Our Predictions In The Tourbillon Category Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): To Win This The Tourbillon Needs To Be Very Special
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.
Our 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
In the Tourbillon category, we find men’s mechanical watches – the words of the GPHG rules, not ours – with at least one tourbillon. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
JM: The tourbillon category debuted in 2014 and was won by the awesome Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon. It continued as such for a few years then changed to the Tourbillon and Escapement category in 2017. A year later it morphed into the Chronometry category, and since then we have been grumbling about bringing it back since it forced awesome tourbillon watches to be tossed into other categories, often missing well deserved recognition.
The pure Tourbillon category was brought back in 2021, so this is the second year of its revival. It definitely helps us (and I’m sure the jury) to debate the merits of different tourbillons instead of having the same argument about whether tourbillons count as complications.
I do think the category should probably still be the Tourbillon and Escapement category to avoid arguments over the merits of escapement innovation over extreme complication in the Mechanical Exception category. But overall, I’m much happier to work with a GPHG that at least separates them out for us to focus on exactly one main idea: an innovative or exceptionally well executed tourbillon in the context of a great timepiece.
IS: I agree with you, Joshua, that it should be the Tourbillon and Escapement category. Although, would constant force without a tourbillon fit in that?
ED: Thanks for that rundown of the history of this category, Joshua! Very interesting to look at it that way.
Because the only criterion is the inclusion of a tourbillon, choosing a winner is extremely tough and probably comes down in some way to taste.
Additionally, five of the six watches in this category are either openworked or dial-less, so their visuals are not dissimilar. Five of the six are also one-minute tourbillons, with only the entry by Greubel Forsey veering into different territory with a 24-second tourbillon. One-half of the contestants have flying tourbillons, while another boasts a cylindrical tourbillon, and yet another has a constant-force tourbillon. Which leaves the most handmade tourbillon among the lot the least “difficult” in its nature.
GG: Some tough calls to be made in this category! While from time to time it’s a bit of a struggle to find something really positive to say about each of the finalists in a given class, this time around in what appears to be (with one exception) the “year of openworking” I can’t totally dismiss any of the entrants.
MG: The Tourbillon category remains the supercar of the GPHG; these watches offer incredible performance that you rarely truly can take advantage of. That doesn’t make them any less desirable as the six nominated watches prove.
IS: I think I’m in the wrong room: I saw the six finalists and except for one thought that this was the skeletonized/openworked category, not the tourbillon category. What the watches here highlight is that there’s a fine line between revealing just enough and revealing too much.
Slightly off the topic of tourbillons, while I’ve often disagreed publicly with many decisions by GPHG juries over the years, I’ve always admired the incredible combined knowledge and experience the juries have (especially compared to mine). But when I read the recently published list of the 2022 GPHG jury members, I was blown away by the quality of the new members. I tip my hat to the GPHG committee for creating such a superb jury.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked
JM: Everyone loves a good Royal Oak with a tourbillon, and the Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked is a pretty darn cool version. The movement is visually interesting, it has some internal beveled angles on the openworked bridges, plenty of depth for those who love mechanical architecture, and it has everything a movement nerd should love.
But in a category for tourbillons where the only criteria to join is having a tourbillon, you need a way to stand out. Five of the six watches in this category are either openworked or dial-less, meaning that everything the Royal Oak has doesn’t help it be very unique in the group. The AP tourbillon here is also is relatively typical, even if it’s a flying tourbillon, since half the watches in the category are the same. After comparing to all the others in this year’s competition, I find it to be a great example of a skeletonized flying tourbillon, but not much else above and beyond. For that reason, I don’t think it really measures up to the others as the “best” tourbillon timepiece.
MG: Audemars Piguet entered the Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked. While I consider this one of the most tempting versions of this iconic (a rare occasion that I use the term) timepieces, it is more like a Porsche 911 Turbo S competing with one-of-a-kind supercars. Truly impressive in its own right, it still feels a bit “common” in this company.
ED: As Joshua and Martin have said, this is a great-looking watch. It just feels a bit “normal” among its company in the category. And definitely a tad underpowered up against a constant-force tourbillon.
GG: Openworking: check! Automatic flying tourbillon: check! At least some sharp interior angles: check! Slightly updated Royal Oak case, bracelet, and hand profiles: check! The Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked ticks a lot of boxes and is my second choice in this category.
IS: A tip of the hat to Audemars Piguet for having two Royal Oak Openworked watches in the finals of two categories: Iconic and another here in Tourbillon. While I’m a fan of openworked dials and being able to appreciate the movement at a glance, this flying tourbillon just looks too busy to me: there is so much to see that there’s nothing to see.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Openworked
Case: 41 x 10.6 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic skeletonized Caliber 2972 with one-minute flying tourbillon; 65-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 220,600
Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon
JM: This watch has what most other watches in this category have, but the one thing the Grand Seiko Kodo has that none of the rest have is right in its name: “Constant-Force Tourbillon.” On top of being mechanically fascinating to look at, and an utter surprise from the historically reserved Grand Seiko, it features a constant-force jumping second mechanism for the tourbillon, adding a truly beneficial chronometric bonus that isn’t evidenced elsewhere in the category (and is fairly uncommon altogether).
It beats at 4 Hz, so combined with the dead seconds the sound coming from the movement is effectively musical in its rhythm, pulling you into the mechanical awesomeness inside. This is the first movement in this ballpark from Grand Seiko and it has not disappointed. The design is also a surprising update from typical Grand Seiko aesthetics, showcasing just how unique this watch is. No other timepiece in this category went as far as the Kodo did mechanically, so for that reason I cannot see another watch justifiably taking the crown away from Grand Seiko.
MG: Kudos for the Kodo! What a fantastic watch this is in both technical and aesthetic senses. I love the innovation in the form of combining the tourbillon and the constant-force mechanism. The watch is so well designed that I don’t know if form follows function or if it is the other way around. It is also a watch that tastes like more, so I hope that Grand Seiko is not only introducing more high-end, innovative watches like this, but that the Japanese brand also lets both the design and the technical know-how trickle down to more affordable watches – produced in (slightly) larger numbers. The Kodo is my predicted winner in this category.
ED: When I saw this watch at Watches and Wonders 2022, I experienced something like shock and awe. Yes, it is busy. But so are the other four openworked tourbillons in this category. Yes, there have been other tourbillons in the history of watchmaking to be combined with constant force. But not recently, and never from Japan.
I love that Grand Seiko is coming out of its shell to reveal what a technical and innovation powerhouse it is. My only gripe is perhaps the price of this masterpiece . . . but then again, I am certainly not the consumer for this timepiece. And it is not even the most expensive timepiece in this category.
It is my clear winner here.
IS: The Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon nearly falls into the same trap as the AP Openworked, but its mechanisms are more clearly delineated and it’s got a fantastic constant-force mechanism and deadbeat seconds.. At nearly 44 mm it’s a large watch (which is surprising from Japan), but that nearly 13 mm tourbillon cage puts that space to good use. It’s not my pick for the number one slot, but the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon is my runner up.
GG: Unfortunately for me, the day at Watches and Wonders 2022 that I had reserved to visit with Grand Seiko and some other brands was instead occupied isolated in my room following a positive COVID test. I wish that I’d had the opportunity to handle the Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon as many friends had very positive things to say about it.
Certainly, from its specifications, it’s one to be reckoned with, with a rapid-beat constant-force tourbillon that performs to a high chronometry standard and hacks to boot. Visually, though, I’m not quite convinced with the harmony of this watch; and from the video included with the nomination, some of the movement finishing, especially the brushed elements, appears a bit rough.
