Our Predictions In The Ladies Complication Category Of The 2019 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Our Panel Is Unanimous!
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2019 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
Sean Li (SL), editorial director of Blackbird Watch Manual
Tim Mosso (TM), watch specialist and media director of pre-owned watch retailer Watchbox
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 Ladies Complication category as “women’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These watches may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications (like annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phase, digital or retrograde time display, world time, second time zone, or others) and do not fit the definition of the Ladies and Mechanical Exception categories.”
JM: With our second set of predictions we take a look at the Ladies Complication category, a surprisingly packed collection of ladies’ timepieces with more than an added moon phase or power reserve. These are very clearly designed to be different, and while I think one already has it in the bag, it will definitely be an interesting category for the judges this year.
IS: While I found the 2019 GPHG Ladies’ watch a relatively easy choice – though whether the jury agrees with me we have yet to discover – selecting the best Ladies Complication is a bit more difficult.
MG: The pre-selected watches in this category are quite diverse in nature, showing a wide variety of different complications all with one thing in common: where men’s complications seem to have a tendency to be practical, these watches for women focus more on being a visual spectacle.
SL: I think the GPHG has painted itself into a corner with some of the categories. If you take this particular one into consideration, a “complication” requires some kind of function that goes beyond the basic hours and minutes. As such, a tourbillon is not a complication per se, but it is certainly a more complex mechanism.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I do think it’s also a clear reflection of how far the women’s watches have come as we always see some interesting mechanical timepieces presented each year in this category.
TM: Must every ladies’ category devolve into a rock quarry? Cartloads of carats aside, there are two standouts in this pre-selection: MB&F and Jacob & Co. Both watches boast an ethereal grace and three-dimensional impact that the remaining four nominees cannot match.
Bulgari Diva’s Dream The Roman Night
SL: The Bulgari Diva’s Dream The Roman Night has very clever approach that isn’t all that complex but will appear to be; it’s also very well executed with the two chapter rings that use sapphires as markers so that the time is still clearly legible. Plus, I have a soft spot for blue dials in the first place. I have to say that this would be one of my favorites from this year’s GPHG and not only in this category.
IS: While interesting, I don’t feel that this watch is complicated enough to stand out in this lineup.
MG: Despite being utterly beautiful, I also feel that this Bulgari lacks in terms of complexity compared to some of the other candidates. The time is simply indicated by a disk and a ring, which are frankly just hands done differently.
JM: This is an awesome design using constellations to create a diamond spectacle while two disks rotate, moving larger diamond indicators to subtly display the time and keep this from feeling too much like a typical watch. The complication aspect is a bit lacking as it’s time only, though to be fair there are technically no specific complications defined in this category.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/divas-dream-roman-night.
Quick Facts Bulgari Diva’s Dream The Roman Night
Case: 37 x 11.37 mm, pink gold set with diamonds and sapphires
Movement: unspecified automatic caliber, power reserve 42 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 39,000 Swiss francs
Chaumet Soleil de Minuit Flying Tourbillon
JM: As this category goes, this watch has by far the most stunningly restrained and delicate stone settings – and gets my vote for most beautiful in this category. The way that each of the stones appears to dangle on the end of the wispy blades of diamond-studded grass and the use of multi-color stones such as topaz, tourmaline, garnet, sapphire, and rubies is outstandingly gorgeous.
And that doesn’t even touch on the fantastic enamel dial underneath that is literally mesmerizing, displaying why the artist, Anita Porchet, is the queen of enamel. This piece is stunning in so many ways and deserves recognition. Alas, it only takes the number two spot for me as a fairly standard tourbillon movement is not enough to take the top prize. But dang!
IS: The Chaumet Soleil de Minuit Flying Tourbillon makes my top three in this category mainly for its striking dial design.
MG: This timepiece provides a beautiful new interpretation of how a traditional tourbillon could look. Stunning, but not enough for a win in my opinion.
SL: On its own, this watch doesn’t really appeal to me. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste; in all honesty, the trilogy it’s part of is more appealing when the three watches are seen together.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/soleil-de-minuit-flying-tourbillon.
Quick Facts Chaumet Soleil de Minuit Flying Tourbillon
Case: 40 x 13.8 mm, white gold with diamonds
Dial: high-fire enamel by Anita Porchet over guilloche, set with topazes, garnets, sapphires, rubies, diamonds, tourmalines, and a pear-shaped garnet en trembleuse
Movement: automatic Caliber CP12V-IX (manufactured by Hublot) with one-minute flying tourbillon, power reserve 100 hours; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 3 pieces
Price: 283,500 Swiss francs
Jacob & Co. Fleurs de Jardin
MG: With the Fleur de Jardin Jacob & Co. has created its first ladies’ watch based on the Astronomia. It is nicely done and at a diameter of 42.5 mm it is finally wearable for men . . . I mean women. I know that women enjoy wearing large watches these days, but in my opinion this one is still too much of a good thing!
JM: Agreed, Martin: this incredible mechanical ballet is housed in a case that is too large for most men, let alone women. That is my main takeaway from this watch. It is awesome in a lot of ways and visually stunning. The variety of stones and cuts is incredible, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Jacob & Co.
However, I can’t get over the fact that this is also just a feminized version of a previous masculine watch, and due to its size it is the least feminine and most feminine at the same time. The dichotomy doesn’t rest well, and while it is mechanically breathtaking it doesn’t feel like the best complicated women’s watch.
IS: Who would have thought this wild complication could look even wilder? The sunglass-advised Fleurs de Jardin blows the brain cobwebs away but is a bit too over the top for me.
SL: Certainly a complicated watch, and undoubtedly fascinating to see in action, not to mention considering the skill of the artisans who put this piece of mechanical jewelry together. Personally, I’d prefer a more subtle interpretation.
TM: This is the latest in a long line of prismatic complications from the jewelry brand, and I cannot fault the use of gems on a product so intimately tied to the core competence of its maker. The color, depth, and layers of the Fleurs de Jardin are engaging and composed with a deft eye for detail. The butterfly tourbillon cage is whimsical and provides a handsome high-mech counterpoint to the gems.
Jacob the jeweler loses me with the nearly 43 mm diameter and 21 mm – 21! – case dimensions. I noted the thickness twice because I had to check the spec sheet twice to believe it. As a collector who believes that watches are designed to be worn and enjoyed first and foremost, I cannot give the nod to a Soviet-scale ladies’ watch that even my quasi-masculine wrist couldn’t accommodate.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/fleurs-de-jardin.
Quick Facts Jacob & Co. Fleurs de Jardin
Case: 42.5 x 21 mm, pink gold with pink sapphires
Movement: manually wound Caliber JCAM31 with one-minute flying tourbillon, power reserve 48 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, skeletonized
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 18 pieces
Price: 387,720 Swiss francs
Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Paved
SL: The Louis Vuitton Spin Time concept is ten years old already, but it’s still a fascinating and unusual way of displaying the current time. Housed within LV’s signature Tambour case, I’d say that the case size might be slightly large; I’m sure though that it means this watch will appeal to a certain male demographic as well.
IS: This is too much a variation on a theme I’ve seen before.
MG: I have always loved the Spin Time by Louis Vuitton and this is in particular is a stunning version of it. I would have put it down as my personal favorite if not for the MB&F . . .
JM: I love the Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin, and this version is a real knockout. I love the unique jumping hour complication and the use of the stones, especially how the hour cubes have four sides and rotate 90 degrees every 12 hours, taking two full days to make one rotation. Still, it is also a feminized version of a regular watch, and that isn’t what is going to win in this category given the competition.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/tambour-spin-time-air-paved.
Quick Facts Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Paved
Case: 42.5 x 12.3 mm, white gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber LV88, power reserve 35 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: jumping hours, minutes
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: 164,000 Swiss francs
MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
IS: The MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT isn’t just best Ladies’ Complication 2019 for me; it’s the best Ladies’ Complication watch I’ve ever seen. An incredible movement and sensational design, without looking garish or too avant-garde, is no easy accomplishment, and MB&F has hit a home run here.
MG: With the Legacy Machine FlyingT, this boutique brand not only presents its very first ladies’ watch but, in my opinion, also set a new benchmark for complicated watches for women. When this watch was presented to me, I liked it so much that – ladies’ watch or not – I had to put it on my wrist. I do not only think that this watch should win this category, but also that it should bring home the Aiguille d’Or, the top prize of the GPHG.
IS: I also think that the FlyingT deserves serious consideration for the Aiguille d’Or, Martin.
SL: This one stands out because it’s MB&F founder Max Büsser being taken far out of his comfort zone, designing a watch specifically for women. I’d say though that he’s hit the mark: it’s undeniably feminine and yet unmistakably an MB&F piece (you should really see the versions that are bedecked with even more diamonds).
TM: MB&F’s Legacy Machine FlyingT wins my nod on the strength of its balance. The atrium-like domed sapphire matches the Fleurs de Jardin for depth while the 100-hour tourbillon caliber ensures robust horological bona fides. Although nominally 20 mm thick in its own right, the domed sapphire crystal avoids the tuna can-profile of the Jacob, and a 38.5 mm overall case diameter renders the MB&F watch far more likely to be worn on smaller wrists.
MB&F’s design thrives on contrast. Alongside the high-horology movement and dozens of gems, minimalism exists in parallel. Negative space is used to great advantage within the interior of the watch, and the lithe case lines exude grace. Max Büsser’s team was wise to keep the color palette minimal, and the watch reads as a medley of sharp black and white.
Evidently, this is the first MB&F model expressly designed for women, and I appreciate that the company kept the focus on overall case design and watchmaking. Gem setting is exquisite and prevalent, but it never becomes the focal point of the FlyingT. The single enormous diamond atop the tourbillon can be considered exceptional for its isolation and imagination; this might be the single best use of a gem on any watch in any category.
JM: When I first saw this piece in person, I immediately knew it would pick up an award: it is simply stunning and entirely a unique design made intentionally for women. That is what this category deserves as its champion, and I have no problem picking it as my winner.
The design of the movement is clearly MB&F, fitting comfortably in the Legacy Machine category. But it was clearly designed with a woman in mind, and the slightly rotated and tilted dial (for discreet time-peeping) that is really not visible to anyone but the wearer is just an awesome detail. Of course I would wear this; I would wear any MB&F, but this one is feminine through and through, showcasing what designing a complicated watch for women should be.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/legacy-machine-flyingt.
Quick Facts MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Case: 38.5 x 20 mm, white gold, set with brilliant-cut or baguette-cut diamonds
Movement: automatic caliber with three-dimensional vertical architecture, central flying 60-second tourbillon, four-day power reserve, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: CHF 108,000 (black lacquer dial); CHF 135,000 (pavé diamonds); CHF 298,000 (baguette-cut diamonds), all prices excluding sales tax
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Zodiac Lumineux Aries
SL: It takes some audacity to present this watch as a complication, but it certainly fits the bill as a piece that is “remarkable in terms of its mechanical creativity.” It’s one that you must see for yourself because once you activate the pusher and the enamel beads that form the constellation on the dial light up, you can’t help but smile at the ingenious display and you’re quite likely to want to show it to whoever is in the immediate vicinity.
JM: I had to choose a watch as my second runner-up I have been excitedly waiting for since I first saw it a couple years ago as a preview at SIHH. The Lady Arpels Zodiac Lumineux series (which includes versions for all zodiac signs) is a lovely idea that combines astrological signs and a miniature lighting system that mechanically charges a capacitor to allow a set of LEDs to illuminate the constellation on the dial. It is both playful and inventive, mixing technologies in a way that doesn’t feel forced or there for the sake of being different. It still is a basic timepiece, and if you aren’t into astrological signs you may not appreciate this, but I do find it quite charming.
MG: Van Cleef & Arpels has such a rich history of making stunning and innovative ladies’ watches, yet its Lumineux line has always felt too gimmicky to me. The Aries sculpture added to the dial doesn’t help, either.
For more information, please visit gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/lady-arpels-zodiac-lumineux-aries-watch.
Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Zodiac Lumineux Aries
Case: 38 x 13.08 mm, white gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds
Movement: automatic Caliber Valfleurier Q020, power reserve 36 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; on-demand light animation
Limitation: 5 pieces
Price: 157,000 Swiss francs
Ian: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Joshua: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Martin: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Sean: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Tim: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT