Our Predictions In The Men’s Complication Category Of The 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): 6 Watches, 5 Panelists, 3 Picks For Winner
Welcome to the 2021 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
This category comprises “Men’s Complication 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 (e.g., worldtime, dual time, and others) and do not fit the definition of the Men’s and Mechanical Exception categories.
ED: Once again, the watches here are all as different as day and night, with only two perhaps comparable to each other because they both have jump hour displays. But even these two are as different as it gets with one very classic in looks and the other ultramodern. Additionally, we have two chronographs, a worldtimer, and a mechanical opus with two time displays. It will be hard to choose among all this mechanical charm.
JM: The Men’s Complication category is often difficult to parse but usually has a standout winner, and this year is no different – at least in my mind. The category sees a dramatic price range from CHF 8,150 all the way up to more than 260,000, giving a broad selection to compare.
Like with most categories, there are watches that better exemplify the theme and some that sneak in under the wire, but regardless there are watches here that nearly all watch lovers could say are incredible and they would love to have on their wrists.
IS: As with the nominated watches in the Ladies’ Complication category, I’m surprised by the dearth of complications by most of the watches in the Men’s Complication category. That said, there are some excellent watches here (all of them, in fact) and, again, they are all very different, which makes direct comparisons very difficult. But here goes!
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph
MG: If you are looking for a serious sports watch that has it all, this Royal Oak Offshore might be it. I like the diameter as well as the use of titanium as they both make the watch far more wearable for mere mortals like myself. The only thing I wonder with this watch is if the hands are not too bold as they seem to block a substantial part of the subdials in many positions. It is me or does this watch also have a kind of Lamborghini vibe to it?
IS: On paper, the (take a deep breath) Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph should be an easy pick to take this category, but the dial is just too busy for my taste. Those two subdials are lost in the skeletonized dial. I love seeing parts of the movement dial side, but a chronograph has a role as a tool watch, and if you can’t easily read the elapsed time being measured, what’s the point? It’s a strong contender but not my top pick.
JM: Audemars Piguet is often a solid choice when it comes to complicated watches, especially when it comes to its chiming watches. This year’s entry is a flying tourbillon chronograph combination, often considered a must-have in a top collection.
This piece is definitely very cool, but I fear it lacks the wow factor that a watch in the Men’s Complication category should have. It’s also the most expensive of the group, which makes it feel a little more lackluster given the competition. In my opinion, it also feels so expected, so easy to predict that even though it’s objectively an awesome watch it’s only satisfying in the same way that a normal hamburger is satisfying. It’s good, and nearly everyone would like it, but it isn’t the same as beef wellington topped with truffles.
ED: Audemars Piguet definitely wows with this behemoth packed with mechanical goodness. Signifying a shift in the Royal Oak Offshore collection, it certainly shows off the traditional maker’s ability to make ultra-masculine, modern-looking timepieces oozing with good design traits. Nonetheless, there is another watch in this category that I find just as creative mechanically, but more elegant.
GG: Near the other end of the complexity scale from the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, a watch intended to lead the transition to a new generation of Offshore pieces. It’s an impressive achievement and it looks as if the aesthetics of the tweaked case are quite appealing to the eye. It’s certainly in my top few picks within this category.
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph
Case: 43 x 15.5 mm, titanium, water resistant to 100 m
Movement: manual winding Caliber 2967 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 65-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; flyback chronograph
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: 260,000 Swiss francs
Remark: quick-change strap system
Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42
GG: The Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42 is attractive, and you can’t fault a split-seconds chronograph at this price point! My best guess is that pusher feel may still be less than optimal as with other Breitling chronographs I’ve handled, which pushes it somewhat down the list for me. I’d of course be open to being proven wrong about that.
JM: As someone who often is indifferent to the style of Breitling, the B15 Duograph is a very appealing split-second chronograph at an amazing price. The styling is very classic and clean, with its main downside being that it is rather thick due to the split-second chronograph being a module atop the base movement.
ED: Actually, it is the same height as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, while one millimeter smaller in diameter. They are both too thick for my taste, Joshua; however, I am not the target wearer in this case.
IS: While lacking the tourbillon of the Audemars Piguet, the Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42 has two strong points going for it over its more complicated rival: the time and chronograph displays are all easy to read at a glance, and it’s less than one-tenth of the price. 19,500 Swiss francs is a very competitive price for a split-second chronograph.
JM: The new B15 Duograph is definitely a shot across the bow for big brands who can develop movements and modules to start making the really fun stuff accessible to more normal collectors. But here’s the rub: it fails to excite me to the level of other pieces in this category, and while it may be one of the best values it still somehow plays it too safe. I know this isn’t the Mechanical Exception category, but I definitely want a bit more from the winner.
MG: The new Breitling Premier line hits a homerun for the brand in my book. Perhaps that is also why there are three models nominated throughout the categories? This is perhaps the best one as it is the perfect execution of a rattrapante. While my only complaint is that it is a tad large, measuring 42 mm in diameter, everything on the dial is perfectly spaced out and well proportioned.
ED: Yes, it is attractive, Martin. Breitling’s design has really been elevated in the last two years across all of its lines, no doubt about that.
Quick Facts Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42
Case: 42 x 15 mm, red gold
Movement: hand-wound Caliber Breitling B15, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 70-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; split-seconds chronograph
Price: $22,850 / 19,500 Swiss francs
Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer
MG: Bulgari dominated the latest edition of Geneva Watch Days with an Octo that wasn’t a Finissimo, delivering a charismatic worldtimer at a moment when the world is craving travel. Personally, I would have entered the version without the DLC coating, yet I still think that this watch will bring home the prize in this category.
JM: This is a great watch that immediately falls short for one reason: it isn’t an Octo Finissimo. I know, I know, I need to judge this watch on its own merits, but that is the point. For this category it is fairly uncomplicated compared to some others, so the added complexity of it being ultra thin would have been a huge addition. But without that, it is just a blacked-out worldtime watch in an atypical case. I like the watch in general, but I don’t think it has the oomph to win this category.
GG: The Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer is a good-looking piece, and this style of worldtime complication has been a staple of watchmaking since Cottier’s 1931 innovation so it has certainly stood the test of time. For me, though, Octa plus worldtimer doesn’t displace the L.U.C at the top of my chart.
IS: I desperately want to like the Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer more. I’m a big fan of the Octa collection in general and think worldtime is a useful complication for international travelers. But I’m finding that I appreciate simplicity and clean looks more and, as with the AP, I think that the dial of the Octa Roma Worldtimer is just too busy. As I get older, I’m appreciating a less-is-more attitude, even in complicated watches. And this worldtimer just has too much text on the dial for me. Plus, I prefer the blue-dial version.
ED: I do like the Octo line in general, and another Octo introduced at Geneva Watch Days – the Octo Roma Papillon Central Tourbillon derived from the original Daniel Roth line – really attracted me. This one left me cold in comparison, I’m afraid. It’s just too busy as some of the others have said.
Further reading: Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer: Everything Simply Falls Into Place
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer
Case: 41 x 11.35 mm, stainless steel with black diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 257, 6.03 mm height, 33 mm diameter, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, 42-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; world time
Price: €8,600 / 8,150 Swiss francs
Chanel Monsieur Superleggera Edition
MG: Chanel has built up an impressive line of watches in the last two decades, and I find this one particularly enticing. Again, one of those watches where everything is done right. I particularly love how the jump hour disk peeks out on the left and right sides of the retrograde minute hands. This is a watch that I would gladly wear myself.
JM: Chanel is a brand that tends to fly under the radar in the wider watchmaking world as it started as a fashion brand, but pieces like the Monsieur Superleggera demonstrate that this is a mistake. The retrograde minutes and jump hour are a very classic way to add complication to a watch and play with the indications.
I’ve always loved jump hours and retrograde mechanisms so this piece definitely tickles my fancy. The style is clearly modern so the appeal may be less than that of some others, but if you want a watch that is a bit different but supremely wearable this might be a good fit. I’m not sure if it has what it takes to win the category, but it definitely is a solid choice for your collection.
IS: I’m a big fan of the Chanel Monsieur, and this Superleggera Edition has a lot going for it. I’m surprised, though, by the case in steel: I would have thought with a name like Superleggera (“superlight”) it would be in carbon or at least titanium. And while the dial layout with its retrograde minutes, small seconds, and jumping hours is beautifully laid out, the black just doesn’t work for me.
I can’t help feeling that that dial should look clean with high legibility, and yet the time displays seem to fade into the background. I’m sure it’s a look that will have a lot of fans, but I prefer other versions of this model.
ED: I absolutely love the original Monsieur introduced in 2016 and all its variations since. But I am not turned on at all by this all-black “stealth” version, which I feel kills this rather charming unisex watch’s vibe.
GG: I’m a fan of the Chanel Monsieur, but the Superleggera Edition in this year’s competition falls victim to the “old watch, new clothes” rule that I’m using to weed out watches from past years that have been given new cosmetic treatments and re-entered in the Grand Prix.
Quick Facts Chanel Monsieur Superleggera Edition
Case: 42 x 10.85 mm, stainless steel and ceramic
Movement: manual winding Caliber 1, 72-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: jump hours, retrograde minutes, seconds
Price: 36,200 Swiss francs
Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
MG: Another jump hour, yet now from Chopard, in the high-end, classical style that has become the brand’s signature. Its 192-hour power reserve also makes this watch a delight in a mechanical sense. To me this is like a superb whisky, a private pleasure to sit down, relax, and enjoy.
IS: The Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 is one of the least complicated watches in this category, and it’s my pick for first place. I love the extremely clean dial – even the power reserve indicator has been placed on the back to maximize the purity of the stunning oven-fired enamel dial. Not that with an incredible eight-day power reserve you will need to check that indicator often. The L.U.C movement is absolutely sublime, at 40 mm the case size is perfect, and even the pink gold of the case is certified ethically mined.
That’s a perfect package in my book.
JM: This is an absolutely gorgeous watch and the one in this category I would want to wear the most as a daily-wear timepiece. It’s awesomely classic yet feels timeless, the movement is super cool with four mainspring barrels providing eight days’ worth of power reserve, not to mention an awesome jump hour mechanism (that is sadly hidden under the dial) with a fairly large window at 6 o’clock.
But this watch would have been better entered into the Men’s category as it does not exceed those criteria and honestly would have been a serious contender in my book. In this category, however, it just feels outmatched in complication by other pieces.
ED: I’m with you, Joshua. I love this timepiece and feel that it probably would have been a shoo-in in the Men’s category. Here it is just outgunned.
IS: I also thought that the Chopard would have been better placed in the Men’s Category, Elizabeth and Joshua, but (while perhaps a gray area) my interpretation of the rules is that that the jumping hours makes it just a tad too complicated to qualify.
GG: My top pick in this category is the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 issued in observance of the Chopard Manufacture’s 25th anniversary. It’s simple, elegant, and houses a useful complication – jumping hours – for which I have a particular weakness. I wish I’d had the chance to handle this watch as I suspect that the white enamel dial looks even better in person than in the available images. Of this set, it’s the watch I’d be most likely to buy.
Quick Facts Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
Case: 40 x 10.3 mm, pink gold
Dial: high-fire enamel
Movement: manually wound Caliber L.U.C 98.06-L with two serially operating sets of spring barrels (four total), power reserve 192 hours (9 days); 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency; Geneva Seal
Functions: jump hours, minutes; power reserve
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: 44,700 Swiss francs
MB&F LMX Titanium
IS: MB&F is really on a roll with its round-case Legacy Machine collection, and as a fan I’m not surprised. I love the twin dual time dials of LMX for their high legibility and the technical look of the combined vertical three-dimensional day of the week/power reserve indicator. The angles of those dual time subdials and that massive, suspended balance wheel make for an extremely complex movement to manufacture, but again I’m finding the dial too busy.
The rules of this category state it’s for watches “remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity,” and the LMX wins hands down here on creativity. I’d prefer those three exposed gear wheels to be hidden rather than exposed. But that’s nitpicking. The MB&F LMX Titanium is my runner-up in the Men’s Complication category.
GG: If I already owned an original MB&F Legacy Machine No. 1, would I buy the LMX Titanium as well? It’s certainly a “new and improved” interpretation of the first Legacy Machine from the dual time displays to a reinterpreted vertical power reserve indicator. I’m sure that there will be more than enough fans of the brand to buy out the 33-piece limited series of this watch and other variants of case metals and dial colors that we may see in the future, but for me it’s not the sort of breathtaking departure we saw with the Legacy Machine Perpetual, for instance.
JM: Winner, winner, chicken dinner, my friends. In the context of this category, there is not one watch that can stand beside this one in terms of mechanical complexity and creativity. The power reserve that can act as a day-of-the-week indicator, the dual time zones, the winding mechanism, and the shear aesthetic creativity makes this watch a standout in the category. It is the largest watch, which might make some balk at it, but hands down this watch should not be beat in this category.
The LMX celebrates ten years of the Legacy Machine collection and it does so with a bang. Hopefully it will be rewarded for its efforts.
MG: The LMX is so superb, so well executed that I don’t think it will win this category but instead bring home the Aiguille d’Or. It brings a lot of fun in a very serious way – for MB&F, that is. In particular I love with the power reserve indicator as well as the perfectly symmetrical design of the dial side of this watch.
ED: The Aiguille d’Or is a distinct possibility, Martin, and in my experience the winners of that category usually come from either the Men’s Complication or Mechanical Exception category.
One of the reasons I think it should win Men’s Complication or Aiguille d’Or is because of the open mechanics that Ian isn’t so fond of. I love exposed mechanics on the front of a watch, and here I find the perfect amount of those, including that lovely, suspended balance that takes center stage. I could stare into that dome all day long.
IS: I usually do like dial-side open mechanics, Elizabeth, but not when the mechanics overwhelm the indications. I think with this LMX the standout balance and escapement are enough.
Further reading: MB&F Legacy Machines: 10th Anniversary Retrospective And LMX
Quick Facts MB&F LMX
Case: 44 x 21.4 mm, grade 5 titanium
Movement: manual winding LMX caliber with three spring barrels, 168 hours (7 days) power reserve, 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, second time zone hours and minutes; hemispherical rotating vertical power reserve
Limitation: 33 pieces
Price: $112,000 / CHF 106,000 / €92,000
Elizabeth: MB&F LMX
Joshua: MB&F LMX
Ian: Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
Gary: Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
Martin: Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer