Our Predictions For The Aiguille d’Or (Grand Prize) Of The 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Will It Be A Watch Or A Clock?
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
The GPHG foundation describes the Aiguille d’Or as “. . . rewarding the best overall watch among all the categories (best in show), also deemed the most representative of the watch industry as a whole. It is the most prestigious award.”
ED: And we finally come to the Aiguille d’Or, which is really down to individual interpretations. To me it should be a whole package: a watch combining several standout elements and not only focusing exclusively on the most complicated or a particular technical breakthrough. An Aiguille d’Or laureate should be a “grail” watch.
GG: I found 2021 a fascinating year for the GPHG with some very strong watches, some entire categories whose finalists weren’t up to the standards of prior years, and a diverse mix of watches to consider – the latter perhaps one result of the Academy structure for winnowing the initial entrants down to smaller sets of finalists.
As usual, I combed through the list of 84 finalists and picked out those I thought merited consideration for Best in Show, regardless of whether I had picked them as the top pieces in their categories. While the rules for the Aiguille d’Or mention “best watch,” two of my finalists were clocks: the Miki Eleta Svemir and Ulysse Nardin UFO.
It’s great to see innovative clockmaking included in the GPHG, and as long as these pieces are allowed to be category finalists I found it fair game to include them in the Aiguille d’Or. Among the watches, I favored the Chopard L.U.C Quattro Sprint 25, De Bethune DB Kind of Two tourbillon, and the MB&F LM SE Eddy Jaquet Around the World in Eighty Days.
JM: This category is often a tossup after the number of cool watches entered and the close races in each category are taken into account. But what happens sometimes is a watch surprisingly doesn’t win in its category and I might start to think it got robbed only for it to win a special jury award or the Aiguille d’Or.
ED: To note, Joshua: the GPHG foundation tries as far as possible to avoid a particular watch winning more than one prize, and as such the watch that wins the Aiguille d’Or is removed from its category. However, that also means that the watch that then wins the relevant category very likely didn’t actually win; it came in second.
IS: Is the Aiguille d’Or winner selected just from the category winners, Elizabeth, or could any of the 84 pre-selected watches win the big prize? The rules as stated aren’t clear to me: “This prize rewards the best overall watch among all categories (Best in Show), also deemed the most representative of the watch industry as a whole.”
ED: Any of the 84 nominated watches can take the big prize, Ian. If the winning watch happens to have won its category, though, it will be removed from that category.
IS: The big question here for me is whether clocks count as “best overall watch” when they have already been pre-selected (and approved) by the GPHG? There are two clocks (by Miki Eleta and Ulysse Nardin) nominated in the Mechanical Exception category even though the first sentence of the category rules state, “. . . men’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity.”
If men’s watches include clocks in the Mechanical Exception category, then my guess is that they qualify for the Aiguille d’Or. And if so they are both strong frontrunners as Gary already noted.
JM: With the incredible watches on display this year, it really is anybody’s guess which one will win the big prize. Regardless of the winner, this year is bound to have a lot of fantastic pieces recognized, and that is the reason the GPHG exists.
2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Aiguille d’Or Predictions
MB&F LMX Titanium
MG: While there are so many deserving watches this year, I feel that the LMX Titanium will be awarded the Aiguille d’Or. It unites so many features of the Legacy Machine that we all have come to love in a single timepiece, yet with another unique twist by means of the power reserve indicator. Plus, it has a green dial, and I feel that you have got to have a green dial to win the top prize this year!
ED: You and I both have this one down to win its own category, Men’s Complication. And that’s already a tough category, Martin.
IS: I’m a fan of the MB&F LMX Titanium, but don’t think it’s the strongest contender from MB&F: I rate the MB&F LM SE Eddy Jaquet Around the World in Eighty Days competing in the Artistic Crafts category with a better chance at the Aiguille d’Or.
JM: MB&F is often the wild card because what it does is so incredible, but people are also usually divided on the aesthetics, and this watch’s response is likely no different. Since it’s a Legacy Machine it is much more likely to have broad support, but the star of the show is the mechanics on display, and it is hard to argue against that.
It may not represent world records like the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, but it is the most visually striking display of horology. I think that this could very well take the prize given what it has to offer.
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
De Bethune DB Kind of Two
ED: I have a couple of favorites here, and most come from this year’s Tourbillon category. I’m in particular going back and forth between the unique Louis Moinet Space Revolution and De Bethune DB Kind of Two.
It would be cool for one of those to win its category and the other the Aiguille d’Or. And seeing as we voted unanimously for the De Bethune DB Kind of Two to win the Tourbillon category – the only time our panel was unanimous during this entire discussion period – I would suspect that this is a great candidate for the Aiguille d’Or. So it’s my pick here too.
IS: I’m with you here, Elizabeth: the De Bethune DB Kind of Two is also my pick to win the Aiguille d’Or. If I just had to have one watch (money no object), I’d be overjoyed to have this one. While I also think that there are two clocks in the running that have an excellent chance to win the Aiguille d’Or, the rules state, “. . . most representative of the watch industry as a whole.” And I think the De Bethune Kind of Two is more representative of the industry than a clock (no matter how fantastic it is).
JM: This watch represents most of what is incredible about De Bethune; the only thing it is missing is the spherical moon phase and then I would say it is unstoppable. The reversible case with flexible lugs is so fun and multifunctional that nary a piece in the competition stacks up against it. Two sides both showing the time with different aesthetics is great for changing it up, and the typical De Bethune quality is on display no matter which side you pick.
I think this piece might have the best chance to win for the simple reason that the classic and more traditional jury members have a side of the watch they will love, while the avant-garde De Bethune purists will love the reverse. The mechanical awesomeness of the watch is obvious, but the question will be whether the jury finds the watch to be more than the sum of its parts.
Quick Facts De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon
Case: reversible in grade five titanium, 42.8 x 9.5 mm; floating lugs, crown at 6/12 o’clock
Movement: manually wound Caliber DB2579 with 30-second tourbillon with titanium balance wheel and white gold inserts, silicon escape wheel, self-regulating twin spring barrels, silicon escape wheel, 5 Hz/36,000 vph frequency, five-day power reserve
Functions: dual hours, minutes; seconds on one side
Limitation: 10 pieces
Price: $250,000 / 215,000 Swiss francs
Miki Eleta Svemir
GG: Did I mention that I found this year’s selection diverse? To cut to the chase, if clocks are indeed permitted as candidates for the top prize, I’m going with the Miki Eleta Svemir. It’s a beautifully made, landmark piece that gives its owner a daily reminder of our place in the cosmos as seen from both earth-centered and heliocentric perspectives – lessons in horology, astronomy, and social history combined in one knockout timepiece.
IS: I also strongly considered Miki Eleta’s amazing Svemir clock for the Aiguille d’Or, Gary, but the rules state the winner should be both best, in show and be “. . . deemed the most representative of the watch industry as a whole.” IMHO, Miki Eleta is an outlier, representative of no one other than himself. However, as we well know, the GPHG seems to live by the motto “rules are there to be broken.”
Quick Facts Miki Eleta Svemir
Case: 330 x 600 mm, gold-plated brass, walnut base
Movement: manually wound movement, 144-hour power reserve, 4,160 vph frequency
Functions: jump hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with date, date, month, year, moon phase, zodiac, seasons, equinoxes, solstices, ecliptic, equation of time; power reserve indication, worldtime, day/night indication, displays of geocentric and heliocentric time
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: 200,000 Swiss francs
Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25
GG: Among the watches, it’s a tough call between the Chopard and the De Bethune, but I’ll pick the Chopard for its clean looks, beautiful finishing, and eight days of power reserve in a jumping indication watch. It meets my number one criterion – coherence – in a big way and is a sophisticated watch that seems in tune with the sober yet hopeful spirit of our times.
IS: The Chopard L.U.C Quattro Sprint 25 was my pick to win the Men’s Complication category too, Gary, but I think it looks just a little “too normal” to win the Aiguille d’Or – that statement should guarantee that it romps home with the big prize, though!
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
GG: For the Audacity Prize, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem is my pick. It’s a watch I would never buy or wear, but for me it’s a legitimate piece and the jaquemart movement is a solid piece of horological work.
ED: Interesting thought, Gary. I hadn’t considered it in that light.
IS: If the Miki Eleta Svemir doesn’t win the Aiguille d’Or then I think it might take the Audacity Prize. The Ulysse Nardin UFO clock is also a strong contender here, and it’s my runner-up.
