Our Predictions In The Petite Aiguille Category Of The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève And Our Panel Is Split Between Two 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
Ashton Tracy (AT), contributor, watchmaker, and blogger
Alex Ghotbi (AG), vintage watch expert at Phillips
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 Petite Aiguille category for watches entered as: “offered for a retail price that falls between 4,000 and 10,000 Swiss francs.”
MG: This is one of my favorite categories as it contains watches that are a lot of fun and often quite affordable. Also, this year’s lineup doesn’t disappoint in the least.
IS: Wow! I thought that the pre-selected watches in the Men’s category were all highly desirable, but what a diverse selection we have in the Petite Aiguille category. If you bought all six you would have an excellent collection of the wide range of 2018 contemporary watchmaking. This is a very competitive price range and at this level customers have serious expectations of both quality and delight.
JM: Once again we find ourselves with a fantastic selection of watches from a bunch of great brands vying for the Petite Aiguille prize. Out of the six in this category, there is only one that I feel stands out as uninspiring – and not because it is a bad watch, but because the competition seems to be playing hardball this year.
Usually the Petite Aiguille sees a smattering of options from “That’s awesome!” to “Meh, I’ve seen better.” This year, nearly all of them are in the realm of “Wow, I can’t believe you can get that for that price!” The selection is going to be difficult, and I feel that this year we may be fairly split on who deserves to win.
JM: I have to split my third-place decision between two very different but equally awesome pieces: this and the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur.
The Vicenterra Tycho Brahe Série T2 Anthra contains one of the most affordable three-dimensional globes for world time out there. I’m not sure if anything else can match this for its depth and the inclusion of a perpendicular plane rotation. The style is clean and the offset display adds motion to increase its ability to catch your eye. And, at $5,200, more than $1700 less than the UN Marine Torpilleur, it definitely represents awesome value for the money.
Alas, the watch, no matter how cool that globe is, feels a bit shy of being the best mid-range affordable watch. I would love to own one myself (along with many others in the competition), but among the group it’s competing with, it isn’t as wow as it needs to be.
MG: Vicenterra is an underappreciated brand with stunning creations, and I really like that the GPHG puts it into the spotlight. Why is this one not my favorite in this category, though? Because I prefer the Vicenterra models with tonneau-shaped cases as I think that that case configuration works even better for his extraordinary combination of complications.
AT: I’m not sure where to begin with this one and having read the press release, I don’t think the makers do either. I can see what they have tried to do, but it just isn’t happening.
IS: While I think that the idea of seeing sunrise sunset around the earth is an interesting alternative to a moon phase, a brand that starts a press text with gibberish like, “As sober as remarkable, this new Tycho Brahe is a mass of emotion and of pure technicality. As its creator says, this piece is a real ‘earthly attraction’” isn’t stepping up on my podium. That all-important first sentence tells me absolutely zero, as does the next paragraph. There may be something there but the message is lost on me.
And what’s with that date? Did they blindfold somebody and ask them to throw a dart at a photo on a board? I could like it without that date, but with . . . arrgggghhhhhhhh.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/tycho-brahe-serie-t2-anthra.
Quick Facts Vicenterra Tycho Brahe Série T2 Anthra
Case: 43 x 11.75 mm, titanium
Movement: unspecified manual-winding caliber, 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, earth phase
Limitation: 99 pieces
Price: 5,184 Swiss francs
AT: It’s a fun watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Something about the shape of the case looks a little odd to me; I’m not a big fan of the crown “ears,” either. I much prefer the joint model with Svend Andersen’s poker-playing dog automaton in the Mechanical Exception category.
MG: Who doesn’t smile when they see Konstantin Chaykin’s Clown? This is a brilliant creation, both in concept and in execution. This is how watchmaking should also be: fun and high end at the same time.
JM: This watch is fun as almost everyone that sees it will attest to. And its predecessor, the Joker, took the watch world by surprise and found an immediate fan base. I love that such a talented and skilled watchmaker and inventor would also be able to create something fun and quirky that, when actually deconstructed, represents a fairly interesting use of mechanics and display styles.
As Chaykin has shown this idea has some legs, and iterations are begging to be made. I think, though, that the clown does have a tinge of uneasiness about it since many people have fears of clowns, which doesn’t help this piece with the voting. I feel it is a rather strong watch, and with other competitors it might have a stronger showing, but I don’t feel it will take the category this year.
