Our Predictions In The Iconic Category Of The 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Another Head-Scratcher For Our Panelists But There’s A Clear Favorite
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 Iconic category emphasizes men’s or women’s watches from a brand’s emblematic collection, meaning one that has had a lasting influence on watchmaking and its history as well as having been on the market for more than 20 years.
GG: I continue to appreciate the variety of deserving watches in the categories we’ve covered so far, including in this Iconic set, a group of watches that in my view do represent the continuation of longstanding lines and that have been important to their respective makers.
For the 2019 GPHG, it was pretty clear from the start that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak was the icon among icons; this year, I think the field is a bit closer as there are a number of entries that might not be universally known among enthusiasts but that will arouse the passions of fans of each brand.
ED: Each of these six watches has good reason to be nominated here as the most recent entries in longstanding collections by famous watch brands. I like all of these modern incarnations. But for me, one stands out has having evolved just enough to give it an edge over the others.
MG: Honestly, I’m not too fond of this category: how do you compare icons? Particularly because this year all six nominated models have earned the title. Each has a lot going for it, but it often becomes something of apples and oranges to compare them.
IS: I just don’t understand the point of the GPHG Iconic category and vote for its elimination. Watch brands certainly need no encouragement to revisit their past collections and, if one of their remakes is an exceptional watch, it should compete on its own merits in whichever category it fits. It seems to me that the GPHG could simply award a prize each year in turn to all of the iconic watches if the aim was just to reward longevity and timeless classics.
As far as I’m concerned, we may as well toss coins to select a winner here out of the top three. The GPHG Iconic category rules provide no guidelines for what to look for in a winner except that the first model had to be launched at least 20 years ago. Are we looking for the best watch here, the one that has had the most lasting influence on watchmaking history, or the one that is the best remake of its original? Help!
JM: Once again we return to the Iconic category, the only category where it seems a bit presumptuous to enter your own timepiece and the minimum requirements for longevity means the watch could be from this century, hardly what I would usually categorize as Iconic. Now there are the rare occasions where a modern watch becomes iconic very quickly (the Ulysse Nardin Freak comes to mind), but in my mind it takes a while.
Regardless, this category is a bit like prom king: it’s a popularity contest based on how well liked a watch has been on average and how well it has sold. Consistency is good in products, and longevity definitely shows that it was a very solid design, but like past categories such as the Revival prize, it also sends the message that it’s best not to change too much. As tastes evolve over the decades good product designers will evolve with the tastes. I like evolution and innovation, so this is a tough category for me to be completely objective about.
Breitling Chronomat B01 42
ED: That rouleaux bracelet! Even though I have not tried this watch on, I have been very admiring of that new bracelet since this watch appeared.
MG: The Chronomat made a strong comeback in its latest edition, and credit for this also goes to the redesigned rouleaux bracelet. Honestly, I have never been a fan of how it looked, but it adds a dash of character. I think Breitling makes a strong case with the new Chronomat, but so strong that it will most likely only appeal to people who are already into the brand.
GG: I had a chance to photograph and review the Breitling Chronomat B01 42 on these pages recently, and it’s a weighty and impressive piece – and with its onion crown, distinctive bracelet links, and tabbed bezel, it is easily recognizable as a direct descendant of the original Chronomats. It’s my third-place choice, but I could imagine swapping it up into the runner-up spot I awarded to the Seiko.
JM: Many might already guess that Breitling has never been high on my personal list of favorites, mostly for reasons similar to Rolex in that it has been so widely plagiarized by very low-quality watches that I now associate that aesthetic not with high-end timepieces but with kiosks in shopping malls.
Sadly for Breitling, its success inadvertently led me to not particularly appreciate the tool/aviator watch style. But this also means that Breitling and a watch like the Chronomat are definitely among the more iconic designs of the last 40 years. Alas, I can’t choose it as my winner, and given the number of categories Breitling has entered I’m fairly confident something else will pick up this win.
IS: We all owe a debt of thanks to Breitling, who, with just a few others, helped along the reemergence of the Swiss mechanical watch industry in 1984 when the brand launched the mechanical Chronomat chronograph at a time when quartz ruled. I like the look of the Chronomat B01 42, especially that salmon-colored dial; at 42 mm it’s sensibly sized for a man’s chronograph; the in-house movement is a plus; and the comfortable rouleaux bracelet is a big bonus.
Quick Facts Breitling Chronomat B01 42
Case: 42 x 15.1 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Breitling Caliber 01; 70-hour power reserve; 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; date; chronograph
Price: $8,100 / CHF 7,950
Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
GG: The Bulgari Aluminium seems a faithful recreation of the original from the brand, but I don’t think it is nearly the icon in terms of broad recognition that a piece like the IWC Portugieser is.
MG: Of all six watches in the category, this is probably the least iconic of them as this watch did define a decade for this brand, but a relatively young one. I think that it captures Bulgari’s dynamic as a brand very well, and they did an outstanding job of bringing it back. It also shows the brand’s versatility as this watch is just as much Bulgari as the Octo Finissimo, and in the world of watches that in itself is pure gold.
JM: The Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph is a watch that feels familiar but also not specific enough to be easily recalled or remembered. The logo’d bezel is probably the most iconic aspect of the Aluminium Chronograph, but in my head it is associated with fashion and not a specific watch. I’m not saying my memories are the best indicator of iconic status, but if the first image in my brain isn’t this watch, then it stands to reason I may not be the only one.
ED: Yes, I would agree with you, Joshua. The heavily logo-plagued bezel is always what has stuck out to me about this line, and justifiably strongly calls to mind the Bulgari Bulgari jewelry and watch lines, which have historically been geared toward the fashion arena (though this is no longer exclusively the case). During a talk we had with Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin at Geneva Watch Days, he said that the new Aluminium watches were specifically aimed at attracting a new, younger clientele. It is hard to reconcile that with a category called “Iconic.”
IS: Aside from the distinctive look of the Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph, the big attraction for me of this 40 mm aluminum-cased chronograph is its comfort on the wrist, thanks to both its light weight and clever linked-rubber bracelet. And at 4,000 Swiss francs, it’s very competitively priced compared to the others here. but I just don’t feel that the model is “iconic” enough.
Quick Facts Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
Case: 40 x 11.1 mm, aluminum with black PVD-coated titanium case back and rubber bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber B130 (ETA 2894 base), 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, chronograph
Price: €4,250 / CHF 4,000
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Infinity Edition 42 mm
ED: What a fantastic variation of the Laureato with a new onyx dial. I am smitten. In contrast to the modern Laureato variations that have come out since 2017 sporting variations of the tapisserie style of dial that Audemars Piguet made famous with its Royal Oak, these have real charisma. I found the tapisserie dials really made the Laureato models look like Royal Oaks – far, far too similar for my taste.
GG: The Girard-Perregaux Laureato is indeed a clear descendant of the original watches of that name, but as I’m on the record as having characterized the original Laureato as derivative of the Royal Oak I’m hard pressed to give this version a top spot as an icon.
ED: Loud and clear, Gary! However, I believe that this onyx-dialed version finally breaks it out of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak mold for me. So much so that I would like to make it my winner in this category.
JM: The Laureato collection and Girard-Perregaux have suffered over the decades as a brand that was doing a lot of interesting things but still tried to play it safe just enough that the design of the Laureato isn’t the first to come to mind for a steel sports watch. The bold risk taking didn’t seem to be there from the beginning and so the Laureato isn’t usually brought up unless someone refers to it as the “poor man’s Royal Oak” (which I do not). This is too bad because it is arguably an awesome watch with a unique (if restrained) design with loads of pedigree behind it. But for the reasons stated it has struggled to achieve iconic status on its own, and only in relation to other watches. This Infinity Edition with black onyx dial is super cool, but I just don’t know if it is the most iconic of the bunch.
IS: I don’t understand why the Girard-Perregaux Laureato isn’t more popular with collectors as its design has stood the test of time for nearly 50 years. The Infinity Edition is a perfect watch for both formal and casual wear, and the matching dial and date wheel earn bonus points from me. However, while not mentioned in the category rules, I’ve always felt that to have any meaning at all this category is for new reeditions of iconic old models, and I can’t help but feel that the Infinity Edition is more a (welcome) continuation of the Laureato collection rather than a new look for an iconic old model.
MG: What a strong comeback for the Laureato! I have always had a soft spot for this watch but seeing it during Geneva Watch Days in the metal made me fall for it all over again. The onyx dial proves a stroke of brilliance as it underscores the design’s purity. For that matter, I would have loved it even more if Girard-Perregaux had kept the text on the dial to an absolute minimum, but I do feel that the brand is finally on the right track again with this collection.
Quick Facts Girard-Perregaux Laureato Infinity Edition 42 mm
Case: 42 x 10.7 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber GP01800-1404 with one-minute flying triple-axis tourbillon, power reserve 54 hours; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, skeletonized
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 188 pieces
Price: €12,900 / $13,200 / £9,800 / CHF 12,260
IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Chronograph
MG: Can a watch be an icon within an iconic collection? I think the Portugieser Chronograph proves that indeed this is possible! While the original Portugiesers were time only, it has been the chronograph over the years that has become the poster child for the collection. To such an extent that I think if you ask people about the Portugieser, this is the watch that pops up in their minds. While the Portugieser started its career powered by a Valjoux 7750, it is now a manufacture caliber. I am an absolute sucker for this dial color, only wanting it on a brown strap. For me, the absolute winner in this category.
GG: For me, the piece that rises to the top is also the IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Chronograph, Martin. It’s a watch that is instantly recognizable to the vast majority of watch lovers and that is very faithful to the aesthetic cues that have characterized this line since its origin. This is an interesting category in that, at least for me, the judging standard is more heavily weighted toward continuity and heritage than toward straight-up evaluation of the timepieces on their own merits. I think that the IWC is a clear winner on the former and does just fine on the latter.
JM: The IWC Portugieser is a fairly well known and popular model for IWC and is only second for the brand after THE model, the Pilot’s Watch. It is clear that it is recognizable and generally coveted as a piece to get from IWC, especially the chronograph. It has evolved over time, and so the details are not perfectly consistent over the years, but they are pretty close to the models of the 1980s and 1990s. However, I don’t know if the Portugieser Chronograph has enough of a reputation to claim to be the most iconic of the bunch, so I’m placing it third on my list. But if the final jury members are fans of IWC specifically it could climb the ranks.
IS: I like IWC’s Portugieser but am not a fan of the bright green dial of this chronograph. And like the Girard-Perregaux Laureato Infinity Edition, this Portugieser Chronograph looks too similar to the Portugieser Chronographs that come out every few years rather than being a new take on an old stalwart. However, the IWC Portugieser is head and shoulders the most significant iconic model here for me, and that’s good enough to earn it my nomination as the winner of this category.
ED: I love the purity of the Portugiesers, but I am not a particular fan of it in the chronograph variation. However, I must agree with Gary on the nature of its ubiquitous ability to be recognized, therefore it is my runner up.
Quick Facts IWC Portugieser Chronograph
Case: 41 x 13.1 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 69355, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 46-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; chronograph
Price: €7,850 / $7,950 / CHF 8,200
Piaget Altiplano Origin Automatic
MG: As a big Piaget fan, I am always very strict with this brand. While the Altiplano is to me one of the most iconic dress watches of all time, this particular version is not cutting it. If you call the model “Origin,” fans expect something closely related to the very first Altiplano models. In essence, that means two hands, not three.
GG: The Piaget Altiplano might be the best watch in this group with its ultra-thin construction. The ultra-thin Piagets we’ve seen over the years are certainly icons, but this one strays a bit farther from the design cues of the earliest Piaget ultra-thins than do some of the other watches in this category from their forebears, and that pushed it down the ranks for me.
MG: While I can get over the date, Gary, as back in the day Piaget made also an exquisite version of the 12P named Caliber 12PC featuring a date function, I cannot get over the subsidiary seconds. Also, while the original models of the 9P and 12P-powered watches were very pure, this one is borderline boring. Am I too strict with Piaget? Perhaps. But I know what this brand is capable of, so the expectations are high.
ED: It also strays too far from the typical Piaget look for me as well, even though I very much appreciate its devilish thinness and elegance.
IS: I’m a fan of ultra-thins and think that the Piaget Altiplano Origin Automatic is a beautiful men’s dress watch, which makes me wonder why it wasn’t entered in the Men’s category. I love the clean styling dial side and sensational movement from the display back. But again, Piaget, you enter one of the world’s best ultra-thins in the GPHG but do not supply a photo of it in profile highlighting just how slim it is. The Piaget Altiplano Origin Automatic is a potential category winner in my eyes, but unfortunately, not in this category.
JM: The Piaget Altiplano is as iconic as you can get when it comes to ultra-thin dress watches, pretty much defining the aesthetic of the entire category. That said, ultra-thin dress watches get much less attention than large stainless-steel sport watches, diving watches, and pilot’s watches. I think the Altiplano has a solid chance of winning the category, but I think it depends heavily on the jury. They could downplay an ultra-thin dress watch and play up others. For that reason, I am putting it down as a second-place finish, but I will not be surprised if it squeaks out the win.
Quick Facts Piaget Origin Automatic
Case: 40 x 6.36 mm, white gold
Movement: automatic ultra-thin Caliber 1205P with micro rotor, 3 mm in height, 44-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 24,800 Swiss francs
Seiko Prospex Professional Diver’s 1000M “Tuna”
ED: Ah, the “Tuna.” There is hardly a more iconic diver’s watch, is there? A watch line that made its debut in 1975, this year’s version is updated in that it has the ability to dive to 1,000 meters, making it a true instrument. Nonetheless, its necessarily large size (53.4 x 17.4) turns me right off. As a true diver’s watch great – for anything else, hmmmm.
MG: This is the only watch of the six that has a nickname – or to be more precise, its case style has a nickname. I like the way that Seiko made this particular version of the “Tuna” with a Japanese eye for detail and a very interesting combination of materials. Deep in my heart is this perhaps the watch that I want to win, as everything combined it is such a strong proposition.
IS: Like so many other nominated watches here, I scratched my head as to why the Seiko Professional Diver’s 1000M is in this category. And it further increases my wonder as to why the Iconic category exists at all. Yes, I understand that this new Prospex is a reinterpretation of an iconic model, but it’s an unabashed dive watch and would be a strong contender to win the Diver’s category. But Iconic it is and the sheer popularity of the Seiko Prospex earns it my vote for runner up here.
GG: I’m not really a Seiko guy, but the brand seems quite the hot thing these days, especially among younger collectors, and the Professional Diver’s 1000M “Tuna” is a striking version of the Tuna line’s fundamental design that is both contemporary looking with its use of modern materials and pure Tuna with its protective shroud, marker and hand shapes, and crown location. It’s my second choice in this year’s Iconic race.
JM: The Seiko Professional Diver, aka the Prospex “Tuna,” is just the right combination of quirky and popular to win this category. While all the other watches are great looking and popular for a variety of reasons, this is a watch that became very popular not just with divers (because it was a great dive watch) but with watch fans due to its slightly wacky design. For that reason on its own, the Tuna is a very well-known dive watch to collectors, and for every new “Tuna” model that comes out Seiko fans are there to buy it up as fast as they can. I think this watch could win it, though like the Piaget Altiplano it depends on the jury. But the popularity of the Seiko Professional Diver gives it the edge in my book and is the watch I predict to take the prize in this category.
Quick Facts Seiko Prospex Professional Diver’s 1000M “Tuna”
Case: 52.4 x 17.4 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber 8L35, 50-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 4,350 Swiss francs
Elizabeth: Girard-Perregaux Laureato Infinity Edition 42 mm
Ian: IWC Portugieser Chronograph
Joshua: Seiko Prospex Professional Diver’s 1000M “Tuna”
Gary: IWC Portugieser Chronograph
Martin: IWC Portugieser Chronograph