Further reading: Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon: Grand Seiko Unleashed
Quick Facts Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon
Case: 43.8 x 12.9 mm, hybrid platinum 950 and Brilliant Hard Titanium
Movement: manually wound Caliber 9ST1 with co-axial constant force one-minute tourbillon, 72-hour power reserve (50 hours of constant force), 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 20 pieces
Price: €370,000 / CHF 382,000
Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
MG: When it comes to watches, Greubel Forsey can be seen as the equivalent of Pagani – in particular when it comes to tourbillons. What I love is that Greubel Forsey not only focuses on the complexity of the movement, but also on that of the case. That makes these watches even more exceptional in the metal. With that a given, I could do without the text surrounding the movement as it states the obvious.
GG: “Rough” is not a word that one would ever use to describe a Greubel Forsey watch, and the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture, which I did handle in person, is very much up to the finishing standards we expect from GF. I found this re-interpretation of the themes from watches like the brand’s classic Double Tourbillon 30° Technique interesting, but even with its dramatic isolated towers and domes, I didn’t feel the love for this one; it all seemed a bit self-consciously “modern” for my tastes.
JM: I recently covered the GF Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture watch and made the proclamation that Greubel Forsey as we knew it was dead, and this signified a new Greubel Forsey. I think that was a fair declaration, and this watch perfectly exemplifies that. The mechanics are visually and technically incredible, and the 24-second inclined tourbillon is a hard tourbillon to beat for chronometric excellence and engineering uniqueness.
If it hadn’t been for the Grand Seiko in this category, this would be my winner, hands down. I will always go to bat for Greubel Forsey, even though the brand needs no help from little old me. But no matter how awesome this piece is and how much it has shifted the brand’s aesthetics in entirely new ways, the 24-second inclined tourbillon is well established territory for the brand and for the GPHG since a version already won the Aiguille d’Or in 2015. For that reason, I feel confident to let the Greubel Forsey take a very close second place.
ED: A close runner up for me. As Joshua already said, this watch marks a “new” phase for GF, and what a watch to start that with. It is sublime, and I love the rebooted form of the existing movement. But it doesn’t quite overtake the Kodo for me.
IS: Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room first: size. I described the Seiko as large at 44 mm, but the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture case measures 45 mm. That means it’s far too big for my wrist, but aside from that it’s perfect. I love it. The generous dial (really the movement) space allows all of the mechanisms to shine on their own stages. The only way I see the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture losing this category is if it is bumped up to the evening’s grand prize, the Aiguille d’Or.
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Case: 47.05 x 16.8 mm, grade 5 titanium
Movement: manual winding Caliber Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture with 24-second tourbillon inclined at 25 degrees, 90-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, variable inertia balance, three serially operating fast-rotating barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 11 pieces in 2022, 18 pieces per year from 2023 through 2025
Price: $500,000 / CHF 470,800
H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton
GG: I might have picked the Royal Oak had I not seen the H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton on Bertrand Meylan of Moser’s wrist this past weekend. Let me tell you: this thing is absolutely killer on the wrist with its dramatic Funky Blue fumé dial, luminous three-dimensional ceramic markers, and dramatic symmetrical open construction. I had to search very hard on the provided images to find two somewhat-sharp interior angles, but I’m not going to hold that against a watch that is a visual and – with its brand-characteristic cylindrical hairspring – a mechanical stunner. It’s my top pick in this exciting race.
JM: Moser is known for extremely clean, often unbranded, minimalist haute horology, so this piece is a bit of a big step for the brand, and it’s paid off well. The delicate skeleton movement creates a featherlight aesthetic, and the tourbillon is proudly on display as it should be. The Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon has a cylindrical hairspring mounted with two Breguet overcoil terminals to perfectly manage expansion and contraction of the hairspring for excellent isochronism. This is a great watch and definitely could turn heads on the jury. But I fear it is still too straightforward of a tourbillon to take the crown up against Grand Seiko’s Kodo.
One other aspect I wanted to bring attention to, in case I don’t have another chance, is Moser’s sustainability efforts. As Elizabeth recently wrote in her article Watches And Culture Watch Forum 2022: Finally, Sustainability Is Important. Hopefully, It’s Not Too Late, many brands are beginning to approach their activities with sustainability in mind, which is great news for everyone. Moser pointed out in its GPHG entry that it, “Has fulfilled all the conditions to be RJC certified and guarantees a zero-carbon footprint in manufacturing its timepieces by using more efficient methods and procedures and by offsetting the residual footprint by buying carbon credits.”
This sounds great, but it is problematically misleading because you cannot have a zero-carbon footprint by buying carbon credits, that is not how this works. This allows you to buy the right to pollute from others who have decided not to pollute – or, more accurately, been able to actually reduce their carbon burn. In a cap-and-trade system, buying carbon credits does nothing to reduce your footprint, it only keeps you in compliance with carbon emission guidelines. The only way that reduction happens is if you purchase carbon offsets that actually capture and sequester carbon, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, matching what you emitted.
This could be a typo or a perhaps just an inaccurate description of what Moser is doing, but I wanted to nip this in the bud in case it becomes standard, because you can’t carbon credit your way to net-zero, you have to engage in carbon negative offsetting to achieve anything. I’m not trying to put Moser on blast, but I want sustainability to mean something and if you are going to claim a zero-carbon footprint then you better show the receipts and know how it works.
ED: Thank you, Joshua, for pointing that out. It’s a very, very important distinction and one that needs to be pointed out and explained every single time until the brands really start diminishing their own footprints rather than use the practice of “offsetting,” which is in essence a form of greenwashing. Now that we’ve talked this over among ourselves, it might be a good time to talk to Moser and find out what the brand meant by this – I too think it could just be inaccurate wording or language/translation problems.
MG: If I were in the market for a unique, high-end tourbillon, this Moser is the one I would buy. I had the luxury of being able to spend some time with the Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton, and it still amazes me. It offers a contemporary edge on Moser’s sense of style and innovation, and the cylindrical hairspring is just so captivating that it adds another layer of appeal to the tourbillon. My runner up in this category.
IS: Cylindrical balance wheels are magical to observe, and the Moser Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton also nails the essence of a great skeletonized watch: just because you can highlight everything doesn’t mean you should. I love seeing the selected mechanisms revealed, and the cylindrical tourbillon is icing on the cake. I’m not a big fan of the blue hue of the dial, but I don’t find it off-putting. The Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton is a worthy contender here, but I don’t think it will win.
Quick Facts H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton
Dial and hands: Funky Blue fumé with Globolight hour markers and hands
Movement: automatic skeletonized Caliber HMC 811; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency; one-minute flying tourbillon with cylindrical hairspring; power reserve 74 hours
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 79,000 (excluding taxes)
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonday PF Flying Tourbillon
ED: The Tonda PFs are just running away with the GPHG this year! Congratulations to Parmigiani and newish CEO Guido Terreni for finding just the right collection at the right time to enchant watch buyers and critics.
MG: Yet another Tonda PF, now with a highly desirable flying tourbillon. I love the subtlety with which Parmigiani has integrated this type of regulating organ in the Tonda PF. With very little fuss, the brand maintains the purity of the design, making it somewhat of an understatement.
JM: I have been over the moon with the new Parmigiani Tonda PF collection ever since it was released. I think it is a fantastic evolution for the brand and a top-notch integrated bracelet sport watch with a minimalist luxury bent.
The Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon is an awesome watch (if heavy thanks to the fully platinum case) but it isn’t a chronometric tour de force like some others. This watch is more so about having the symbol that shows you were able to buy the best of the collection, you aren’t the middle manager or department head, you are the CEO. For some that is the ultimate grail and having a very cool flying tourbillon visible in a small window on the dial is nothing to scoff at.
