Our Predictions For The Aiguille d’Or At The 2017 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2017 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 GPHG defines the Aiguille d’Or category as, “a prize rewarding the best overall watch among all categories and is the most prestigious award.”
GG: As I did last year, I went through the entire list of pre-selected watches and picked those that, regardless of category or earlier placement, I thought had the greatest merit overall. As a result, my list of semifinalists included one of my “losers,” the MB&F Aquapod, along with a subset of the category winners I selected in our prior round table discussions.
My full list of semifinalists, in no particular order: the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate, Singer Reimagined Track 1, Greubel Forsey QP à Équation, Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical, Voutilainen Aki-No-Kure, and the aforementioned MB&F.
This is actually a somewhat shorter list than I’ve generated in past years; despite what I felt to be a generally strong field this year, there were, for me at least, certain watches that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Speaking of which, don’t get me started again about the AkriviA AK06, which certainly would have been on my shortlist here had the jury not omitted it from the pre-selected watches.
IS: While there has been quite a wild variation between the categories in both the quality and suitability of pre-selected watches, in general this has been a strong year for exceptional watches. I’ve found the selection of pre-selected watches to be extremely haphazard this year, with too many non-qualifying or barely qualifying watches in the categories. And I’m still not over the omission of the AkriviA AK-06 in the Men’s watch category as it would have been a strong contender for me for the Aiguille d’Or.
JM: The Aiguille d’Or is the toughest category every year as we now have to choose one watch to rule them all out of a stunning assembly of timepieces. It really is like picking your favorite cat (or child for people with some of those) and is nearly impossible to remain objective. There are amazing pieces in each category, sometimes multiple in each category, that could be considered the “best watch” of the year. My own shortlist was whittled down to 13 watches after a lot of deliberation. And even then I worry about not taking something into consideration and missing one that deserves the title.
I didn’t want to take politics into consideration, and I wasn’t going to guess which ones would win a category indicating it hadn’t been picked for the Aiguille d’Or.
I chose which watch I felt is the best of the best. But my shortlist is hard to give up, so I firmly believe that Vacheron Constantin, Kari Voutilainen, Greubel Forsey, A. Lange & Söhne, and Fabergé have very good chances of winning the Aiguille d’Or. But, alas, there can only be one, so I truly had to make some tough choices.
RS: Last year I performed a refreshed analysis of my category predictions and whittled down the list by ruling each one out as the overall showstopper. This year I found myself excitedly announcing my top prize pick in the Calendar category. But if I’m honest it’s a two-horse race.
GG: It was not easy to pare my list further! The Vacheron Constantin has the stunning (and to me coherent) array of astronomical complications, and the Greubel Forsey not only has a novel computer that controls the forward and backward movement of the perpetual calendar mechanism but also perhaps the most intuitive display of the equation of time I have yet seen. And to hold the Voutilainen Aki-No-Kure in one’s hands (or, better yet, see each of its stunning surfaces through a loupe) is to hear the voices of the angels singing.
IS: In the absence of the AkriviA AK-06, my contenders for the Aiguille d’Or are the Singer Reimagined Track 1, Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance, Greubel Forsey QP à Équation, and the Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical.
JM: The Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance is awesome, Ian, and from a watchmaking standpoint is definitely worthy of being awarded for its technical achievements. The look of the watch is fantastic for anyone that loves the mechanics of watchmaking, and the rarity of the mechanism cannot be overlooked or understated. I think Armin Strom fares a great chance of being awarded the Aiguille d’Or for this piece, though I fear, like happens for the “best of the best” category, the larger names tend to win, even when it comes to independent brands. Armin Strom faces an uphill battle here, but I think the watch has no faults that would disqualify it, only tough competition from perennial favorites for the GPHG jury.
GG: At the end I was won over by the Singer: the AgenGraphe movement is delightfully innovative, the display of running time and chronograph indications both dramatic and clear, and the packaging, all the way down to the perforated strap, is both striking and a perfect embodiment of the Singer brand.
The Vacheron Constantin was simply irresistible as my second choice despite strong competition, and since I haven’t gotten yelled at too loudly for declaring the occasional tie or two I’ll declare a dead heat between the imposing Greubel Forsey and lyrical Voutilainen for third.
On the other hand, if as a reflection of the wacky world we live in these days the jury decides to award the top prize to Konstantin Chaykin’s Joker, I certainly won’t complain!
MG: It is quite challenging to pick which watch should win the coveted Aiguille d’Or among all these amazing watches as they are all amazing for different qualities. After careful contemplation, my choice is the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic. Of all the watches that have been part of the GPHG pre-selection this year, it is in my opinion the one that it the most groundbreaking: it presents a record-breaking ultra-thin movement in a case and bracelet composition that can actually take it mainstream.
For an ultra-thin movement it is almost unprecedented as the majority of them have historically been encased in gold, destined to spend their lives as a dress watch, something this Bulgari is not. It is a major achievement and one that to me is worthy of taking home the Aiguille d’Or.
RS: Joint-top for me has to be the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph. It’s attractive, it’s collaborative, it’s genuinely fresh and innovative, and it’s extremely cool. With two Agenhor chronographs in that category I can see a clear opportunity for one to win the category and one to win the show. For me, the Fabergé is deserving of the top pick: its Visionnaire range is the glove that fits the hand of Agenhor perfectly.
JM: I still can’t say enough good things about the Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike, either. It simply is a stunning watch and a beautiful minute repeater. The technical merits can’t really be questioned, and the style is probably the more divisive aspect, though it is visually very impressive. The sound is flawless, and the research behind it is very interesting. I think the Full Strike has a great chance of winning the Aiguille d’Or and should be on anyone’s shortlist. I know there is a precedent set for choosing technical watches that are also beautiful, so this falls right into that sweet spot in more ways than one. The only reason I didn’t choose it as the winner (it is my runner-up) is because I truly think this year belongs to another watch and another mechanism that has really come back in a big way.
IS: Slimming my short list of four – Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance, Singer Reimagined Track 1, Greubel Forsey QP à Équation, and Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical – down to one is where it gets hard. As impressive as the Vacheron Constantin Celestia Astronomical is, it’s my first cut as I think the other three show more innovation and invention, and that’s what I’d like to encourage.
JM: If I have to be honest about what I think might win based on history, I would be hard pressed to go with any watch other than the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual Pour le Mérite. It is a terrifically fantastic watch and from a brand that I love like the day is long. Given the other choices this year I don’t actually think it is the “best” watch, even if it is freaking amazing. I just feel like the momentum is elsewhere. That being said, A. Lange & Söhne is a powerhouse and beloved across the industry. If there were to be a disappointment for Singer (and Agenhor) it could probably come at the hands of A. Lange & Söhne. I don’t think it will, but I know there is a good chance it will come out on top simply due to what it is and who makes it.
I believe this year marks the resurgence of the noble chronograph, with a number of brands and watchmakers coming out with their own takes on the mechanism. I would hope this has not gone unnoticed to the jury and that the mechanism will take center stage for the Aiguille d’Or. The Singer Track 1 is part of a one-two punch from Agenhor as its brand-new chronograph movement is the basis for the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph as well as the Track 1. The movement, and how Singer has implemented it, is one of the most exciting technical accomplishments of the past year and has finally dealt with the myriad of issues surrounding the chronograph mechanism.
The Singer Track 1 was, I believe, more successful in that implementation than Fabergé and so takes the lead to win the Aiguille d’Or. Such a sport watch usually does not win the best of the best, but this year I think that tradition could very well be broken. I think the Singer Track 1 stands tall as the best watch this year due to its incredible accomplishments and the ergonomically inspired design. Let’s see if the jury agrees.
IS: As much as I’d like to outdo Gary’s tie for third place with a triple tie for first place shared by the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance, Singer Reimagined Track 1, and Greubel Forsey QP à Équation, I think that the jury is likely to play it safe and award this big prize to a more well established brand like Vacheron Constantin or Greubel Forsey rather than a new brand launching its first watch. And resonance is a complex subject to understand for the “lay” members of the jury.
But in terms of innovation and absolutely 100 percent cohesion from A to Z, the Singer Reimagined Track 1 is the watch I’d like to win (and wear).
RS: Back in our Calendar category discussion I was torn between the Krayon Everywhere and the Greubel Forsey QP à Équation. The former got my vote for the sheer utility it brought to an old-world complication, but the latter plucked at my heartstrings: a staggering showcase of finish and complexity. It’s one of the greatest calendar watches to have been created, yet its calendar complications don’t overcrowd the GF signature inclined tourbillon. The QP à Équation has everything you would expect of the Aiguille D’Or.
Ian: Singer Reimagined Singer Track 1 (my pick, but more likely the Greubel Forsey QP à Équation will pip the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance)
GaryG: Singer Reimagined Singer Track 1
Joshua: Singer Reimagined Singer Track 1
Martin: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic
Ryan: tie between Greubel Forsey QP à Équation and Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph