Our Predictions In The Ladies Complication Category Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): Is A Tourbillon Really A Complication?
Welcome to the 2022 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 Ladies Complication category constitutes 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 (e.g., annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases, tourbillon, digital or retrograde time display, world time, or dual time) and do not fit the definition of the Ladies and Mechanical Exception categories.
JM: As we dive into these categories, we run into the same questions we’ve had since the beginning regarding what qualifies as a complication, what constitutes a ladies’ watch, and what should be the winning criteria for the category. The six nominated pieces in the Ladies’ Complication category are all awesome, but only three are what I would actually consider complicated watches, not to mention only three are clearly “ladies’ watches.” This makes my job of picking a winner much easier, but it demonstrates how this category is not as straightforward as one might expect.
GG: Now we’re talking! If (with apologies to the makers) I found the assortment in the Ladies’ category a bit flat, the opposite is true here with several fascinating entries in the Ladies’ Complication group.
I won’t be a stickler about the tourbillon not being a complication as otherwise I’d have to disqualify the impressive entries from Audemars Piguet and Chopard.
MG: I would like to see the GPHG get a bit stricter with its entry requirements, Gary. It makes little sense to have a specific tourbillon category and then still allow tourbillons in the complication watch categories for both men and women without any additional functions. Part of the mission of the GPHG, in my opinion, is also to educate, and a tourbillon is not a complication but part of the regulating organ of the watch.
ED: Exactly, Martin. I’m with you on that one!
IS: The best thing about these six 2022 Ladies’ Complication watches is the variety of complications. Yes, we still have two traditional tourbillons, but the other four complications are anything but traditional. And I don’t understand why the tourbillons for ladies are not competing in the main tourbillon category anyway.
Andersen Genève Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines
MG: I think that the Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines represents Andersen Genève at its best. Even with the use of the baguette-cut aquamarines, the timepiece has a refined and almost understated character. While I love the worldtime complication, I also adore the use of blue gold in this watch.
This watch also strengthens my opinion that the GPHG should let go of the specific men’s and women’s categories, I would gladly wear this watch as my own daily wearer.
ED: Me too, Martin! This is an outstanding new interpretation of a Svend Andersen classic, and I absolutely love it. Aquamarines are such an underrated and underused stone. And using it here in conjunction with the Andersen-typical blue gold and the complex movement is stunning.
However, I’m afraid even the extreme beauty and classic complexity of this watch is slightly overshadowed by another in the category this year . . .
JM: Andersen Genève makes some fantastic independent pieces and is well known for its worldtime watches. The Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines is a terrific example of one of these with a gorgeous blue gold dial and bezel set with aquamarines, but that does not make this a complicated ladies’ watch.
Perhaps it is the general assumption that a gem-set watch is for women, but there isn’t anything about this watch, from its size to its decoration, that stands out as feminine, only fancy. I am certain there are many women who would love this watch, but it doesn’t feel like enough to take the crown in this category.
GG: Andersen Genève’s Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines is a classic worldtimer dressed up with an attractive halo of aquamarines, but it’s not at the level of technical achievement or inventiveness of some of the other finalists.
IS: The Andersen Genève Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines offers a lot: iconic worldtimer from world-class indie watchmaker Svend Andersen; beautiful Andersen signature blue gold dial; and an ideal 39 mm case size. The bluish aquamarine gemstones around the bezel complement the blue dial and add low-key sparkle. This Tempus Terrae is really a more unisex watch than a dedicated ladies’ watch, but that should be a plus. Unfortunately, the competition here is strong. Too strong for it to win in my opinion.
Quick Facts Andersen Genève Tempus Terrae Baguettes Aquamarines
Case: 39 x 9 mm, white gold with aquamarine-set bezel
Movement: automatic vintage AS Caliber 1876 with in-house world time module, 40-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; second time zone (24-hour display), world time
Price: CHF 67,500
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Automatic Flying Tourbillon Ultra-Thin Automatique RD#3
JM: My favorite color is purple, and I love the classic, smaller-cased Royal Oak models from AP, so I truly appreciate this piece. But, once again, I feel it banks on assumptions that a watch with a color other than blue or green would make it automatically feel feminine, and so the awesome ultra-thin tourbillon movement should elevate this watch to being the best complicated ladies’ watch. But I am just not buying it.
The trend for more traditionally sized watches has returned, and a 37-millimeter watch is just not that small anymore. So this watch just feels like it was one looking for a category where it could throw its weight around, not one where it made sense. For that reason, I can’t say this watch should win the crown for this category.
IS: Okay, I’ll admit that at 37 mm, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Ultra-Thin RD#3 technically rates as a wearable ladies’ watch, especially as it’s thin. And its eggplant-colored dial may appeal to some, but it will take more than a flying tourbillion to win this competition. I’m not a fan of the dial color, but this is a very nicely sized Royal Oak for women.
GG: Audemars Piguet brings us the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Ultra-Thin RD#3 – and the clunky name aside, it’s a lovely interpretation of the Royal Oak style with something extra in the form of a flying tourbillon. I like that this piece is aimed at women with its 37 mm diameter and plum-colored dial, but at the same time it is not exclusively feminine.
ED: No, it’s not, Gary. In fact, like Joshua, I would squarely place this in the unisex category of things. That aside, I too like everything about it that you mention, but think it’s still not enough to win this category against the competition.
MG: While a tourbillon is complex to make, it is still not a complication, so this Royal Oak has no business being in this category. And not in the least because an even better version of this watch is a contender in the Tourbillon category!
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Automatic Flying Tourbillon Ultra-Thin Automatique RD#3
Case: 37 x 8.1 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 2968, ultra-thin, with one-minute flying tourbillon, 50-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 178,200
Chaumet Sous Le Soleil Creative Complication
MG: Being a mystery watch is, in my book, also not a complication. That is a pity because this Chaumet is so beautiful and imaginative. Again one of those watches that would have done so well in a different category but feels a bit lost in this one. The use of gemstones is superb, and the overall craftsmanship is astonishing.
GG: Chaumet’s Sous Le Soleil Creative Complication Timepiece is a very particular timepiece as its vivid colors and large size aren’t going to be for everyone. That said, the mysterious hour and minute indicators in diamond and garnet respectively definitely lend visual interest and fun to the watch.
IS: I don’t think that tourbillons aimed at women should be automatically placed in the Ladies Complication category (while the “men’s tourbillons” have their own category). And I don’t think that, despite the last word in its name, the Chaumet Sous Le Soleil Creative Complication really rates as a complication. This looks more like a jewelry watch to me. It’s a stunning wristwatch, but it will take more than hours and minutes displayed by rotating gems to win here.
JM: Going in order of the listed watches in this category we finally have a truly feminine watch with an absolutely stunning assortment of gemstones and a design that focuses on shape and color before anything else. It also has a very artistic display using gemstones that seem to float for the hours and minutes, keeping the dial free of nearly anything that is not a faceted gemstone.
But the display is not a complication, nor is it even as complicated as a display could be using floating gemstones, so for me it misses the main mark of being a complicated watch.
ED: I couldn’t agree more with what my colleagues have all said. That aside, this watch on its own is just stunning, but very likely unwearable for me at that size: not only is 42 mm far too big in diameter for my wrist, the height of 16.3 mm takes it fully out of the running. Is it the gemstones that take up so much room?
Quick Facts Chaumet Sous Le Soleil Creative Complication
Case: 42 x 16.3 mm, yellow gold set with brilliant-cut diamonds
Dial: set with brilliant-cut diamonds, baguette-cut and round rubies, rose-cut Mandarin garnets, and pink chalcedony
Movement: undisclosed automatic movement, 40-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: unique piece
Price: CHF 275,000
Chopard Imperiale Flying Tourbillon
GG: Just when Audemars Piguet impresses by telling the saga of making a flying tourbillon movement fit in a 37 mm case, Chopard comes along with the Imperiale Flying Tourbillon and achieves the trick in a 36 mm size – and with chronometer certification and Geneva Seal to boot. The jewels, aventurine dial, and inset mother-of-pearl make this watch the visual opposite of the Royal Oak, but I quite like it.
ED: And while the Audemars Piguet RD#3 comes in at 8.1 mm in height, this lovely Chopard is only one millimeter higher at 9.1 – with gemstones and all those certifications. I would absolutely love to do a side-by-side comparison of these two one day. Thus far I have only handled the Chopard watch and found it striking.
MG: Also a stunning watch, but like the Royal Oak there is no complication to speak of here! Both the Chaumet and this watch should have been entered in the Jewellery category, where they can shine for the right reasons.
JM: Now we come to something that is both feminine and complicated, but only in the loosest definitions for my criteria. A watch with a tourbillon is often lumped into the category, and if it wasn’t for other much more complicated pieces it could be a solid contender, but I really feel it falls short for what is needed here.
The style of the tourbillon matching the mother-of-pearl lotus blossom on the dial is very elegant, and I would argue this is one of the most thematically coherent tourbillons designed for a woman this year. It is simple and ready for a night out on the town in a beautiful outfit, perhaps with matching jewelry, but in the face of my top two picks, it just misses the mark as the best complicated ladies’ watch.
IS: If a flying tourbillon was to win this category, it would be this Chopard Imperiale Flying Tourbillon. It’s a sensational ladies’ watch in every respect. I love it! Great size, diamonds are everywhere but not too visually dominating, the in-house automatic movement is superb, and the 36 mm case size ideal for smaller wrists. But (and repeat after me): it will take more than a flying tourbillon to win here. And, again, why aren’t all tourbillon watches, both men’s and ladies’, in the same category?
Quick Facts Chopard Imperiale Flying Tourbillon
Case: 36 x 9.12 mm, ethical white gold, bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds
Dial: aventurine set with diamonds and mother-of-pearl
Movement: automatic Caliber L.U.C 96.24-C with one-minute flying tourbillon and diamond-set platinum micro-rotor, variable inertia balance, 65-hour power reserve, twin serially operating spring barrels, 25,200 vph/3.5 Hz frequency, officially C.O.S.C. chronometer certified, Geneva Seal
Functions: hours, minutes, hacking seconds (on tourbillon cage)
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: CHF 175,000
Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur
MG: A bold move by Hermes to enter essentially the same watch, although in different sizes and colorways, in both the Ladies and Men’s complication category. The Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur is a highly original approach to the travel watch, oozes style and sophistication, and is definitely my runner up in this category.
IS: The Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur was one of the, and for many THE, top watch of Watches and Wonders 2022. Like the Andersen Genève Tempus Terrae, the Voyageur is a worldtimer, but it displays the world time in such a playful and tactile way – a pusher on the case band at 9 o’clock rotates the whole hour/minute subdial assembly around the dial one hour each time its pushed – that it is my choice to win this category.
Interestingly, this same watch (in a different color) was shortlisted in the Men’s Complication category too. It would be a first (to my knowledge) if the same watch won both the men’s and women’s categories. You don’t get more unisex than that!
I think that the only thing that would stop the Arceau Le Temps Voyageur winning here is if it took the top prize of the evening, the Aiguille d’Or, and that’s certainly possible.
JM: I absolutely adore this complication reminding me of the mechanical creativity found in the L’Heure de la Lune, and the size is easily considered perfect for most wrists. The wandering dial for changing the time zone and second time zone hour display at 12 o’clock are a top-notch design offering something unique from Hermès.
But, and this is a big but, I’m hesitant to say this was adequately designed to be a women’s watch. It comes in two sizes and colors, a 41 mm black version and a 38 mm blue version, which for many would make the smaller blue version the better buy, but not inherently feminine just because of its size.
I am making gendered assumptions that are based totally on culture but given that it was put into this category, which historically focuses on obviously gendered watches, it leaves me wanting here. The watch is amazing, I think it deserves recognition and awards, but going head to head with my top choice for this category, it fails to win me over as the best ladies’ complicated watch.
