Quill & Pad’s Predictions In The Ladies Category Of The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2018 edition of Quill & Pad’s early 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
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Ryan Schmidt (RS), contributor and author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches
Alex Ghotbi (AG), vintage watch expert at Phillips
Ashton Tracy (AT), contributor, watchmaker, and blogger
The GPHG foundation describes the Ladies category for watches entered as: “comprising only the following indications: hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve, and/or classic moon phase. These timepieces may be adorned with a maximum of eight carats’ worth of gemstones.”
IS: While ladies’ watches have come a long way from adding a bit of glitter to a smallish men’s watch, my first reaction upon seeing the six pre-selected Ladies watches was (referring to the group in general), “Really, this is the best we can do?” I can’t help feeling that women deserve more and are looking for more than a few scintillating gems, so I’ll ignore all precious and semi-precious stones and judge the watches here on their less apparent merits.
JM: Here we go again as we put our minds to the task of picking the (possibly wrong) winners for each GPHG category, starting with the Ladies. Always a bit contentious, this category presents a variety of timepieces that seek to represent what a woman wants, but in reality as a man I couldn’t hope to know precisely what it is in a particular watch that entrances a woman. I know what popular media tells women they should want, but everyone is different. This year the pre-selected pieces show a good variety and make it hard to choose. But, alas, we must try.
AT: Five women’s watches and the Moritz Grossmann: I would say that pretty much sums up this year’s Ladies category. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Moritz Grossmann as a watch, but it doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the rest of the categories’ entrants until you examine further.
All of the entrants are simple mechanically, and with only one quartz contender it is certainly an interesting line-up. It leaves me wondering what is considered a “woman’s watch” in the day and age in which we live? With so many women wearing what are traditional men’s watches, most offerings now tend to be unisex. Perhaps a new category for next year?
MG: What I always like best about the ladies’ watch category is the way that elegance and functionality merge into one beautiful object. The six pre-selected contenders are once again not disappointing as they all combine these two aspects in their unique way, thus making it quite difficult for the jury to come to a final verdict!
IS: I was despairing whether I’d find a watch in this category interesting enough to warrant showing to my wife, and, happily, the Amadeo Fleurier 39 Fan Bovet has come up with the goods. Yes, it has the seemingly (for this category) de rigueur beautiful dial surrounded by diamonds (that appears obligatory for the category), but even without the sparkles this is a watch worthy of pre-selection.
While the fan on the dial adds a touch of artwork, it’s the versatility of the patented Bovet Amadeo case that’s worth highlighting: this is a wristwatch that quickly transforms into either a table clock or pendant.
AG: This watch really goes the extra mile, Ian. It’s not just a diamond-set watch but the beautiful enamel dial with miniature painting gives it incredible sophistication and class.
RS: And I love those hands!
MG: Early this year Vacheron Constantin showed that hot air balloons are an awesome topic to display on a watch, and Bovet now does the same with a fan. The way that the brand’s artisans have integrated this on the dial of the watch is elegant and very artistic. My only issue with this watch is that it is a true piece of art and therefore also a piece unique, while I would suspect that there is more demand.
RS: I am a sucker for the use of mixed media in decorating the dial of a woman’s watch, Martin.
AT: At first glance, I thought it was peacock, then realized it was a fan; I guess the name should have given it away. Is it the women’s pendant, table clock, or watch category? It’s not sure and neither am I. I can see what Bovet has gone for here, but I’m not a fan (no pun intended); it seems to be the multitool of watchmaking: a 3-in-1, all-purpose horological one stop shop for clock, watch, and pendant.
The dial itself is quite remarkable and I can certainly admire the time, expertise, and expense in creating it, but I can’t get past that monstrosity of a bow at 12 o’clock.
AG: The fact that the crown and bow are at 12 o’clock give the watch a definitive twist, Ashton, and I love the fact that it can be transformed into a pendant watch. In fact, this is a watch for all occasions that in my opinion would look as good at the office or worn during a gala night out.