IS: While I’m a big fan of the Konstantin Chaykin Joker and think that the Clown should make a few of those who missed out on the Joker happy, it’s too derivative for me to win against this strong field.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/clown.
Further reading: Why I Bought It: Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Quick Facts Konstantin Chaykin Clown
Case: 42 x 13.7 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber K07-0 (ETA 2824-2 with Chaykin module), 38-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: regulator hours and minutes; moon phase display
Limitation: 27 pieces
Price: 9,800 Swiss francs
AT: A simple yet elegant Longines automatic, but the inclusion of a silicon balance spring and 64-hour power reserve makes it a respectable piece. It’s classic and understated, and I like it a lot.
MG: In the world of watches, Longines is a powerhouse. And with this Record it has also become the very interesting proposition of a high-quality movement captured in a gold case at a competitive price point. It is even fit with a stunning blue dial – though it was then ruined by being given a date wheel with a white background. There should be a law against this, especially in Switzerland!
IS: I’m with you, Martin. I’d happily introduce a law stating date rings must be either the same color as the dial or a complimentary color to the dial (as judged by us alone). You buy this watch for its gorgeous blue dial: don’t pollute it. But despite that it’s still a beautiful looking watch, and that pink gold case really sets off the azure hue on the dial. A silicon escapement and 64-hour power reserve aren’t too shabby, either.
JM: What can I add about the Longines Record aside from saying it is a great watch that features a silicon balance spring and C.O.S.C rating, but does nothing for me emotionally.
As far as design goes, I can’t tell it’s from Longines as it feels almost completely homogenous and without flair. I understand that brands need to think about mass-market viability, and this watch has nothing I can find wrong with it, but in the end it doesn’t have anything that makes me choose it (with my wallet or vote) over another watch.
I’m sure the watch sells well, and you might see it on many a middle managers’ wrist, but I can’t help but feel the designers were given a design brief that basically allowed them to choose colors and nothing else. As someone with a design background, I know that every shape, line, and proportion is a choice that someone has to actually make, but it still feels overly constrained and lacking of heart.
For example: Nomos watches are simple, yet they feel full of humanity. This makes me feel its absence.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/record.
Quick Facts Longines Record
Case: 38.5 x 10.72 mm, pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber L888.4 (ETA A31.L11). officially C.O.S.C. chronometer-certified, 64-hour power reserve, 25,200 vph frequency, silicon balance spring
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 6,300 Swiss francs
AT: I realize there is great debate about date windows with many firmly believing that a date window can destroy the look of an otherwise attractive timepiece. I am not in that camp, but this offering from Ulysse Nardin makes me want to convert. It looks as if production was halted and a hole was punched in the dial when someone noticed it was missing. I don’t like the HUGE Roman numerals or the splashes of red. At least it features UN’s new escapement.
IS: I am in the a-bad-date-window-ruins-the-dial-for-me camp, Ashton. And why in an otherwise good-looking dial add a tiny date that nobody over 40 years old will ever be able to read? And only 50 meters’ water resistance in an aquatically-themed watch? I’d expect 100 meters there. On the plus side there’s that in-house movement with a 60-hour power reserve and special silicon escapement.
JM: The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur is a fantastic chronometer from a brand that loves to invest in cutting-edge research and then slowly trickle the rewards into what would look like everyday watches. The Marine Torpilleur boasts a solid 60-hour power reserve and the silicon anchor escapement that helps it beat extra consistently for the entire period. The watch looks great if you are into the marine style, and the price point is pretty good for the cutting-edge tech that Ulysse Nardin put inside. It does feel like it’s missing that special something that sets it clearly apart, though, so I don’t think it can take the top spot.
MG: What a beautiful creation the Ulysse Nardin Marine is in this configuration! Although not named Torpilleur, it has been a staple in the watch industry for 22 years. That’s why I love it, but that is also why I cannot get very excited over it in this category.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/marine-torpilleur.
Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur
Case: 42 x 11.1 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber UN-118 with patented inertia balance wheel and silicon hairspring; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency; power reserve 60 hours, C.O.S.C. chronometer certified
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve
Price: €6,900 Swiss francs
AT: The Ming is certainly out there. What I love about this watch is how little it cares about conventional horology. The luminous ring on the outside of the dial is space age and a nice touch. The way the crystal is dark in the center and opaque toward the outer edges is certainly revolutionary. The movement has been well chosen and really made at Schwarz Etienne, even if I don’t like skeletonized movements.
The watch is not for me, but I have to admire what they are trying to do; it’s a market few are filling and I’m sure they have a following.
AG: I truly love the fact that this watch was made by a true, passionate collector. It ticks all the boxes: a modern and playful design with beautifully constructed sapphire crystal and titanium case with a wonderful movement with a very interesting architecture. Add a known brand name on the dial and you can also add an extra zero to the price tag. A great bang for your buck!
MG: The Ming 19.01 is a very well-designed watch fitted with a stunning movement. It is incredible how fast the brand has carved out a niche for its creations, yet when you see the Ming 19.01 you immediately understand why this is the case.
IS: I thought that the Ming 19.01 would likely be a shoe-in to win the Petite Aiguille this year as the watch and brand offered so much at a very competitive price. But it’s my pick for second place: while the Ming 19.01 is by far the stronger in this competition by many criteria, an in-house, split-seconds chronograph trumps a very nicely modified third-party movement. I rejoice that both brands are small independents.
JM: After the early commercial success of this brand, the Ming 19.01 seems poised to take home a trophy with the incredible creation that is its crowning achievement. With the incredible sapphire crystal that has an applied fading printing, the awesomely customized Schwarz-Etienne movement, and the literal attention to every detail (that seriously is what the brand is about), the 19.01 shines as a watch almost specifically designed to win an award.
It knocked it out of the park when it launched, and even though it was much more expensive than its baby brother, I haven’t heard more than maybe a murmur of dissent about its awesomeness. The watch itself was designed by collectors for collectors, giving them something that represented true value for money and was unique in as many ways as possible. I think that this year it will be hard-pressed to be bested as it just seems to be made to win this category.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/1901.
Further reading: Ming 19.01 By Ming Thein, Unparalleled Quality For Price
Quick Facts Ming 19.01
Case: 39 x 10.9 mm, titanium
Movement: manual winding Schwarz-Etienne Caliber MSE100.1 exclusive for Ming, 100-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 7,925 Swiss francs
AT: Who doesn’t love Richard and Maria Habring? They have a picture of themselves on their website with a flock of sheep. I have never met them, but they seem to be the least pretentious people on earth, and their watches reflect that. I love everything about them: they are who they are, nothing more and nothing less.
I admire their passion, drive and honesty when it comes to making watches, and they do make some fantastic watches with the Doppel-Felix being one of these. I am big admirer of split-seconds chronographs, and the Habring doesn’t disappoint. I really like what they have done with the date display; the overall class of the watch is undeniable. It’s easily this year’s winner for me.
MG: I am a big fan of Habring2’s work too, Ashton, and to me in many ways this watch represents the ultimate Habring2. As the inventor of the rattrapante module that we still find inside the famous IWC Doppelchronograph and many other split-second creations by the Schaffhausen-based brand, Richard Habring has now used the same basic idea in a creation of his own. I absolutely love the classical approach as well as the combination of the pointer date.
This watch is a homerun for me – to the extent that I might even need to add it to my personal collection in the near future. So no wonder that this is also my winner in this category!
IS: Habring2 walked away with Best Sports Watch in the 2012 GPHG for the Doppel 2.0 chronograph. With the Doppel-Felix Richard and Maria Habring ramp it up with a split-seconds chronograph plus an elegant pointer date hand (no off-putting date window) on request. Sheer brilliance offering more flexibility for clients. An in-house split-second chronograph of this quality at this price from a large brand would be an achievement, from a small independent it’s to be applauded. The Habring2 Doppel-Felix is my pick for the Petite Aiguille.
For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/doppel-felix.
Quick Facts Habring2 Doppel-Felix
Case: 42 x 12.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manual winding Caliber A11, 48-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, split-seconds chronograph
Price: 8,650 Swiss francs
Martin: Habring2 Doppel-Felix
Ashton: Habring2 Doppel-Felix
Ian: Habring2 Doppel-Felix
Alex: Ming 19.01
Joshua: Ming 19.01
You may also enjoy:
Habring2 Gets Happy (And Serious) With Felix, Featuring First Austrian Movement
Why I Bought It: Konstantin Chaykin Joker
Ming 19.01 By Ming Thein, Unparalleled Quality For Price
Ulysse Nardin Adds A Casual Military Look To The Marine Torpilleur Collection
Konstantin Chaykin And Svend Andersen Joker Automaton: Haute Horlogerie Irreverence
Also published on Medium.