Our Predictions For Best Men’s Complication Watch At The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (Spoiler Alert! Panel Is Divided, But Has Clear Favorites)
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2018 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
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
Alex Ghotbi (AG), vintage watch expert at Phillips
Ashton Tracy (AT), contributor, watchmaker, and blogger
Note: as jury members, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr and resident collector GaryG do not take part in these early predictions.
The GPHG foundation describes the Men’s Complication category for watches entered as: “remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications like the annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, moon phase, a digital or retrograde time display, world time, dual time or others. These do not fit the definition of the Men’s or Mechanical Exception categories.”
AT: The 2018 Men’s Complication category has a lovely selection of watches, but there is one clear hands-down winner for me: the Krayon Everywhere Horizon. Nothing else in this group even comes close. There are certainly better-looking watches, watches I would much prefer to wear, but the Krayon has to win. And so it should.
IS: The Men’s Complication is yet another very difficult category because of the strength of the six pre-selected watches, but I will be guided by the rules, which state that we should give highest marks to “. . . men’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity . . .” That’s a clear line to follow.
JM: The Men’s Complication category is an interesting addition this year, I imagine it to be sort of a “Mechanical Exception Light.” In past years, the GPHG has had a tourbillon, calendar, or travel time category to focus in on a group of submissions. This year, the field has obviously pushed the GPHG Foundation to make a second mechanical exception-like category to hold the watches that are complicated but aren’t just focused on one type of complication.
I think that, depending on how they create these categories, this one seems like it should become a mainstay so that it allows awesome, complicated watches a chance to compete when they aren’t on the level of the super complication usually found in mechanical exception. There is a Petite Aiguille category, too, so why not a “Petite Mechanical Exception”?
And, like the Men’s category, I would be immensely pleased to own any watch in this category, so it will be an interesting outcome for me whatever it is.
MG: The Men’s Complication category shows great variety, and I am curious what will tempt the jury. It remains difficult to value the different complications as they compare to one another. Does the Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece start from behind because it is an annual calendar and not a perpetual calendar like the Vacheron Constantin Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, or will the jury look beyond this and appreciate the beautiful technical execution of its movement? The only thing these watches are equal in is the way that they differ from each other.
AG: This is a difficult choice as all the watches are very attractive. However, the only one with a novel complication is the Krayon Everywhere, which offers the possibility for the wearer to set the times of sunrise and sunset anywhere in the world.
AT: A moon phase complication accurate for 1,000 years is impressive, but it’s not quite as impressive as the moon phases of Ochs and Junior, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Christiaan van der Klaauw, and Andreas Strehler, which smash that number (see The 8 Most Accurate Moon Phase Wristwatches Today). However, we do have to judge the watch at hand. I don’t know if the Vantablack dial is supposed to be an aspect of the complication, but it doesn’t do anything for me.
IS: This is an absolutely sensational watch, but unless I missed the notification that color was now an officially recognized horological complication, Ashton, I can’t see how a moon phase with a better-than-standard-accuracy of one day’s deviation after 1027.30 years can win a category with an emphasis on remarkable mechanical creativity and complexity.
Sorry, Moser, the Perpetual Moon Concept Vantablack is an absolutely stunning watch. And it’s both unfortunate and unlucky that it doesn’t conform to the criteria for the Men’s Watch category (standard moon phases only) because that’s where it should be in my opinion. Did I mention that I think it’s absolutely stunning?
JM: I am an H. Moser & Cie. fanboy for sure, and I have a track record for liking moon phases (see The 8 Most Accurate Moon Phase Wristwatches Today), and now that Vantablack® is making its way into watchmaking, my material science nerd is properly excited. I love this iteration of the Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept; it is literally the perfect combination of Moser simplicity with a single complication.
I can’t think of a better synthesis of a brand’s design identity in a single timepiece. This watch is truly spectacular. But on a complication front, while very accurate (it made my list above) it still is “just” a moon phase watch. When the competition is what it is, that, combined with cutting edge materials, still isn’t enough to take the top spot.