GG: For Innovation I’ll go with the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer. Yes, it’s a re-packaging of last year’s Lederer entry, but a substantially reworked one on the dial side and still extremely clever in its movement construction.
IS: If neither of the clocks win the Mechanical Exception category, then I think the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer will win it and we will see clocks in these jury prizes. However, if another – perhaps the Miki Eleta Svemir – wins the Mechanical Exception category, then I think the Central Impulse Chronometer well merits recognition here. I’ll count Lederer’s entry last year as a trial run.
JM: The Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer is a watch that has surprise Aiguille d’Or winner written all over it. Given the absolutely incredible movement and the unique and technical escapements, it captures attention. Add to that the fact it has had its looks improved, allowing it to now present as a very sound classic watch with modern appeal, it could get enough support to help it rise to the top. It wouldn’t be the first time a small independent brand has won the Aiguille d’Or, so it’s not impossible. The main thing that could work against it is how technical it is and if the jury will understand it well enough to validate the impressiveness of the piece.
Overall I think it is worthy of a win, but I fear it may not get broad support, at least outside of its category, for the Aiguille d’Or. This prize could be a good solution.
Quick Facts Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
Case: 44 x 12.2 mm, white gold
Movement: manual winding Caliber 9012 with dual gear train with dual 10-second remontoirs and natural escapements, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, 38-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: 50 pieces
Price: CHF 137,850 Swiss francs
GG: For Horological Revelation? anOrdain for me with its Model 1, a design-centered watch at an appealing price.
IS: I’m wondering if the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer might be included here? While Bernhard Lederer has been around forever, the watchmaking brand “Bernhard Lederer” launched with this watch so should qualify. If this watch hasn’t been recognized elsewhere (which would be a shame) it should be a slam dunk here. But if Bernhard Lederer does win another prize, then I think this prize should be passed this year.
ED: I’m not sure that Bernhard Lederer qualifies here. But anOrdain certainly does, and I would definitely suggest that brand for the prize as well!
Special Jury Prize
GG: I suspect we will see Aurel Bacs on the GPHG stage one last time now that he has stepped down as jury president, this time accepting the Special Jury Prize for his many contributions to the organization over the years and his successes in facilitating a thriving market for pre-owned timepieces.
IS: I feel that I’ve seen Aurel Bacs on the stage at the GPHG so many times that I’d have to make an effort to notice if he was on the receiving end. I’ve absolutely no idea who (if anyone) might win the Special Jury Prize.
Louis Moinet Space Revolution
ED: This watch is a lot of fun. But behind the fun are a lot of interesting and complicated mechanics. The movement is a masterpiece requiring more than three years of research and development.
What we see when we look at it are two spaceships and two tourbillons (incidentally averaged by a differential) that are placed on different levels and cross each other 18 times an hour, looking for all the world like they are partaking in an epic space battle. That is all we see because the rest of the movement is hidden to retain the purity of the space scene. Absolutely masterful.
Quick Facts Louis Moinet Space Revolution
Case: 43.5 x 18.3 mm, pink gold
Dial: black aventurine
Movement: hand-wound Louis Moinet Caliber LM 104 with two separate one-minute tourbillons, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, 48-hour power reserve, twin mainspring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes; spaceship animation, crown function selector on back (winding and time setting)
Limitation: 8 pieces, each with a unique meteorite in the center
Price: 360,000 Swiss francs
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
JM: This is a world record holder and a past favorite for the GPHG, so it is incredibly strong coming into the 2021 competition: being the thinnest perpetual calendar in existence is a huge draw.
It is however visually very similar to past Octo Finissimo pieces that have won something, so it may get passed over for the big Aiguille d’Or given past performance as a winner simply to showcase a different brand or model this time around.
Quick Facts Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar
Case: 40 x 5.8 mm, blasted titanium or brushed platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber BVL 302, 60 hours power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz, ultra-thin 2.75 mm in height
Functions: hours, minutes; perpetual calendar with retrograde date, day, month, retrograde leap year indication
Price: $59,000 (titanium) / 57,000 Swiss francs
Elizabeth: De Bethune DB Kind of Two
Ian: De Bethune DB Kind of Two
Joshua: De Bethune DB Kind of Two
Gary: Chopard L.U.C Quattro Sprint 25 or, if clocks qualify, Miki Eleta Svemir
Martin: MB&F LMX