicting the incredible and innovative Ressence Type 5B as the best sports watch to come along in a long time. Obviously the jury felt differently.
MG: This was the moment I fell almost out of my chair. I never understood in the first place how the Eberhard Scafograf 300 made the cut. It is a well made and robust diver designed according to the classic recipe . . . like so many others.
Of course, there is a challenge in comparing a diver from the affordable segment to a more precious, complicated and expensive watch like the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, but even among its direct peers, the Eberhard is not a watch that pops out.
GG: Eberhard in the Sports category over our panel’s unanimous pick, the Ressence, simply makes no sense.
RS: The Sports category was set to be the least controversial but ended up as the upset of the night for me. The Quill & Pad panel was about as useful as a political polling firm in a U.S. election with this category!
Honestly, I would have placed the Scafograf in stone-cold last place for this group. I expected the UN to win, but I hoped that the Ressence would be recognized as the most deserving (the Type 5 even made my shortlist for Aiguille d’Or!). That neither of them won . . . well, I am speechless. Elizabeth?!
ED: If I can shed a little light here . . .
I am also not 100 percent sure how the Eberhard made it to the very top in this category; it’s perhaps pure mathematics in the end. And please do remember that we – a large jury of 27 people – are voting on which watch is the best to wear while doing sports: this is the sports watch category after all.
While I would have also pegged the Ressence diver as a shoe-in before the hands-on jury meeting, what we discovered was that it was very difficult to manipulate that watch to set the time, etc. I’m not sure if it was a faulty prototype or there was something we didn’t get, but either scenario certainly made it hard to justify voting it the best sports watch of the year.
I – and I think many others as well – felt that the Ulysse Nardin was in the wrong category. It should have been in Mechanical Exception, not Sports. And as commissioner Ludwig Oechslin reminded me later in the evening, if something’s in the wrong category we shouldn’t be voting for it.
Even though it could well be worn for sports, that isn’t the goal of the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, nor can it be recognized as such.
IS: I agree, Elizabeth, but the disappointing thing for me regarding the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon was that it wasn’t the brand that placed them in the inappropriate category, but rather the GPHG structure. That’s something that should be addressed next time because it’s one thing if the brand picks the wrong category, but the organizers need to be extremely careful in their recommendations.
While there really was no ideal category for the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, it should have been for Ulysse Nardin to make the call in my opinion.
The Scafograf 300 is a great dive watch for the money, but I’m still not convinced that it’s a great general sports watch.
For more information www.eberhard-co-watches.ch/en/press-release/scafograf-300.
NO: The Chanel Secret Watch Signature Grenat was my third choice. It’s such a bold piece and one I could not – would not – wear, but there’s no dispute that the design is intriguing and the workmanship is flawless. Chanel pulled out all the stops on this one.
And have I mentioned I love secret watches?
MG: I loved the Chanel from the beginning but didn’t place it in my top 3 because I thought, and still think, that it would look better without the 52.61-carat Carmine garnet. The use of stones is exquisite and very refined here, but more refined than the other ones? I am not too sure. I think that this is also the challenge of this category, as it displays so many different watches in which the stones are so well and creatively used.
IS: While I selected a few winners, where I got it wrong was in thinking or hoping that the jury would express a preference for innovation over facelifts. This was what I said about the Chanel before the announcement, ” I quite like the autumnal colors of the gems selected for the quartz-powered Chanel Secret Watch “Signature Grenat,” so I’ll award full marks for ” . . . distinguished by the choice of stones.” And that 53-carat carmine garnet must be one of the most impressive watch covers ever! However, I can’t help but feel, whether true or not, that I’ve seen too many Chanel Secret watches in this category.
Well, I may have seen too many Chanel Secret watches in this category for my taste, but keep them coming, Chanel, because the GPHG jury obviously hasn’t. Not yet anyway.
RS: Another surprise for me. The Secret Watch is highly impressive, but I thought the mix of colors and the sheer noise of it would keep it out of the running.
ED: The jewelry watch category is the one I always go into the meetings with a very open mind about. Even we journalists almost never get to see or handle these incredible, often rare and unique timepieces throughout the year, so we often have to go on description and supposition born of experience.
Two things always happen when the watches are out in front of us: the gem experts on the jury tell us more about the settings and stone quality than I could have known by myself – though I am always careful to do my homework beforehand, I am not a gemstone expert – and putting these pieces on the wrist tells me almost everything else I need to know: is it wearable? How does it feel on the skin? Was it really made with its owner in mind or more as a look-at-me talking piece?
I can tell you that one of the watches pre-selected in this category was completely unwearable: too heavy, sharp angles, and not mechanically usable as intended. And that was surprising, as you’d never guess it from the photos.
The Chanel that eventually won was a visual and haptic treat on every front: it felt like silk on the skin, the secret mechanism was impeccable, the stones were amazing quality as well as perfectly set and chosen to inspire a small feeling of surprise.
The Graff Butterfly came so very close to inducing this same feeling; it too is impeccably made. But I think it was the color accents and that gargantuan garnet that may have clinched the Chanel win. I know I was very impressed by it.
For more information, please visit www.chanel.com/en_WW/Watches/exceptional-pieces/jewelry-watches/les-eternelles-de-chanel-collection-2016.
NO: Piaget’s Protocole XXL Secrets & Lights Venice Micro-Mosaic was my second choice for winner. I think it is an amazing feat of workmanship – and patience – but I deducted points because it represents, in general, one broad category of artistic craftsmanship, albeit a truly amazing one.
IS: The Artistic Crafts was one of the most difficult categories to pick a winner as all of the pre-selected watches were very strong contenders. While the Piaget wasn’t my first pick, I do think that the incredible art and craft that went into the “Secrets & Lights” Venice Micro-Mosaic makes it a very well-deserving laureate.
MG: The Piaget was my number one choice, and I am very glad to see that it won. I still think that the mosaic is done so well that it seems to have taken a super-human type of craftsmanship. An amazing accomplishment that received the honor it deserved.
RS: Extremely deserving, the Artistic Craft category hosted a fantastic group this year. You could have picked the winner out of a hat and I would have believed it had passed a rigorous assessment. This was the watch that, on reflection, I should have voted for.
For more information, please visit http://int.piaget.com/secrets-and-lights.
MG: I am absolutely ecstatic that the public has recognized the extraordinary craftsmanship of the 33 bis Quai des Bergues by Czapek. This is truly a connoisseur’s watch, much in the same way as I think a watch by H. Moser & Cie is, and it is great to see that there are so many connoisseurs out there.
Czapek is one of those brands for which I cannot wait to see what they are going to bring next. I wouldn’t be surprised when that watch, whenever it may be launched, will also earn a spot among the GPHG nominees!
IS: I thought that the Czapek Genève 33 bis Quai des Bergues was a great choice by the public, and one that should give hope to those that have come to doubt the wisdom of crowds in elections.
JM: The Public prize, awarded to Czapek, is something that may have some people wondering, but after having met with the people behind the revival brand and hearing about the mission behind the watches, I can say that I am fully behind what they are doing. The styling might be not everyone’s cup of tea, but I truly love the engineering and detail that has gone into the watch; and the transparency about suppliers and watchmakers is very refreshing for a watch of that caliber.
ED: I was so pleased for Xavier de Roquemaurel and his team for this incredible honor from the watch-buying public. This was a well-deserved win much the way that MB&F’s Legacy Machine was chosen a few years ago. Bravo and congratulations to this interesting start-up!
For more information, please visit www.czapek.com/blog/portfolio/quai-des-bergues-n33-bis.
JM: The Revival prize is always a contentious category as some feel it promotes rehashing what has already been done and doesn’t foster innovation, but I think the winner this year quiets those complaints a little. The TAG Heuer, Heuer Monza Chronograph is freaking awesome, and one of the best revivals of an old style by such a mainstream brand. Allowing it to remain a Heuer-branded piece is the best part, and it definitely is on my list of wants.
ED: This was so very deserving in this category, and I loved watching Jack Heuer receive the prize himself. Again, bravo!
IS: This is a prize to drop as far as I’m concerned as I don’t feel that brands need any encouragement in rehashing old ideas, they do that quite well without anyone’s help. If any brand deserved the revival prize it was Ferdinand Berthoud because that was at least a serious revival.
For more information, please visit http://us.tagheuer.com/en/news/the-heuer-monza-chronograph.
JM: But perhaps the most poignant moment of the night was awarding the special Jury Prize to none other than the late George Daniels and the George Daniels Educational Trust. George Daniels is, without a doubt, one of the most influential watchmakers of the twentieth century due to his tireless pursuit of maintaining traditional watchmaking skills and the invention of an entirely new escapement. His educational trust is a lasting legacy that will help shape the watch industry for a long time and its recognition is well earned.
IS: Great choice! Well-deserved recognition.
ED: I am so very proud of this one coming to fruition! It is a hard category, and the suggestions discussed on voting day are widely varied. George worked his whole life to make watches by hand. Though he wasn’t much for taking apprentices, his only apprentice was one that truly counted and one that continues to be one of the best examples of hand-making watches to this day: Roger Smith.
Using the vast wealth that Daniels accumulated throughout his career to continue furthering watchmaker and apprentice education is a stunning way to put so much good to great use.
I also very much enjoyed the acceptance speech by David Newman, president of The George Daniels Educational Trust, and also enjoyed seeing so many BHI ties in evidence at the awards ceremony (also worn by jury member Stephen Forsey).
For more information, please visit www.danielstrust.org.
IS: While I thought that the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 was worth mentioning as a serious also-ran, I really didn’t think it was in with a chance to win the big prize because for me the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual was heads and shoulders above the rest of the field.
There is no doubting FB 1’s technical credentials, and over the months since its launch I even came to both understand and appreciate its unusual design. But, my first reaction and the initial reactions of nearly everyone I spoke to were along the lines of, “What on earth were they thinking regarding the case and dial design?”
And it appears that the rest of our panel felt the same as none of us selected FB 1 for the Aiguille d’Or winner (except Joshua who hedged his bets by picking half of the field).
The jury obviously saw something that most of us missed. I think that the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 is a watch well worthy of the prize, but the choice was a big surprise for me. I do hope this recognition encourages the brand to do more.
MG: One of my favorite watches of this GPHG was the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1, and although there were so many other great watches this time, it rightfully took the crown. It is innovative in almost every way, yet still honors the classic design rules. The result is a very bold and powerful watch with technical prowess, which you can already see will age very well. I feel like this prize also honors Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, who has over the past decades so skillfully fine-tuned the Chopard collection and now uses all this knowledge combined with his talent also for Ferdinand Berthoud.
GG: Finally, while I grasp and to some extent appreciate the deck-chronometer concept behind the Berthoud that took the top prize, the exclusion of a chronometer escapement and inclusion of a tourbillon for me are somewhat inconsistent with that concept. And the aesthetics of the piece are very much not to my taste.
It was great to see Scheufele, a grand gentleman and true watch lover, accept the big award, but in a year in which we had breakthrough watches like the MB&F Perpetual Calendar and Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire on the candidate list I, like many others I spoke with, found the selection of the Berthoud unfulfilling.
One thing for sure: I’m not going to start wagering on my picks, as once again my selections and the jury’s didn’t exactly match!
JM: Given the winners and the other players in the evening, I think the 2016 GPHG was a great success and shows a gradual improvement from precious years. While there are still many issues like the limited participating brands and some concerns of politics and equality, the GPHG provides a great exposure for the excellent watchmaking that occurs every year around the world. I can’t wait to see what the next year has to offer.
Also published on Medium.