Our Predictions For The Ladies Category Of The 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2017 edition of Quill & Pad’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why.
The panelists are:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Ryan Schmidt (RS), author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches and contributor
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Note: as a jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from this panel.
The GPHG foundation describes the Ladies category for watches entered as “women’s watches comprising two at most of the following indications: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, second time zone; may be adorned with a maximum 8-carat gem setting.”
JM: It’s that time of year again where we get to drool over some of the most interesting watches of the year and try to choose which ones deserve recognition over their compatriots. The 2017 categories have a lot of interesting entries, including many that surprised me.
This week we focus on the ladies’ watches, and what a category this is shaping up to be! I’m having a hard time defining my criteria as all of the watches are very different but have definite strengths. Of course, I have to give a bit of deference to unusual or mechanically exceptional pieces, since that is really where my heart lies.
IS: As will become evident in both my favorite watch in this category and in subsequent GPHG 2017 predictions, I would very much like to see the Grand Prix committee and jury reward genuine innovation rather than simply slapping a new coat of paint on watches we have seen far too many times before.
To that end, I have three different watches that I’d like to highlight in the Ladies category: one that I’d like to win; one that I think should win; and one that I think will win.
RS: It’s a really lovely selection this year, with some interesting contrasts between the six shortlisted entrants.
MG: The Ladies category is always one of my favorites, and the entries are especially magnificent this year – to me even of a higher quality then last year’s (see Quill & Pad’s Predictions In The Ladies Category Of The 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève). They demonstrate that ladies’ watches have come a long way, and now more often than not combine a sophisticated mechanical movement with exceptional good looks!
Fiona Krüger Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity
IS: The watch that I’d very much like to win, just for the cobweb-blowing shock and awe effect, is Fiona Krüger’s Petit Skull Eternity. This choice would be worth it just for the free marketing for the Grand Prix that this admittedly controversial choice would be certain to generate.
But, alas, unless somebody slips some LSD into the jury’s drinks, I can’t see that happening despite the sheer beauty of the incongruity of the celebratory splashes of color on the usually dour symbol of a skull. And I like the fact that all of the colors have meaning: those on the dial all relate to the Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Mexico, while the colors around the bezel are inspired by an eternity ring of Krüger’s grandmother.
JM: Fiona Krüger’s Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity is a seriously cool and unusual watch, one that makes everybody that sees it smile. Even people who say they wouldn’t want to wear one can’t help but think it is pretty rad. I’ve loved Fiona Krüger and her skull watches since I first saw them, and this one feels imbued with so much happiness and joy, even in the face of mortality, that it surely fills the soul with a zest for life.
For many women it might not be the best daily wearer, and to some it may have a limited usability (perhaps not the first choice to pair with an elegant black dress), but as a fun and fresh ladies’ watch, this one stands among some of the best.
RS: The Fiona Krüger Petit Skull is a cacophony of color layered upon a macabre foundation. It’s lots of fun and one of the watches I would cross the street to ask its wearer about (I expect I would see it from across the street, too!). It’s my third-place choice for its sheer character and unabashed form.
MG: In general I don’t like watches that feature skulls, but Fiona’s timepieces are the exception to my rule: this watch is fun! It is well designed, excellently executed, and uses bold colors in both lacquer and gemstones. Despite this, I can actually see that this watch will become someone’s daily wearer – sorry, Joshua, I do believe this – and to me that represents the highest honor any watch can rise to!
GG: Okay, I’ll be honest here (not that I don’t try to be in general, but never mind): in my initial survey of the category the clear winner was the Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton with its wonderful lightness, beautiful three-dimensional camellia bridges holding the working bits of the movement, and its feminine-but-not-too-flouncy styling. Then I took a peek at the price: 122,222 Swiss francs! At 22,222 it would have been the obvious choice, but in good conscience I just can’t imagine the extra hundred grand.
Happily, the Fiona Krüger watch comes in at almost 100,000 Francs lower than the Chanel and has a great deal to recommend it: colorful by day and luminous by night; inspired by Día de Los Muertos themes of Mexico of which I am very fond; and an “eternity” bezel made from a repeating pattern of seven different stones that is reminiscent of an eternity ring owned by Fiona’s grandmother keeping the owner mindful of the passage of each week.
IS: Gary, I’ve also been tempted to take cost into account because it’s such a determining factor on everything else like quality, materials, finishing, but there is nothing in the rules about factoring in price, and I’ve not heard that the jury receives any guidance along those lines. My guess is that some of the jury does factor in price while others judge strictly by the rules and compare apples with oranges (and if so, that’s a sub-optimal state of affairs).
While I don’t think that the Petit Skull Eternity will win (not this year at least), I’d be very happy if it did and I salute the jury for shortlisting it.
For more information, please visit www.fionakrugertimepieces.com/products/petit-skull-celebration-eternity and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/petit-skull-celebration-eternity.
Quick Facts Fiona Krüger Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity
Case: 48 x 34.5 x 9.8 mm, stainless steel set with seven different types of colored gemstones, including diamond
Movement: automatic Soprod A10 fully skeletonized and with custom components including the rotor, which has the same guilloché pattern and color treatment as the dial
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 18 pieces
Price: 22,500 Swiss francs (excluding VAT)
- Fiona Krüger’s Celebration Skull: Life, Death, Mortality . . . And Watches
- Fiona Krüger’s Unusual Petit Skull Watches Have Made Me A Fan
Urwerk UR-106 Flower Power
IS: The watch that I think should win is the Urwerk UR-106 Flower Power. The UR-106 is a refreshing example of an entirely new haute horlogerie wristwatch for women, rather than simply adding jewels to a men’s watch or reducing the diameter of a ubiquitous round watch. Not that the diamonds in Flower Power aren’t likely to be a major attraction!
The UR-106 Flower Power would not only be a well-deserved winner in the Ladies category, it would send a clear signal for brands to get out of their archives and to spend more time creating something new.
Flower Power is a watch for 2017, whereas many of the others would not look out of place in 1957.
MG: Urwerk was not kidding when naming this UR-106 as it does indeed yield considerable flower power! But what impresses me more is that Urwerk has succeeded in making the bold lines of its collection very feminine with only a few, relatively minor, adaptations to the original theme.
This watch is a thoroughbred Urwerk, and the setting of the diamonds, especially on the case, is exquisite. The diamonds that form the flower motifs in the middle and between the satellites give the watch a dash of the whimsical but very nicely dosed, adding just the right amount of casual flair.
JM: The Urwerk UR-106 Flower Power is, quite obviously, mechanically awesome. I will always cheer what comes from Urwerk, and the ladies’ versions in recent history have been outstanding (see Urwerk UR-106 Lotus: Welcome To The Future Of Feminine Watches). This piece is the dressed-up option for those attending a fabulous evening with a bit of flair.
The size, shape, and choice of diamond placement is great and not overwhelming like many diamond-set pieces can be, while the uniqueness of the UR-106 base gives anyone wearing this an instant boost of horological street cred. The Flower Power is incredible and could easily take top honors among a whole host of incredible watches.
Alas, both the Urwerk UR-106 Flower Power and the Fiona Krüger’s Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity are a bit wild, and when considering the category they may be a bit too daring for many women to be considered the best ladies’ watch. They are fantastic, and I would choose them in a heartbeat. But with the competition in this category, they (sadly) fall short of being the best all-around ladies’ watch, and that is what will make the difference.
For more information, please visit www.urwerk.com/en/collection-106-collection-ur-106 and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/ur-106-flower-power.
Quick Facts Urwerk UR-106 Flower Power
Case: 49.4 x 35 x 14.45 mm, stainless steel and titanium set with 239 diamonds (2.53 ct total)
Movement: automatic Caliber UR-6.01 with satellite displays driven by Geneva crosses
Functions: hours (shown by satellite), minutes; moon phase
Limitation: 11 pieces
Price: 98,000 Swiss francs
- Urwerk UR-106 Lotus: Welcome To The Future Of Feminine Watches
- 8 Spectacular And Truly Unique Watches Making Debuts At SIHH 2017
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold
IS: I suspect that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold will attract a lot of votes from the jury because it is an incredibly eye-catching watch and a safe choice that will not rock any boats. Even at a size of 37 mm, the Royal Oak case is not the most feminine of shapes, though the Florentine frosting technique creates a sheen and texture that really has to be seen to be appreciated. At SIHH 2017, I saw first hand the awestruck reaction of all of the women (and most of the men) who handled it.
And both ladies and gentlemen are equally likely to enjoy a timeless Royal Oak on the wrist.
I had initially picked the Royal Oak Frosted Gold as the likely winner because it has so much presence, but swapped it out because I would be voting for the finish rather than the watch and I thought another was more original. I wouldn’t at all be surprised, though, if the jury fell for this one as it is absolutely superb.
RS: The AP Royal Oak might just win it this year, and here’s why it should: there has clearly been an appetite for pink gold, sporty, bracelet watches in the ladies segment for a while; but this offering is the ultimate in my opinion.
Not so bejeweled as to seldom warrant a wearing, but with a frosting to provide almost equal visual sensation. This is a gentle frost on the grass as opposed to a full blanket of ice. The watch hits the sweet spot between haute and everyday. It’s got a sporty edge, but that does not come at the expense of superfluous complication.
If the last couple of years saw a boom in women “borrowing” Rolex Daytonas, this watch ought to earn a permanent place in a lady’s collection, and a frequent place on her wrist. My expectation is that the quality and substance of this watch will be undeniable to the judges.
MG: I was bit disturbed to find this Royal Oak in the Ladies category as I consider it more of a unisex watch (a concept only a few watchmakers have embraced). However, I love how the Florentine technique expands the looks of the Royal Oak into new territory – and especially that there still is exciting new territory for this staple in watchmaking history. I would actually proudly wear this watch myself, also because of its perfect size 37 mm size.
For more information, please visit www.audemarspiguet.com/en/new/frosted-gold and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/royal-oak-frosted-gold.
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold
Case: 37 x 9.8 mm, pink gold with Florentine frosted engraving
Movement: automatic AP Caliber 3120 with 60-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 46,500 Swiss francs
- Give Me 5! Five Fabulous Ladies Watches From SIHH 2017 From Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Piaget, Cartier, and Van Cleef & Arpels
Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton
IS: The watch that I think will win the Ladies category is the Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton, which was one of my highlights from Baselworld 2017, not simply because of the impeccable skeletonization and gem setting, but the genius in making a rectangular case (and movement) shape so alluringly feminine.
Without the diamonds this is a watch that could grace any man’s wrist with pride, but the addition of diamonds has transformed the Camélia Skeleton into the perfect accessory for even the most glamorous of occasions.
MG: This watch blew me away when I handled it at Baselworld earlier this year. Chanel has been really working hard on elevating its game when it comes to watches, but this one is just perfect because it is so very Chanel. It is one of those very few watches where I wouldn’t change a thing.
I love the way that Chanel approached the design of the movement, which really seems to gain synergy when placed in the brand-iconic Première case. The diamond-set hands are the icing on the cake! Despite heavy competition, this Chanel is my favorite to win the category.
JM: For my first place I chose a watch that, from any angle, is amazing and feels the most fitting as the winner of the title “best ladies’ watch.” The case design and diamond setting are perfect in my opinion, making this the most elegant I have seen on a watch in a while. The settings of the diamond hands, single row around the bezel, and sides of the case are fabulous, and the set crown allows just a little interaction with that beauty.
The case shape is lovely; the slightly chamfered rectangle is feminine without being gaudy. It feels timeless and, if I do say so, transcendent. The diamonds don’t feel over the top on this version thanks to the case shape, keeping many of them on the side out of view when looking straight on so that you aren’t overwhelmed by sparkle.
The movement, however, is what makes this piece shine. It is simple yet complex, and the multi-layered bridge style combined with excellent finishing and a simple time-only functionality allow for the design to glow.
The movement was built based on the shape of the camellia flower, and that shape is emphasized perfectly. I love the inspiration for the movement architecture, and if the case came in a fully non-jeweled version, I would totally rock this watch with the diamond hands and black-finished flower movement. This watch is a winner in so many more ways than just as a ladies’ watch; it is very well-considered and deserves to be recognized for its visual and technical accomplishments as a fantastic timepiece.
For more information, please visit www.chanel.com/en_US/watches-jewelry/watches/premiere-camelia-skeleton-watch and/or www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/premiere-camelia-skeleton.
Quick Facts Chanel Premíère Camellia Skeleton
Case: 28.5 x 37 mm, white gold set with 92 brilliant-cut diamonds; bezel set with 104 brilliant-cut diamonds; white gold crown set with 24 brilliant-cut diamonds
Movement: manually wound Chanel Caliber 2 with 48-hour power reserve and skeletonized bridges shaped like a flower, 107 components; 28,800 vph, variable inertia balance
Functions: hours, minutes
Strap: black satin, double folding clasp set with 30 brilliant-cut diamonds
Total diamond weight: 5.54 ct
Price: €130,000 / 122,222 Swiss francs
Chopard Imperiale Moonphase
IS: When it comes to ladies’ watches, few make them as well as Chopard, and the Imperiale Moonphase is no exception.
The constellations comprising pearls set into the mother-of-peal inner dial makes a perfect frame for the moon phase indicator just below 12 o’clock. And the very healthy 65-hour power reserve indicates that this timepiece has received as much under the bonnet as on the diamond-set dial and case.
If, like GaryG did above, I took price into account then my prediction is likely to be different, but there is nothing in the GPHG rules or notes to the jury that price is or should be a factor. The competition promotes haute horlogerie, not value for money.
MG: Balanced yet exotic, that is to me this Chopard Imperiale. With the Pasha de Cartier being one of my all time favorite watches (see Pasha De Cartier 42: Accidentally In Love), it is not hard to imagine why I also like the Imperiale. With the subtle moon phase display, mother-of-pearl celestial center, and the beautifully shaped wheel at 6 o’clock displaying the running seconds, I consider this one of the best Imperiales yet.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/imperiale-moonphase.
Quick Facts Chopard Imperiale Moonphase
Case: 36 x 9.84 mm, white gold set with diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber L.U.C 96.25-C with 65-hour power reserve, micro rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; moon phase
Price: 49,000 Swiss francs
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Métropolitaine Selene Galaxy
IS: What is it about ladies’ watches and the night sky? I’ve no idea, but few watches transport you into space as quickly as the scintillating aventurine dial of the Parmigiani Fleurier Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy.
And I love the fact that the hands are sketetonized so as not to obscure any of the beauty of the dial. If you can draw your gaze from the diamond-set bezel and sparkling dial, the realistic surface of the moon is well worthy of attention with its lunar “seas,” which are in fact craters created by applying multiple transfers in a very intricate and complex process, which involves great skill.
RS: The Parmigiani Fleurier is gorgeous, and I expect a hands-on inspection by the judges to warrant even more satisfaction than the stock images – something I have found to be consistent with Parmigiani watches. This is a very strong contender in my view, well priced, with its value clearly and beautifully displayed. The pairing of such a romantic complication with a dreamy dial material is perfect. The only thing that might beat this is the watch that demands to be worn everyday.
MG: You had me at “aventurine dial” . . . I truly love dials made from semi-precious stones, and aventurine is one of my favorites, even if this type is glass and not really a stone, because it gives you the impression that you are looking at a star studded night.
Unique about this watch is that Parmigiani encased it in steel. This is not the most common material to set diamonds into, especially when you create what is essentially an evening watch. Combined with the moon phase complication, Parmigiani illustrates what a modern day, feminine haute horlogerie watch should look like: a balance between technology and design as well as practicality and – let’s be honest – price, which I consider competitive for a complicated, diamond-set watch featuring a refined manufacture movement.
GG: My second place watch was the lovely Parmigiani Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy. In a world of “women’s” watches that seem simply to be jeweled versions of men’s pieces, it’s great to see a finely made ladies’ watch at a very wearable 33.2 mm in diameter. The aventurine dial, skeletonized hands, and beautiful etched moon are all lovely touches, and at 15,900 CHF for a watch of this quality it’s tough to pick against it.
IS: The russet moon of the Tonda Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy radiates the magical glow of exceptional nights.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/tonda-metropolitaine-selene.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Métropolitaine Sélène Galaxy
Case: 33.2 x 9.6 mm, stainless steel set with 72 brilliant-cut diamonds (0.51 ct)
Movement: automatic Caliber PF318 with 50-hour power reserve, twin serially operating spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, moon phase
Price: 15,900 Swiss francs
Ian: Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton (but near tie with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold)
Martin: Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton
Joshua: Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton
Ryan: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold
GaryG: Fiona Krüger Petit Skull (Celebration) Eternity