MG: If Professor Snape from Harry Potter wore a watch, this would be it. Sinister and complicated, this is a Moser watch that I appreciate much more than the Endeavour Flying Hours. Less is more and, in this case, much more! The moon phase is really the star (no pun intended) but doesn’t overshadow the rest of the cast. The dial is pure and stunning with the brand even forgoing any vanity to avoid signing the dial; the case is refined and well finished. As it is a Moser, the movement also doesn’t leave much room for improvement.
For more information please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/endeavour-perpetual-moon-concept-vantablack.
Quick Facts H. Moser & Cie Perpetual Moon Concept Vantablack
Case: 42 x 12.9 mm, stainless steel
Dial: coated with ultra-black Vantablack
Movement: manual-winding Caliber C806, developed in partnership with Hautlence and based on H. Moser Caliber HMC 801 with 168-hour power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; moon phase, power reserve indication, day/night indication
Limitation: 50 pieces
Price: 35,000 Swiss francs
AT: A very well put together timepiece with classic Vacheron Constantin styling. It is impressively thin for a perpetual calendar and a lovely all-around piece.
MG: This is a beautiful creation like so many Vacheron Constantins are, but that’s about it. This watch is in many ways very traditional, and even the Overseas case doesn’t change that. While it is an ultra-slim watch, which adds to its complexity, this remains exactly what we expect of Vacheron Constantin; it is nothing more and nothing less. That makes it a remarkable watch yet coming up a bit short here in terms of the competition.
JM: In third place I pick one of the nicest and most wearable sports-oriented perpetual calendars on the market. I haven’t been too into Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas collection, mainly because I feel the refined sportiness of the line is lacking the punch of a lot of the other collections. But the Ultra-Thin QP just has the perfect balance of features, style, and, most importantly, size to possibly become an everyday watch.
The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar has everything you need to be refined yet adventurous, and, for me, doesn’t bring with it any of the fanboy cache of a Patek Philippe or Rolex. It feels very honest, and I like that. If this was a calendar category, I would be hard pressed to choose differently, but in the broader complication category it falls short considering the competition.
IS: It really emphasizes just how strong the competition is in this category when an ultra-thin perpetual calendar by Vacheron Constantin, one of the greatest names in fine watchmaking, doesn’t even make my top three.
This automatic ultra-thin indicating hours, minutes, date, day, month, moon phase, perpetual calendar, and leap year in a sub-42 mm case Overseas case is a watch dreams are made of. And I do think that Overseas ultra-thin perpetual calendar is remarkable in terms of its mechanical creativity and complexity, just not quite remarkable enough in this group.
Quick Facts Vacheron Constantin Overseas Ultra-Thin Perpetual Calendar
Case: 41.5 x 8.1 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 1120 QP/1, 19,800 vph frequency, 40-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with date, day, month, leap year, moon phase
Price: 81,500 Swiss francs
For more information please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/overseas-ultra-thin-perpetual-calendar.
MG: My heart skipped a beat when I was presented the Galet Annual Calendar School Piece at this year’s SIHH. I think that it is a very well executed, clever piece that looks like a million bucks (which it doesn’t cost, by the way) when it is on the wrist. Its styling is literally simply beautiful, and I also like it that Ferrier brought an annual calendar to the next level as opposed to the more prestigious perpetual calendar. If it weren’t for the Bulgari, this would be my personal winner in this category.
AT: I love this watch. I only recently saw my first Laurent Ferrier in the flesh, and I fell in love with it. I love how Ferrier is understated and isn’t afraid to have understated branding. He lets the horology do the talking. This is the watch out of the lot that I would personally choose, I just love it. An annual calendar with modern styling that has been tastefully rendered.
JM: This is one of the most interesting Laurent Ferrier timepieces in a while, simply because it feels like the biggest departure from the standard styling of the brand. I always love annual calendars as they are functionally nearly the same as perpetual calendars aside from the auto correction in February (I can make one adjustment a year). The vibe given off by this piece is awesome and has a very modern direction that still feels vintage, probably thanks to the color choices.
And of course, Laurent Ferrier always has incredible movements, so truly it has a lot going for it. But like other watches that didn’t make my top picks, it just isn’t enough of a standout piece compared to the competition, so I’ll have to pass it over.
IS: The Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece is another drool-inducing watch, and I like the layout of the indications on the dial. But are a power reserve indicator and annual calendar remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity? Sorry, but no.
This is another watch I would be extremely happy to own and wear, but it isn’t remarkable enough for me against such strong competition in the Men’s Complication category.
For more information please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/galet-annual-calendar-school-piece.
Quick Facts Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece
Case: 40 x 12.64 mm, stainless steel
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication, annual calendar with date, day, month
Movement: manually wound Caliber LF126.01, 80-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Price: 50,000 Swiss francs
AT: With so much hype around the world’s thinnest tourbillon, this is certainly a marvel of horological engineering holding three world records: the thinnest automatic watch, the thinnest tourbillon, and the thinnest automatic tourbillon. Due to the timing of release and being up against stiff competition, I don’t think that the Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic will make the top spot. I personally don’t like the watch, but I certainly admire the ingenuity and engineering.
JM: My second-place choice is an easy one and goes handily to the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic. It is a seriously thin piece of horological history, and the fourth Octo Finissimo model to be record breaking. Heck, two of its brothers won awards last year at the GPHG, so it clearly is in good company.
The Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic pushes the boundaries of thin while being very strong, constructed almost entirely out of titanium, and the style is awesomely avant-garde to say the least. If it had a different set of competitors, it would win handily. But I think the Octo’s winning streak is over this year thanks to another watch that deserves some spotlight.
MG: With the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic Bulgari is pushing boundaries – and lots of them. When you put the watch on the wrist, the fit and visuals are almost unbelievable despite the fact that you can see its movement visibly doing its job. This also makes the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic the winner of this category in my book. It innovates over multiple axes, pushing boundaries even further, and because of that it contributes to watchmaking as a whole.
IS: I didn’t come into the 2018 Men’s Complication category expecting to proclaim the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic as both my choice for winner and the watch I think that the jury will choose (Krayon being a bit too complicated). I’m still blown away by the sheer appeal of this thin Octa case and how it works so well in so many different configurations.
A thin tourbillon isn’t particularly remarkable in terms of mechanical creativity and complexity, but the world’s thinnest automatic watch, the world’s thinnest tourbillon, and the world’s thinnest automatic tourbillon in a distinctive easy-to-wear case is mechanically creative enough for me.
Seeing much of the movement dial side is a bonus for me. The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic is my winner as Men’s Complication 2018.
For more information please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/octo-finissimo-tourbillon-automatic.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
Case: 42 x 3.95 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 288 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 52-hour power reserve, ultra-flat skeletonized movement measuring 1.95 mm in height; peripheral winding rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limiation: 50 pieces
Price: 120,000 Swiss francs
AT: Again, a very well-constructed tourbillon making use of modern manufacturing techniques, but nowhere enough to win.
JM: The Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges Skeleton is a very cool take on the classic three bridges line, and I definitely want to see more “Neo” models coming from the brand. It is a way to stay modern and quirky, which I think many brands could benefit from. But when you look at the others in this category, it is, somehow, not the most impressive timepiece. When a watch like this isn’t the standout piece, you know the competition is stiff.
AG: My vote goes to Girard-Perregaux, who has managed the difficult task of turning one of its icons into a very modern timepiece. Everything has changed, and nothing has changed with the Three Bridge Tourbillon: the brand’s designers have taken a nineteenth-century design and successfully brought it into the twenty-first century. Kudos!
MG: I commend how Girard-Perregaux has taken its Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges into the twenty-first century. Its design is absolutely breathtaking, yet it remains pretty much the same tourbillon concept throughout. I would have loved it if the technicians had been able to add some more innovation into the concept here, though, pushing the envelope a bit more as I know the brand has the technical capability to do so.
IS: While there are certainly exceptions, it’s been a long time since I have automatically considered a tourbillon a particularly interesting complication, let alone a remarkable complication – many don’t even consider a tourbillon a complication at all. And even a tourbillon doubling up as small seconds isn’t enough to make the cut in this crowd.
However, the magic words in the category definition are “remarkable mechanical creativity,” and I’ll give Girard-Perregaux full points for creativity in designing the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges. This is a very contemporary skeleton tourbillon that looks cutting-edge new while managing to keep one foot in the traditionalist camp. While slightly on the large size for my small wrists, the Neo Tourbillon with Three Bridges gets my bronze medal.
For more information please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/neo-tourbillon-three-bridges-skeleton.
Quick Facts Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon With Three Bridges Skeleton
Case: 45 x 15.85 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber GP 9400-0011 with 60-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds on tourbillon
Price: 145,000 Swiss francs
IS: Rarely has a watch displaying something so easily understood (sunrise and sunset time) been so completely misunderstood. Okay, the Krayon Everywhere doesn’t simply display sunrise and sunset times, but automatically calculates sunrise and sunset times nearly anywhere on the planet. That’s “remarkable mechanical creativity” in my book.
Why Krayon entered a gem-set model in a complication category I don’t know, but the dial is so entrancing/intriguing/confounding that, incredibly, the diamonds fade into the background.
MG: I love diamonds on men’s watches if they are integrated into the design, Ian, and their added value goes beyond the price tag. While the setting of the Everywhere Horizon is superb, the diamonds add very little. In fact, I think that they take away from the superb technical complexity of the movement and the organized way that the complications are presented on the dial. A winner without the diamonds.
IS: The Krayon Everywhere is easily good enough to win the Men’s Complication category, but I suspect that few of the jury will understand, or bother to understand, the watch enough to fully appreciate it. And I’m still not sure if I understand it well enough myself. The Krayon Everywhere gets my silver medal.
JM: For me, the watch that deserves this win the most is the Krayon Everywhere Horizon. It debuted last year with a more reserved version, so for that reason this is the only gem-set watch in the complication category. But the gems aren’t what make this piece special; it’s what it can do and how it does it that makes it special. I just dived deep to understand this watch in Krayon Everywhere: Who Knew Mechanically Calculating Sunrise/Sunset (Nearly) Anywhere On The Planet Would Be A Mental Workout (For The Author)? Plus Lots Of Videos and, no foolin’, no other timepiece in this category is more deserving.
The amount of technical creativity inside is unmatched, largely across the industry, and especially by the competitors in this group. Creating a watch that can be set forward and backward that displays sunrise and sunset in any location in the world is a major accomplishment, and hopefully the jury will be helped enough by knowledgeable people, or the documentation is clear enough, for this watch to gain the appreciation it deserves. Building this watch was like building a grand complication, yet it works as well as a simple GMT watch. When it comes to mechanical excellence, it stands head and shoulders above its peers.
AT: I have to start off by saying the example offered here is quite possibly the least attractive watch I have ever seen. The steel version with white dial and yellow and blue sunrise/sunset is so much better looking, but hey, it’s all personal preference.
It is still the clear winner of the category for me. The engineering that has gone into this watch is just amazing. A true passion project, nothing in the lineup even comes close: a programmable sunrise/sunset complication is such an enormous complication.
The Jules Audemars sunrise/sunset watch, for example, is a beautiful timepiece, but the location desired is engraved on the bezel and requires specifically manufactured cams for the location. A programmable version that can be easily set to any latitude in the world is just remarkable. Kudos to the team at Krayon.
Quick Facts Krayon Everywhere Horizon
Case: 43 x 11.7 mm, white gold, bezel set with 70 baguette-cut diamonds (3.5 ct), lugs set with 24 baguette-cut diamonds (1.35 ct), engraved
Movement: automatic Caliber Universal Sunrise & Sunset (USS) with 80-hour power reserve; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; sunset and sunrise, month, date, longitude, latitude, UTC, function indicator
Limitation: one unique example
Price: CHF 775,000
Joshua: Krayon Everywhere Horizon
Ashton: Krayon Everywhere Horizon
Ian: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
Martin: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
Alex: Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon With Three Bridges Skeleton
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