But in this category where the only requirement is to have a tourbillon, you need something to stand out, preferably something related to how the tourbillon functions or how accurate it is. In light of that, I don’t feel the Parmigiani is actually a strong contender; even though it is the most broadly appealing watch, it isn’t the “best” tourbillon in the group.
GG: Kudos to Parmigiani for entering watches across multiple categories and for the new-meets-old clean look of the Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon with its all-new automatic movement and what I’m sure is a dreamy-feeling platinum bracelet. I wish that the tourbillon cage was a bit bigger as it might help to fill the open dial side better, but it’s a watch I’d love to try.
IS: It’s incredible to me that out of six of the best tourbillons of 2022, the Parmigiani Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon is the only watch here with a full dial. With its ethically sourced platinum case, bracelet, and buckle, new (platinum) micro rotor, flying tourbillon movement, and low-key monochromatic looks, the Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon would be a very worthy winner this year, but I don’t think that it will take the crown.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Tonday PF Flying Tourbillon
Case: 42 x 8.6 mm, ethical platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber PF517 with one-minute flying tourbillon and micro rotor; 48-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 25 pieces
Price: CHF 140,000
Theo Auffret Tourbillon Grand Sport
JM: I love this watch and everything it has to offer; it might be the biggest wild card in the category given its provenance as an extremely limited (4 pieces) subscription piece from an upstart independent. Subscription watches are rare and can signal a future collector’s gem and given the aesthetic I know exactly the types of people who would want this one. I might even offer up that this watch is the Greubel Forsey for those who don’t want to spend the half a million for the Greubel Forsey. Or perhaps want to get in on the ground floor for a small brand that could be the next Roger W. Smith.
But like I’ve mentioned with other watches in this category, the purpose is the tourbillon and so that itself needs to stand out. This tourbillon is ultra-traditional in construction with a cage that looks like it is made with spider’s silk it is so delicate. But regardless of how awesome it looks, there is nothing to indicate that it has any special features aside from being exquisitely made, and while that counts for a lot it puts it squarely in the middle of a bunch of finely made tourbillons. The aesthetic of the watch keeps it from having broad appeal, so with all of those things in mind I’m not sure it has enough uniqueness to win the title of “best tourbillon.”
IS: The Tourbillon Grand Sport by French indie watchmaker Theo Auffret is the type of artisanal handcrafted watch that I’d love to see win here, but I think the design still needs refining: it’s a classic case of revealing too much. I find the dial too busy with too much going on. The prettiest view for me is the back of the movement.
MG: In so few years achieving so much, it’s no wonder that Theo Auffret won the F.P. Journe Young Talent Competition in 2018. The development that we see in his watches is incredible, and this Tourbillon Grand Sport is particularly appealing. It is built in a classic sense, yet the design makes it very contemporary. I also love the fact that Auffret kept the diameter at 41 mm, making it not only wearable but also increasing the visual impact. A great promise for the future!
ED: Theo Auffret has a very bright future ahead of him, Martin, no doubt about it! This won’t be his year for a GPHG prize, but I’m pretty sure it’s not too long in coming. I love the sportier rebooted version of his Tourbillon à Paris, very apropos of the times.
GG: The Theo Auffret Tourbillon Grand Sport impresses at first glance, but as I consider it more it looks a bit to me as if someone compressed a Greubel Forsey and then mixed up the parts under the crystal. I very much like the use of a cutaway sapphire crystal dial, but I just can’t make visual sense of the watch front or back and I’m not sure why we should see it as a sport watch in any case.
Quick Facts Theo Auffret Tourbillon Grand Sport
Case: 41 x 32 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manual winding caliber with one-minute tourbillon, 50-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve indication, instant torque indication
Limitation: four-piece subscription
Price: CHF 133,000
Elizabeth: Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon
Martin: Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon
Joshua: Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon
Ian: Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Gary: H. Moser & Cie Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton