Our Predictions In The Men’s Complication Category Of The 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Is A Tourbillon A Complication? Part Deux
Welcome to the 2020 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:
Elizabeth Doerr (ED), co-founder and editor-in-chief
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman
The GPHG foundation describes the Men’s Complication watches 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.
GG: I’ll confess that this category is a bit of a head-scratcher for me as it includes watches that are complicated, but (apparently) not so complicated that they would be strong candidates for the Mechanical Exception category, which we’ll get to in another two weeks or so.
Nonetheless, there are some very nice watches in this assortment; I would have swapped one of them out to make a place for Konstantin Chaykin’s terrifically inventive Mars Conqueror with its indications of earth and Mars times, but I can fully understand why the Academy members landed on the group of finalists we see here.
ED: Yes, Gary, I agree that these six watches constitute a happy medium of finalists from the watches entered in this category.
IS: Well, after thinking that any of the six watches in the Men’s category were worthy of both their nomination and had a good chance of winning, I can’t help but scratch my head wondering how most of the nominated watches in the Men’s Complication category merited their place here: most are just too “simple” in my view.
That’s not to say that they aren’t all superlative watches, which they most certainly are, but “complications”? And I’m not faulting the brands here, I think that the GPHG has to make a serious review of both the categories and the rules for each category because the gap between Ladies/Men’s watches and Ladies Complication/Men’s Complication isn’t a gap at all: it’s a chasm that far too many great watches fall into through no fault of their own.
My off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions would be to either make men’s and ladies’ tourbillons categories of their own or allow tourbillons into the Men’s and Ladies’ categories. Just having a tourbillon appears to be the most common reason so many otherwise simple watches get bumped up unfairly (in my view) into categories in which they either cannot compete or shouldn’t have to compete.
While all of these watches might be complicated regarding development, design, and/or production, there’s really only two complicated watches here in terms of indications – and technically, complications are indications additional to hours, minutes, and seconds (power reserves and moon phases qualify in the Men’s category) – and one other watch that’s remarkable in terms of creativity, so it comes down to a two-horse race for me. A three-horse race for the winner and three I’d love to own.
The category rules do make it both more confusing in stating “complexity” not “complications” and give a little leeway in “mechanical creativity.” Which one wins will depend on how much weight is given to complication, complexity, and creativity. I changed my mind on my pick for winner three times, and my head is still spinning with doubt that I’ve made the right choice.
JM: Always a fun category and often rather difficult due to the variety of complicated movements, I find this year a bit easier largely due to what I am calling the “are we officially agreeing that a tourbillon is a complication now?” syndrome. Only three of the six nominated watches feature complications in the traditional sense and the other three only tourbillons.
We all agree that tourbillons are complicated and an accomplishment, but with the wide proliferation of tourbillon movements I would like to formally classify them as part of the balance and escapement system and ineligible to be described as complications. We don’t call the Zenith Defy Inventor’s silicon oscillator plate a “complication,” so for a complication category perhaps we formalize some definitions to keep it focused. There has even been a tourbillon/escapement category in past GPHG iterations, demonstrating that the organization would seem agree with me on this point.
IS: I agree with you, Joshua, but it is worth looking at the disconnect between the category title “ Men’s Complication” and the category rules “remarkable for their mechanical creativity and complexity.” There’s no mention of “complications” in the category definition.
MG: This category has the same problem as Ladies Complication: either rename it or exclude tourbillons as this is an escapement style not a complication. A watch that offers only a tourbillon simply belongs in the Chronometry category. If we were to discount the tourbillons here there would be little left, with only the Bovet bringing out bigger guns in terms of complexity. I also find this category rather confusing in relation to the Mechanical Exception category, which shows pretty much the same type of watches – or at least should.
ED: While I agree with every single thing said here, we are given what we are given. And until the category rules are made somewhat clearer, here we are. As in the Ladies Complication category, I am choosing to judge on the merits of the individual watches rather than whether they contain a classic “complication” or not; all of these watches fit the official category rules despite the fact that they are not classic complications.
Bovet 1822 Récital 27
MG: For me, this is the only properly complicated watch in this category and therefore my winner. It doesn’t achieve this by default, as the Récital 27 has so much to offer. I love its triple time zones, two of which show hours and minutes, corresponding city, and complementing by day-night indicators. The moon phases, with one orb for each hemisphere, is one of the nicest in the industry. A considerable bonus is the very generous power reserve of 168 hours, which makes this watch a literal powerhouse.
JM: Undoubtedly the most complicated watch in this category, the Récital 27 is my pick for winner. When compared with the other pieces in this category, especially the three “non-complicated” tourbillon pieces, the Récital 27 stands out as a watch built around its complications. With three time zones the watch is perfect for travelers or those doing business around the world. Within the two secondary and tertiary time zones flanking the center we find day night indicators, which is very helpful for setting the time relative to your local time.
The two additional time zones also feature two city displays to help understand which time zone you are in. On top of that, an awesome double moon phase display (for the northern and southern hemispheres) sits at six as a dominating feature on the dial. Finishing the package off with the power reserve indication on the back, all packed into the writing-slope case from Bovet, we have a fantastic complicated timepiece that easily stands out from the competition. Unless someone has a tourbillon fetish and doesn’t care about definitions, I can’t see any other watch taking the prize in this category given how thoroughly complicated this watch is. But I’ve been wrong before!
GG: In terms of actual complications, the three-time-zone, power-reserve, double-moon phase Bovet 1822 Récital 27 has the other watches on this list beaten coming and going. It’s certainly a big watch at over 46 mm in diameter and almost 16 mm in thickness, but there’s a lot packed in there. And with a standard power train rather than a tourbillon, this watch comes in at what seems to me a fair price. If I were picking on complexity alone, the Bovet would be a simple choice. But against my winner it doesn’t quite get there.
ED: And despite what I said above about judging each watch on its own merits, I too choose the Bovet Récital 27 as the winner due to its insane complexity and gorgeous styling. Bovet has a wonderful way of making its complicated timepieces so incredibly aesthetic, and this lovely watch is no exception. And despite its case dimensions, that well-designed sloped case makes it eminently wearable as demonstrated above.
IS: With its triple time zones, plus moon phase and power reserve indications, the Bovet 1822 Récital 27 is unambiguously the most complicated watch in the category, so if that’s what counts it should be the winner. But even then, it “only” has two time zones above qualifying for the Men’s category, which just doesn’t feel enough to me to take this category.
I do like the seven-day power reserve, beautiful manufacture movement, and sloping case, but at 46 mm it’s quite large, the dial is busy, and its indications are too difficult to read. However, I suspect that its looks and complications will be enough to attract a lot of votes. I very nearly chose the Récital 27 as my winner of this category, but a careful reading of the rules led me to favor another. But it is my runner up and my predicted winner if my first pick gets the Audacity Prize instead.
Further reading: Bovet Récital 27: The Trinity Of Time
Quick Facts Bovet Récital 27
Case: 46.3 x 15.95 mm, titanium
Movement: manual winding Caliber 17DM04-3FPL, 7-day power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; second time zone (hours & minutes), third time zone (hours & minutes), two day/night indications, double moon phase indicator, power reserve
Limitation: 60 pieces
Price: 64,000 Swiss francs
De Bethune DB28XP Tourbillon
GG: The De Bethune is a lovely looking piece; the Digitale of several years ago, whose engine-turned dial inspired the treatment of this watch’s dial, is a long-time visual favorite of mine. It’s technically solid as well with its 30-second, fast-beat tourbillon with silicon escapement, and I’m sure that the “microlight” titanium case is a joy on the wrist. As a complication watch, though, it doesn’t quite get there for me.
ED: This watch is so magically wearable with its thinner case and floating lugs and so lovely to look at with its guilloche dial ringed by De Bethune blue that I am having a hard time looking away . . . but in this category, I may have to.
MG: The most stunning tourbillon watch currently available? I would say a firm yes to that!
ED: Absolutely, Martin, also my opinion! Oh, wait, maybe it’s De Bethune’s Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon.
MG: De Bethune has so cleverly combined classic elements with a very progressive case design and a stunning movement. I had one on the wrist during Geneva Watch Days, and that image is still firmly burned in my mind as being so beautiful.
JM: De Bethune, one of my favorite all-time brands coming in with a DB28 model, not to mention one of my favorite dial styles the brand has ever done. There really isn’t a single complaint I have about this watch on its own.
Now, as a representative in the Complication category, I just can’t get behind it. Like I’ve mentioned, it only has a tourbillon and based on pretty much everything I have learned, most would not call it a complication watch regardless of how awesome it actually is. I understand that words only have meaning in how we commonly use them, but I would still like to nail down a definition of complication before I can get behind this watch for this category. I still love you De Bethune, but it’s just not the right category.
IS: I think that the De Bethune DB28XP Tourbillon is an absolutely stunning watch. It’s perfectly sized, impeccably executed, and is likely to be the most comfortable on the wrist. I love it and I want one!
But even with its five-day power reserve and silicon tourbillon escapement, I just can’t bring myself to vote it the best Men’s Complication 2020 for a watch displaying just hours and minutes.
Quick Facts De Bethune DB28XP Tourbillon
Case: grade five titanium, 43 x 8.1 mm; floating lugs
Movement: manually wound Caliber DB2009v4 with 30-second tourbillon in silicon and titanium, self-regulating twin spring barrels, silicon escape wheel, 5 Hz/36,000 vph frequency, five-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds (on tourbillon)
Price: CHF 180,000 excluding VAT
Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light
GG: The Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light also impressed me; the work involved in executing the sapphire crystal case and arrow-shaped sapphire crystal bridges must be incredible. And at least from the images provided, the watch must be stunning in person as well. The shift from the 2019 Quasar’s titanium bridges to sapphire crystal makes this piece “new enough” for me; ultimately, it’s only legibility (or the lack thereof) and to some extent the very large 46 mm diameter that leave me less than totally convinced about this one.
JM: This watch is a feat of sapphire crystal fabrication with sapphire crystal bridges (complex ones too) and an entirely sapphire crystal case. The skeletonized movement is stunning, and the presentation as a whole is (as the name suggests) out of this world. Sapphire crystal cases and sapphire crystal movement components are becoming more common in haute horlogerie as brands seek to outdo each other on the materials side, and the sheer number of hours required (more than 200 in this case) just to shape a block of sapphire crystal into the case shape is wholly impressive.
But it lacks complications, only bearing a tourbillon, and just like the De Bethune and the Greubel Forsey, I can’t, in good conscience, pick this to win the category.
ED: The three bridges concept is one of Girard-Perregaux’s signature elements, and I must admit I do love how the brand has been modernizing it with new materials and watches of late. This sapphire crystal variation is a revelation! But I find the sizing practically unwearable and the time relatively unreadable – though I’m not sure either of those things are the point of this watch.
IS: If the top prize went to the most scintillating watch here, the sapphire crystal-encased Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light would win hands down. At 46 mm it will only suit those with large wrists, but thanks to its skeletonized movement, it does (superficially) look complicated. But that doesn’t change the fact that while it’s an impressive watch, it does “just” indicate hours, minutes, and seconds, and has been “forced” into this category (like a few others here) because of its tourbillon.
MG: What a stunning watch this is with its see-through sapphire crystal case and bridges. I love how Girard-Perregaux has developed its classic tourbillon with gold bridges over the years into high-tech, future-focused versions, of which this one is the most prominent. A very solid watch with a high cool factor, lost in the wrong category.
Quick Facts Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light
Case: 46 x 15.25 mm, sapphire crystal
Movement: automatic Caliber GP9400-1035 with one-minute tourbillon and titanium bridges; 60-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds (on tourbillon cage)
Limitation: 18 pieces
Price: 294,000 Swiss francs
Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
JM: What an incredible piece of horology: 95 percent made by hand-operated tools, requiring more than 6,000 hours of labor, this is a grail watch among grail watches. The style is awesomely simple (obviously since it’s handmade) and finishing is second to none, which is what you get from Greubel Forsey. I couldn’t hope for a more amazing watch.
But – and you saw this coming from me by now – it “only” has a tourbillon. Now I know that in the context of this watch saying “only” to anything may come off as snarky and self-righteous. But gosh darnit, words do have meanings and I have to go by the most common usage of complication in horological context and therefore determine that this watch is the most complicated watch to make that has no complications.
IS: Be still my beating heart. My favorite Greubel Forsey and one of my most lusted-after watches in the world was Invention Piece 1. But that place has now been taken by Hand Made 1: it is everything that I could ever dream of in a watch and more (except being anywhere near within my reach, but then it wouldn’t be a dream watch).
Unfortunately, one of the things I like (as opposed to professionally appreciate) in a watch for myself is simplicity and, tourbillon aside, as well as being crafted and hand-finished by horological angels, Hand Made 1 is a relatively simple hours, minutes, seconds watch. And it’s for that reason that (once again), I’m ruling it out of the running for me: it’s just not mechanically complicated enough for this category.
That said, the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 is my pick for the Aiguille d’Or grand prix.
MG: Perhaps the best watch Greubel Forsey has made to date, yet I feel that Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel would be the first to admit that this watch might have given them a complex headache as it does not contain a complication. Many jurors probably disagree with me, so it might win the category. But for me, this watch is a very serious contender for the Aiguille d’Or as Ian noted.
GG: What to say about the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1? The tourbillon makes it eligible for this category, but it doesn’t even have the power reserve of the Hermès or the MB&F to make it more complex. That said, as a watch – regardless of category – it is a fantastic achievement. And having handled the piece myself in Dubai in 2019, I can testify that the time invested in perfecting and applying true hand-making to a highest-quality watch has been well spent. So in this somewhat imperfect category, the perfection of craft that the GF represents makes it a winner for me.
ED: Completely understandable to me, Gary!
Further reading: Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1: Hands Breathing Life Into Metal
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
Case: 43.5 x 13.5 mm, white gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber Hand Made 1 with one-minute tourbillon, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 95% made by hand
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 2-3 per year
Price: 1 million Swiss francs
Hermès Slim d’Hermès GMT
IS: Every time I see an Hermès Slim d’Hermès I’m reminded just how good the Slim d’Hermès design is, and the GMT is no exception. This is one of the best-looking watches here, and along with the De Bethune DB28XP Tourbillon one of the most wearable. And at around $20,000 it’s also by far the most affordable.
IS: But. While I can easily see this watch being a strong contender in the Men’s watch category, in which it unfortunately doesn’t qualify due to its second time zone, I just can’t bring myself to vote for a watch with “only” a power reserve and GMT indications as best Men’s Complicated watch 2020.
JM: Hermès really has been killing it in the horology game these past few years and the Slim d’Hermès is indeed a very popular creation. From the custom designed typeface (still loving it) to the simple, modern aesthetic, the Slim d’Hermès has a lot of fans. The GMT model, then, should have a solid backing and with a funky second time zone dial, date dial, and day/night indicator windows for local and home time, the Slim d’Hermès GMT packs a lot of punch for such a chill watch.
A base movement built by Vaucher and GMT module by Agenhor, it also features a micro rotor, which any movement nerd will agree is an awesome automatic mechanism for those that still like the look of manual-wind watches. While the aesthetic is definitely modern and atypical, I can see this finding favor among the jury. It may also fly under the radar as it is kind of unassuming next to other pieces in the category, so I predict it likely won’t take the top spot. Even so it’s a dang good watch and one I’d be happy to have in my collection.
ED: I am an unabashed fan of the Slim d’Hermès line – no bones about it. This is one of the most well designed and fairly priced watch lines on the market. And the GMT is no exception, though I do fully understand how the second time zone subdial can polarize people. I happen to like it very much. This watch is my runner up in this category, but only because it isn’t quite as complicated as the Bovet Récital 27.
GG: I’m a fan of the Slim d’Hermès line overall, and of the GMT variant introduced a couple of years ago specifically. But making the same watch in red gold rather than the launch version’s palladium doesn’t elevate it into contention for a prize this year, in my view.
MG: Usually I am very taken by Hermes’ creations, but this one is an exception to that rule. The off-center design doesn’t work very well for me, and the little pusher at 10 o’clock to set the second time zone, although handy, is a bit of an eyesore on this very elegant case. The color of the dial is stunning, but the second time zone subdial cuts into this too prominently for me to allow it beat out the Bovet.
Further reading: Hermès Introduces New 2020 Slim d’Hermès GMT: Traveling In Style
Quick Facts Hermès Slim d’Hermès GMT
Case: 39.5 x 9.8 mm, pink gold
Movement: automatic Caliber H1950, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; date, second time zone, night-and-day indicators for both time zones
Price: €16,000 / $19,675 / CHF 19,520
MB&F HM10 Bulldog Ti
IS: The Men’s Complication category rules state, “Men’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity.” And the MB&F HM10 Bulldog Ti is hands down the most mechanically creative watch here, both for its movement and its case. On my first scan through the six watches here I’d written all off bar the Bovet 1822 Récital 27 for just not being complicated enough, including the Bulldog Ti.
IS: I wrote earlier that both the 46 mm case diameter of both Bovet 1822 Récital 27 and Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light were a negative factor me, but the 54 mm Bulldog Ti makes them appear small. However, my issue with large-diameter watches isn’t their size per se (that’s just a matter of personal taste), but that they tend to roll around anything but a comparatively massive wrist (which is nearly all wrists compared with mine). The articulated lugs on HM10 ensure that it will fit securely and comfortably on the majority of wrist sizes.
And the Bulldog Ti doesn’t even have a tourbillon, but just indicates hours, minutes, and power reserve. It qualifies in the Men’s category, so what on earth is it doing here? But then I re-read those words, “. . . mechanical creativity and complexity” again and decided that while MB&F’s HM10 would qualify in the Men’s category in terms of its lack of complications, it wasn’t just the most creative watch here, its elegant suspended balance, aluminum domed hours and minutes, and automaton-like hinged-jaws power reserve indicator might not be complications, but were mechanically complex enough for it to warrant being my pick for the winner of the Men’s Complication category. And if it doesn’t win here I’m picking it for the Audacity Prize.
And after writing that last sentence, I’m still having trouble assimilating the fact that I’ve just voted the simplest watch here in terms of complications as the winner of the Men’s Complication category.
GG: The MB&F HM10 Bulldog Ti once again puts company founder Max Büsser’s whimsical creativity on full display, but its jaw-shaped power reserve indication doesn’t grab me. And call me crazy, but I’m really put off by the fact that the MB&F brand logo is upside-down as seen by the wearer to increase its legibility as seen by an observer.
MG: I actually had to look for the complication in this MB&F, but it turns out that it has a novel power reserve indicator, so it should belong in this category. Forgive me my sarcasm, but technically this watch would be far better suited to the Men’s category. While I normally love MB&F’s unique take on watch design this one is simply too quirky for me. That aside, I also don’t think it is complex enough, by far, to carry a win in this category.
ED: How fun is this watch! I mean, if I had the wrist for it – again a watch in this category for weightlifters – I probably would just love it! I do love the creativity and fun factor, though, something that is never in short supply at MB&F.
JM: MB&F knows how to make some fun and quirky watches that tickle my creative design aesthetic in all the right ways. I was super pumped when I first saw the Bulldog back in the spring as it felt like a return to form and amalgamation of years of creations. From the domes to the suspended balance to the articulated lugs, it really stands out in any lineup of watches.
But what makes it a bit more special is the power reserve, which is a set of polished jaws that open when fully wound and slowly close as the reserve winds down. While it may not precisely indicate the exact power reserve remaining, this is right in line with the typical MB&F playfulness found on various pieces over the years. The wild design of the case makes this watch by far my favorite of the bunch, and I would love for it to win the category, though I don’t believe it will.
With only a general power reserve display it is the least complicated of the complicated watches, but thanks to its awesome design I am making the HM10 my runner up. If the jury agrees with my assessment regarding tourbillons but is open to the wild and crazy styling of MB&F, I could imagine this piece sneaking a victory, though juries are often conservative so I’m not holding my breath.
Further reading: MB&F HM10 Bulldog: Forget The Dog, Beware Of The Owner (Video)
Quick Facts MB&F HM10 Bulldog
Case: 54 x 45 x 24 mm, titanium
Movement: manual winding in-house caliber with flying balance wheel, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph, 45-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; power reserve indication (bulldog jaws)
Price: CHF 98,000 / $105,000 / €92,000 (titanium), all prices without tax
Elizabeth: Bovet 1822 Récital 27
Joshua: Bovet 1822 Récital 27
Martin: Bovet 1822 Récital 27
Gary: Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
Ian: MB&F HM10 Bulldog Ti