GG: I do love the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur! The clever traveling local time dial, the subtle home time indication at 12 o’clock, the visual depth, and the fanciful map of the “world” with continents bearing equestrian-related names are all very much to my taste, and it’s a complication we’ve not seen before. Since I’m a terrible cheater, I’ll place the watch second in this category, and keep my Hermès-related powder dry for the Men’s Complications.
ED: For me this was really the watch of Watches and Wonders 2022. I love its serious playfulness – that is somehow, amazingly, still utilitarian. AND it is by far the most reasonably priced watch in this six-timepiece shortlist. However, in a dedicated “Ladies Complication” category I feel it is trumped by another watch that debuted at that fair. And so, like for Gary, it comes in second for me here.
Quick Facts Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur
Case: 38 x 12.41 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Hermès Caliber H1837 with Chronode module; 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 40-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes; worldtime, second time zone
Price: €18,000 / CHF 21,010
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
JM: The Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier is my winner by leaps and bounds because it does exactly what I think a complicated ladies’ timepiece should: provide unique complications specific to the audience that make sense in context.
It is fine to make a travel watch or a chiming piece, but there should be a purpose to making it as a feminine timepiece specifically, at least if it is to compete for the title of best complicated ladies’ watch. The display of the time is based on a changing pattern of automata on the dial: 12 different flowers blooming in configurations that shift every hour. The mechanical ingenuity alone is astonishing, but combining it with the beauty of the miniature painted enamel flower petals, sculpted gold branches, and gemstones set into the dial and center of each flower is what truly makes this piece such a stunner.
What’s more, the minutes are read along the edge of the case through a sapphire crystal window resulting in the dial being completely free of numbers, logos, or any type of marking. The face of the watch is pure mechanical art, all designed with a woman in mind, not just a recycled complication from a men’s watch. But the size of the watch isn’t too large considering the complex mechanics; it is a little thick but still a very wearable size.
And since it isn’t trying to be the best “jewelry” watch or the best all around “ladies’” watch, it is a fantastic choice to win this category. I’m not often extremely certain of which watch might win, but I legitimately will be surprised if this does not win. It is just too indicative of horological excellence.
ED: Bravo, Joshua, fantastic resumé of why this watch should win this category! I would only add to that the following: when I put it on my wrist at Watches and Wonders 2022, it not only made me feel joyful it also captivated everyone around me. I would also be very surprised if this did not take the Ladies Complication crown – or tiara as it were.
MG: The Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier watch is one of those watches where pictures don’t do it justice. The opening and closing of the flowers is something that you need to see to truly understand the nature of this timepiece. Telling time is a challenge, but do we really care? This Van Cleef & Arpels is more a dynamic piece of wearable art, representing the transition of haute horlogerie to the next stage of its development. The complexity of the movement is astonishing, and the execution is perfect.
GG: My winner, by a hair over the Hermès, is the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier. The wearer will spend lots of time counting up the number of unfurled blossoms to figure out what hour it is, but I suspect she will enjoy it a great deal. And for me this piece is a technical achievement that takes it to the top of a very competitive set of complicated watches.
IS: If it wasn’t for the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur, the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales would be my hands-down winner of this category. Here’s a watch that makes reading the time a challenge: while the minutes are displayed clearly around the left side of the case band, the hours are displayed by the number of flowers that have bloomed (their central gems are visible) seemingly randomly around the dial, and the sequence changes from day to day. It’s a mind twist, it’s fun, it’s complicated, and it makes for a fantastic watch for flower lovers. It would be a worthy winner here, but I think it will be runner up (unless the Hermès Voyageur gets bumped up).
Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Case: 38 x 14.64 mm, diamond-set pink gold
Movement: automatic caliber by Valfleurier, 36-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; flower automata animation
Price: CHF 247,000
Elizabeth: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Joshua: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Gary: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Martin: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier
Ian: Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur
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