RS: The fact that the watch can be converted into a pendant or table clock is a nice quirk that fits the Bovet template, but I still wonder if it’s teeing itself up for redundancy in real life. Super pretty, it’s my second-place pick.
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/amadeo-fleurier-39-fan.
Quick Facts Bovet 1822 Amadeo Fleurier 39 Fan
Case: 39 x 12.33 mm, red gold; case is convertible to become pendant and table clock as well as wristwatch; bow, bezel and lug set with 227 diamonds (1.71 ct), crown and strap bolt set with 5 briolette-cut diamonds
Dial: polished lacquer miniature painting on mother-of-pearl
Movement: automatic Caliber 11BA13, 72-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 1 unique piece
Price: 88,960 Swiss francs
IS: While I might put more emphasis on the technical aspects of watches in this category, I also value other elements including design, and with the Boy.Friend Skeleton Chanel has hit a home run out of the park. The proportions of the (nearly rectangular) octagonal case are just perfect, and the straight lines of the case highlight the curved bridges of the skeleton movement. The Boy.Friend Skeleton shows that you do not need a lot of smoke and mirrors to make a great ladies’ watch, but you do need meticulous attention to detail.
While the Moritz Grossmann Tefnut Twist Classic is my personal “best” ladies’ watch, I think that the GPHG jury will go for the Boy.Friend Skeleton. And I would not berate it for that decision.
MG: Chanel most certainly knows how to hit the right note as the Boy.Friend Skeleton is haute horlogerie, haute couture, but most of all very Chanel all at once. The watch is sober and abundant at the same time – and complex enough to elevate the pulse of many watch enthusiasts. For me it is the winner in this category.
AT: I am a big fan of this watch. I love the style, the movement, the layout: I love it all. It’s understated and elegant, yet it can be dressed up or down. Traditionally I am not a fan of skeletonized watches, but Chanel has done a great job with this one. It’s aesthetically pleasing and reveals just the right amount. In my opinion, a true classic. This is the clear winner of the category for me, it manages to combine classic styling with modern watchmaking and is a great all-round piece.
RS: I think I am compromised! First, as this watch comes from the Boy.Friend range, is it technically supposed to appeal to me just as much as a woman? It certainly does. Second, I can see the craft of Romain Gauthier’s atelier all over this. I’ve lost my objectivity and I don’t care: this is my pick.
JM: My winner is based on boldness, contrast, and how it helps portray a strong woman. The Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton is a lesson in mixing styles and inspirations and in creating one solid timepiece. The case is inspired from the classic Première design of Chanel and is built upon the Boy.Friend concept first launched in 2015.
The Caliber 3 skeleton movement, designed from the ground up, defines a masculine energy, which compliments the softness of the gold and jewels while proving that Chanel is dedicated to becoming a true horology brand. This is a movement I would gladly have in a watch of my own, and if the case lacked diamonds I probably would take the whole package.
The Boy.Friend Skeleton may be a bit divisive, and it may even struggle to win everyone over, but when it comes to a fantastic-looking watch, it just stands apart from its competition. I guess the jury might feel the same way, or at least I’m making a bet they might!
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/boy-friend-skeleton.
Quick Facts Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton
Case: 37 x 28.6 x 8.4 mm, beige gold with onyx cabochon, bezel set with 66 brilliant-cut diamonds (0.92 ct)
Movement: manual winding manufacture Caliber 3, skeleton, power reserve 55 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, variable inertia balance
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 53,900 Swiss francs
Further reading: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton: Intriguing Views From All Angles
IS: The Moritz Grossmann Tefnut Twist Classic is the watch I think should win the Ladies category. Take an in-house movement with superlative fine finishing and add just enough jewels for spice, but not so many that they dominate, and then add a feature so clever and useful that it’s a wonder it’s never been done before. Ladies tend to have longer fingernails than men so winding a mechanical movement can be a problem. Moritz Grossmann has eliminated this problem by offering winding via the strap/lugs. The crown at 4 o’clock is for time setting only, not winding.
At 36,400 Swiss francs the Tefnut Twist Classic isn’t the most affordable watch in this category, but I feel it offers the best value. This isn’t a superb ladies’ watch, it’s a superb watch.
JM: In my second place I have chosen a watch that many might have as the clear winner, however I feel the execution is a little lacking for a true ladies watch. The concept is excellent: a watch with a strap connection that doubles as a winding mechanism is a simple yet superb idea and understands one of the main complaints from women about manual-wind watches. I love the choice to create a unique winding solution for a female-oriented watch, but the rest of the piece feels a bit underwhelming.
A small row of diamonds around the periphery of the dial and some cabochon sapphires does not result in a top-notch women’s watch. Instead it results in what appears to be half-hearted after the hard work of figuring out the mechanism that is so innovative. It is a great watch, make no mistake, but I think the winding mechanism isn’t enough to make this the Ladies watch of the year.
RS: My first impressions of this watch are positive but not over excited, guys. It’s the winding mechanism integrated with the central lug at 6 o’clock that has me golf-clapping the brand. There is a lot to like about this – I can see it being popular – but I just don’t think it will capture the majority of hearts in the jury room.
MG: Elegance and functionality in a distinctly German style is what Moritz Grossmann offers with the Tefnut Twist Classic. By integrating the crown of the watch in the Vendome-style lugs, the brand has created something unique. I really like the subtle setting of diamonds to outline the dial, but find the blue sapphires a bit much in combination with a dial that above all oozes functionality. Although it holds a very strong second position, I feel that there is a slight imbalance in the different design elements of this extraordinary watch that keep it for me from getting first place.
AT: From a watchmaking perspective, this is my favorite of the lot. A fairly classic, understated design with an exceptional movement inside the case. It has crisp, clear numerals and a gorgeous set of hands.
When I first saw this watch, I was a little confused, as it seemed to be the same as the men’s version with a little extra bling. After closer examination, I saw the watch has been fitted with a “fingernail saving-device” and can be wound by twisting the strap mechanism. Definitely an interesting feature, one that would serve the women’s category very well.
As much as I like the watch, it just doesn’t do it for me. I love the classic styling, but something doesn’t sit right. It could be the fact that it is so similar to the gent’s model, and I don’t see the clear distinction between the categories.
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/tefnut-twist-classic.
Quick Facts Moritz Grossmann Tefnut Twist Classic
Case: 36 x 4.2 mm, white gold with brilliant-cut diamonds and sapphire cabochons
Movement: manual winding Caliber 102.2, winding by rotating the strap, 48-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 3 screw-mounted gold chatons, 2.5 Hz/18,800 vph frequency, untreated German silver components
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 36,400 Swiss francs
AT: The lone quartz offering in the line-up certainly features a striking dial. I do find the lapis lazuli dial to be a thing of beauty, with the simplicity of this piece impressing me. The Piaget is a classic timepiece that would be at home in 2018 or decades past, and I think that makes it a winner. I don’t think it will be going home with any awards, but still a solid offering from Piaget.
IS: I can understand the selection of a quartz movement in the jewelry category, where the emphasis isn’t on haute horlogerie, but a lapis lazuli dial surrounded by diamonds on top of a battery is the exact opposite of what I’m looking for in a good ladies’ watch. It’s pretty, but with little horological substance.
MG: While I am a huge fan of Piaget and am even wearing a Piaget as I write this, the Possession feels like a blast from the past to me. A beautiful one, but with a diameter of 29 mm, its narrow strap and quartz movement it feels to me more like a watch that would have been at home in the 1990s. I like the Possession proposition, but always think that it works better with more entry-level watches made of steel and a bezel set with only one diamond. To me, the beautiful lapis lazuli dial is not enough to compensate for all that.
RS: I probably need to see this on the wrist in the appropriate context, Martin, because I’m feeling a little uneasy about the proportion of the case in relation to the hands and strap. That aside, what a dial!
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/possession-lapis-lazuli.
Quick Facts Piaget Possession Lapis Lazuli
Case: 29 x 7.47 mm, pink gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds
Dial: lapis lazuli
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 20,000 Swiss francs
MG: Bulgari is on fire lately, but in my opinion not with the Lucea Tubogas Skeleton. When I handled the watch earlier this year in Switzerland, I was not impressed. The skeletonization of the movement looks a bit crude, and the cutout letters are literally placed on top of it. A pity because I consider the Lucea an excellent general design and one of the most impressive ladies watches currently available – as long as you get one with a dial! While I consider this one a hot mess I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulgari actually wins.
RS: This is indeed one noisy skeleton. There is just too much going on, I can’t see this being a widely appreciated watch. I also think the hands are a fraction too short.
IS: I’ll give the Bulgari Lucea Tubogas Skeleton a few points for having a mechanical movement. However, cheap skeletonization and poor movement finishing disguised by diamond-embedded letters spelling “Bulgari” encourage me to look elsewhere rather than deeper into this model.
AT: I wasn’t sure at first what I thought about this Bulgari, Ian, but all in all I think I like it. It’s a fun watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it has the horological cred to back it up. The brand name on the dial encrusted with diamonds is light hearted and it makes me smile. Even the red hands and crown make me want to have fun.
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/lvcea-tubogas-skeleton.
Quick Facts Bulgari Lucea Tubogas Skeleton
Case: 33 x 10.09 mm, pink gold set with diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 191 with 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, skeletonized
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: 40,800 Swiss francs
IS: With 446 diamonds, the Chaumet Laurier is certainly a very attractive watch. But this isn’t the jewelry category, so zero points from me for that. I do like the aventurine dial, but that, like the matching strap and diamonds, is basically cosmetic. The Laurier may be worth more than $70,000 as a piece of jewelry, but for a great ladies’ watch I’m expecting more serious horology.
JM: In my third place I pick the watch that I feel is the most feminine and alluring of the bunch: the Chaumet Laurier. It is a beautiful “secret” watch that grabs the eye no matter who you are. Given that it is also the most jeweled it already kind of borders on a different category, even though it is well within the eight-carat limit. But it also is the most refined and magical of the pre-selected pieces, and the swiveling diamond laurel cover that lets you peek into the aventurine dial is rather inspired. But alas, I don’t think it has what it takes to be the big winner, namely because it isn’t boldly elegant like other brands have begun creating. If this was a different category, then the Chaumet Laurier would be giving everyone a run for their money.
MG: With the Laurier, Chaumet has created an extremely feminine watch complete with satin strap. It plays on the tradition of being a functional piece of jewelry and focuses on being ultra-feminine. The craftsmanship is second to none, but at the same time there is little to me that sets it apart from similar watches from other watchmaker-jewelers.
AT: I admire this piece’s dial, but the watch itself doesn’t do much for me. I find the “secret” aspect of the watch pointless; it doesn’t really bring anything to the table.
RS: With 446 diamonds in action I feel guilty calling this watch “simple.” It’s stunning, really, but I just can’t stop looking at the Chanel!
For more please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/laurier.
Quick Facts Chaumet Laurier
Case: 30 x 12.3 mm, white gold set with 446 brilliant-cut diamonds (3.34 ct)
Dial: aventurine with diamond-set “secret” cover
Movement: unspecified automatic caliber with 40-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 71,600 Swiss francs
Ian: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton (but hopes for Moritz Grossmann Tefnut Twist Classic)
Joshua: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton
Martin: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton
Ryan: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton
Ashton: Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton
Alex: Bovet 1822 Amadeo Fleurier 39 Fan
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Chanel Boy.Friend Skeleton: Intriguing Views From All Angles
5 New Ladies Timepieces Both Technically Intriguing And Aesthetically Captivating
Parmigiani Fleurier’s Kalparisma Nova Galaxy Featuring An Exquisite Aventurine Dial Is A Celestial Delight