Our Predictions In The Jewellery Category Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): A Sparkling Division
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 Jewellery category includes watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewelry and gem setting. The watches are also distinguished by the choice of stones.
JM: We finally arrive at the Jewellery category, which is often the most varied in opinion as there is such wide room for taste. Seen among the competing watches are a couple familiar faces, a few bold choices, and even a wild card that might have gotten lost while carrying a pouch full of diamonds through a particle accelerator. There may not be a watch for every taste but there are six very different watches that should elicit some interesting discussion among our group and the GPHG jury.
MG: Given my past as a student of the Gemological Institute of America, I have to admit that this is one of my favorite categories. This is not about making a watch and adding gemstones to raise the price but elevating the timepiece to an object of art. It takes quite a few additional experts even to start thinking about making a watch set with gemstones as they not only need to be mined, but also cut and set. Five of these indeed represent the best of the best, while I have a different opinion on the TAG Heuer, which is an entirely different animal.
ED: You really have to handle these watches to be able to fully appreciate and form an opinion on them. I find it entirely too difficult to judge these watches from photos, and I have only handled two of them during this year’s watch travels and seen one other through a window. I will do my best!
IS: Judging jewelry watches without handling them is like being blindfolded, spun around, then told to play darts. But there are certainly some beautiful pieces here and lots of color. I’m guided by the category rules stating, “mastery of the art of jewelry and gem-setting and distinguished by the choice of stones.”
GG: If there’s one category in which handling the watches is critical to making an informed judgment, it’s Jewellery! Sadly, I don’t have that advantage, but will do my best based on the photos and descriptions we have and my usual core criterion of coherence.
Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Haute Joaillerie
ED: The Bulgari Serpenti is a perennial entrant, but with good reason! It is beautiful, iconic, and unbelievably well crafted. And this one has a great new mechanical movement that is tiny and perfect for the head of this dazzling snake.
JM: This watch is to the Jewellery category what the Tudor Black Bay is to, well, a lot of categories (the Black Bay was entered in three categories just last year!). Sort of. Since 2016, every GPHG edition has seen a Bulgari Serpenti model in this category, and every year except for 2016 it was a finalist (in that missing year the watch was not the more realistic form we see today). In 2019 it even won the category with the Serpenti Misteriosi Romani, and I remember that pretty much every year our panel speaks very highly of the incredibly impressive design and execution of a Bulgari Serpenti. It is hard to argue that any Serpenti is not one of the best pieces each year.
This year with some gorgeous, engraved sections surrounding beautiful turquoise and diamonds set in an art deco style, the Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery is once again a highlight of the category for me. The craftsmanship combined with the restrained stone setting makes it hard to beat, and the ability to remove the tiny mechanical movement capsule from the serpent’s head for setting and servicing is oddly satisfying to see. The only reason I am not choosing this to win is the same reason I won’t choose the Black Bay: it’s sort of the GOAT of the Jewellery category. While it has only won once, it always appears as one of the strongest competitors, and after a while you really just want to give it a lifetime achievement award and retire it as one of the best modern jewelry watch collections, just to give others a chance.
MG: This is the best Serpenti ever! There, I said it. I have always loved this collection by Bulgari, but the design of this one combining brilliant-cut diamonds with turquoise inserts makes it look better than ever before. Once again, the animal looks like it can come to life at any second, and despite its precious nature it feels like something that can be worn – and should be worn – on a daily basis. This Serpenti is my winner in this category.
ED: And indeed mine, Martin.
GG: I’m tempted to declare a three-way tie for the win, but since I can’t do that, I’ll at least propose a two-way tie for second between the Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery and the Piaget Extravagant Touch. Bulgari gets full points for using a manually wound mechanical movement, and this latest interpretation of the serpent theme uses turquoise inserts to good advantage to bring a bit of the Southwest to the party.
IS: Having handled quite a few Bulgari Serpentis and always being blown away by their incredible quality and seductive tactility, I thought the Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery would be a shoo-in to win this category. But it’s been pipped at the post by another and is my pick for runner up.
Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery: A Precious Snake That Cleopatra Would Have Loved
Bulgari’s Beloved Serpenti: A Brief History
Quick Facts Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Haute Joaillerie
Case: 40 x 8.85 mm, pink gold
Gem-setting: turquoise inserts, brilliant-cut diamonds, two pear-cut rubellites as eyes, pavé diamond setting inside the mouth, including the dial of the watch (18.05 ct total)
Movement: manual winding Caliber BVL 100 Piccolissimo, 3 Hz/21,600 vph, 30-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 246,000
Chopard Animal World Peacock Watch
MG: I very much like what Chopard did with this peacock watch. The three-dimensional effect of the feathers is stunning, but also take a closer look at the animal itself. As the watch is not very large, Chopard had only limited room and the designers and gem setters did a marvelous job giving this gracious animal a sense of character! It is my runner up in this category.
ED: I LOVE that this is not a quartz watch, which it very well could have been. But I feel that Chopard is careful to pay attention to the quality of the movement in its high jewelry watches, and I love that.
The massive amount of 2,230 stones are set on anodized titanium too, a highly unusual material to use for a jewelry watch. That brings a lot of extra marks for me because the lightness of the titanium will offset the heavy stones and keep the watch wearable.
Then there is the gorgeous design of these stones, a fascinating array of “plumage” that captivates with multiple “eyes” featuring blue sapphire “pupils” and rimmed with intense green “lashes.” It is simply exquisite.
IS: I’ve got a peacock at home tapping at the door for his breakfast and dinner each day, so I’ve got a built-in bias. However, I don’t think you need to be biased to think the Chopard Animal World Peacock is a sensational jewelry watch. It works on every level: impeccable choice of gems, superb gem-setting, fantastic design, automatic-winding movement (generally popular with women), and an extremely wearable 26 mm case size that is ideal for small wrists. The mother-of-pearl dial is the icing on the cake. The Chopard Peacock is my pick to win the 2022 GPHG Jewellery category.
JM: I’m going out on a limb this year and picking for a winner the watch that, in my opinion, is the most eye catching of the group. Based around the concept of a peacock, the Animal World Peacock is made of anodized titanium with 2,230 stones set into the titanium peacock, mostly the undulating shape of the tail feathers wrapping around the dial. It uses a plethora of precious and semiprecious stones including Paraíba tourmalines, sapphires, tsavorites, and blue lazulites studded with white, cognac, black and brown diamonds. The coloring around the entire watch is stunning and demonstrates careful and precise control over the gently shifting tones of greens and blues in the tail. That many stones set into titanium is quite possibly the most impressive, even if the style is not for you.
Out of all of the finalist’s timepieces this year, I think the Chopard Peacock demonstrates the most control over difficult gem setting in what looks to be a very traditional presentation, even if it is anything but.
GG: My winner this time around is the Chopard Animal World Peacock. It’s visually striking – and coherent – and the sheer effort required to design and execute a feather motif in jewels using 2,230 stones set in anodized titanium really commanded my attention. With a few extra points added for the use of a self-winding mechanical movement, this piece tops my list for 2022.
Quick Facts Chopard Animal World Peacock Watch
Case: 26 x 15 mm, ethical white gold and titanium
Gem-setting: 2,230 precious and semi-precious stones including sapphires (4.7 ct), Paraíba tourmalines (1.67 ct), white, cognac, black and brown diamonds (totaling 1.55 ct), tsavorites (1.04 ct), and luzalites (0.71 ct) for a grand total of 9.69 ct
Movement: undisclosed automatic movement with 38-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 300,000
Jacob & Co Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus
MG: I like how Jacob & Co continues to play with the concept of the Astronomia. The dome is well executed and seems to add an additional layer of depth to this already very sculptural watch. Does Jacob & Co get extra credit for creating an NFT version of it? I still prefer to be able to touch and hold my watches so I would go for the physical version of this watch.
JM: This is a rather visually interesting watch that keeps me gazing for a while but ultimately I lose interest. The domed cover that hides most of the mechanics is pretty cool with its filigree-like design set with more than 300 diamonds and sapphires. But that is as far as I can go before I have to lament the NFT tie-in, not to mention the requirement that the watch be purchased with cryptocurrency, which, from a purely business standpoint, seems like an entirely risky decision.
Just take Bitcoin for example: in the last week, price fluctuation would have this watch cost anywhere from 27.07 to 29.41 Bitcoin, yet just six months ago it would have cost 12.96 Bitcoin since it has dropped over 50 percent in value over the last six months and over 68 percent in value in the last 12 months. So either this watch is going to lose money if the price goes down even more, or the person buying it will have dramatically overpaid if the price goes back up. Paying with crypto isn’t paying with currency, it is like trading stocks for physical goods, and I doubt most people would say that is a smart way to run a business. Or perhaps Jacob & Co will immediately cash out (immediately like within minutes) to lock in their earnings and showcase how little they believe in the crypto market themselves. Either way it just leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.
IS: Interestingly, Joshua, the Astronomia Metaverso isn’t priced in Bitcoin but in hard currency so Jacob isn’t taking any exchange rate risk. From which I take to mean that the company has little confidence in the currency.
ED: The watch itself is interesting with its base plate of blue aventurine and pink mineral crystal if you like this kind of out-of-this-world design, but I have to fully agree with Joshua on the crypto end of the deal.
IS: The sheer open volume of the Jacob & Co Astronomia makes it an ideal canvas for arts and crafts, and the sparkling diamonds and sapphires of the Metaverso NFT Venus are certainly eye catching. But at 44 mm in diameter and 20 mm in height, I think it’s just too big for the vast majority of (likely smaller-wristed) people and occasions it’s aimed at.
And while some may see, “The Venus watch represents the first time in history that a digitally-led, physically redeemable NFT is included in the prestigious GPHG awards. The NFT unlocks a slate of digital and real-world benefits, including the ability to redeem the physical version of the Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus” as a plus, I can’t help but feel it’s a jump-on-the-band-wagon gimmick.
GG: The Jacob & Co Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus is based on an interesting premise: the buyer acquires an NFT that confers ownership of the digital version of the watch, a token to redeem for the physical version, and access to a variety of events and other goodies. But the watch itself, I’m afraid, is a visual mess. I’ve picked Jacob watches in past years as my favorites in more than one category, but I’ll take a pass on this one.
Quick Facts Jacob & Co Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus
Case: 44 x 21 mm, white gold
Gem-setting: 147 white diamonds, 157 fancy vivid yellow diamonds, and 19 pink sapphires (4.63 ct)
Movement: manual winding caliber with one-minute tourbillon, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 48-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 538,500
Piaget Extravagant Touch Watch
ED: What would this category be without Piaget? Probably nonexistent!
This is also the second shortlisted watch with a peacock theme in this category, though here it is decorated with natural feathers crafted by French maître d’art Nelly Saunier, and both feather compositions can be removed from the watch to be worn as earrings in an exclusive new system developed by Piaget. I love the idea! It’s really a shame that the watch is quartz, though.
MG: The first thing I wondered upon seeing this Piaget was whether the feathers would tickle while wearing it. All kidding aside, this Extravagant Touch Watch shows once more why Piaget is a force to reckon with when it comes to (high) jewelry timepieces. It is original yet balanced and precious yet playful. In particular, I like how Piaget matched the opal dial with the gradient of emeralds and sapphires. It makes this watch a great idea and even better executed.
IS: I know quartz movements are not supposed to count in the jewelry category, but I can’t help marking them down. The gems and gem-setting are top notch, and the feathers are a nice touch, but I can’t help but feel that I see a variation of this style (though usually from the Limelight Gala collection) from Piaget every year in this category – which shows how popular it is, but not for me.
JM: The Piaget Extravagant Touch is a bit of a familiar face here at the GPHG as the general model aesthetic has been seen previously in both the high-jewelry finish and the more subdued Ladies watch category. This version is very remarkable as it adds an additional flourish of vibrant feathers. What’s more, the feather assemblies are diamond-and-feather earrings that can be removed and worn separately from the watch. In that way the watch is a jewelry set and you can perfectly match the watch to the earrings because they are literally the haute joaillerie transformers.
The stunning opal dial connects the feathers to the watch, and the graceful emeralds and sapphires spiraling outside the case edge fade from saturated to pale, eventually turning to diamonds. I think this watch is definitively extravagant, and I could see it turning heads and gaining a lot of favor. Sadly, it is also powered by a quartz movement, not a problem for some, but I think the other watches in my top three have enough to keep it at bay.
GG: My other runner up is the Piaget. The colors of the opal dial, surrounding stones, and feathered adornments that double as earrings flow seamlessly into each other and I’m sure that this one is a marvel on the wrist and/or ears. My only reservation is the use of feathers on the exterior of the watch: if people worry about whether the movements of independent watches can be serviced in future years, how about the prospect of having several of the colored feathers on this watch fall out?
Quick Facts Piaget Extravagant Touch Watch
Case: 22.9 x 27.9 x 6.6 mm, white gold
Gem-setting: diamonds, pear-cut emeralds, pear-cut sapphires (14.47 ct)
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 465,000
TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant Garde
MG: The trouble with this TAG Heuer is that it feels kind of lost in this category, but I also do not have a clear idea where it would be better suited. It is not a jewelry watch per se, although it has lab-grown diamonds inserted into the case. I would say that it is more a proposition of the future, a delightful dash of innovation, that burst into the GPHG, which is also one of the traditions of the competition. It is not without controversy as some fiercely oppose lab-grown diamonds. I have a different opinion as I am only opposed to them when they are fraudulently sold as natural diamonds.
TAG Heuer didn’t do that, so this watch represents an interesting new direction in watchmaking to me. Now all we need to do is find the right category for it.
ED: It is very unorthodox to put a progressive-technology watch like this in this category. I hope it gets moved to the discretionary Innovation category by the jury as I don’t feel it really belongs here.
IS: Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is generally used to either make thin films of material for semiconductors or add a protective coating to a metal surface (Urwerk is known for coating some of its cases with a black CVD coating). So I tip my hat to TAG Heuer for developing a method it calls “Diamant d’Avant-Garde” to grow thin synthetic diamonds using CVD. But I have four issues with the TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde as a jewelry watch: at 45 mm, it’s just too big for this category; a chronograph and a tourbillon add nothing to the gems and gem-setting; I see absolutely zero evidence of ” . . . exceptional mastery of the art of jewelry and gem setting” and don’t understand how this watch even qualified in this category, and the design is more that of a masculine sports watch than a stunning feminine accessory for a big night out.
JM: The Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde is not a jewelry watch that I think will win, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is the most innovative jewelry watch I have seen in years, quite possibly ever. The case is made from anodized aluminum and is set with incredible (and theoretically flawless) lab-grown diamonds that are set perfectly flush into the surface and, even more importantly, following the exact shape of the case.
On top of that, they are not perfectly symmetrical, even, or consistent in size or shape. This setting is fundamentally wild considering the material and the shapes of the stones. The dial is something unique as well, polycrystalline diamond, which is an expanse of diamond crystals that form a single crystalline structure of hyperfaceted raw crystals.
The result is a sparkling stunner and highlights another way that we can experience diamonds in a watch. Using lab-grown diamonds also sends a message that you can have incredibly high-quality diamonds without any chance of human rights violations, and it doesn’t take a team of certifiers to ensure the gemstones are ethical. Dumping carbon into a piece of scientific equipment and getting out diamonds will never directly exploit anyone, and I would love for all jewels to eventually be lab grown so we can leave the land where it is and stop digging in the dirt for something we can make from scratch.
ED: Hear, hear, Joshua! SO RIGHT!
JM: But even with all that, I don’t know if this watch will win over enough minds without more visually intoxicating implementations of the techniques and technology. It is a great watch to showcase what can be done, but it isn’t a spectacular example of a jewelry timepiece.
GG: The TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde is “avant-garde” in its use of a matrix of lab-grown diamonds on its dial, but I suppose I’m too old-school to warm to the idea of lab-grown gems competing against the natural ones adorning the other watches. And visually this piece can’t stand up to the others in any case.
Quick Facts TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant Garde
Case: 45 x 15.6 mm, anodized aluminum
Gem-setting: lab-grown diamonds (hour markers) and polycrystalline diamond (dial) (11.7 ct)
Movement: automatic Heuer 02 Tourbillon Nanograph with one-minute tourbillon; 70-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; chronograph
Price: CHF 350,000
Van Cleef & Arpels Perles de Glace Rose
JM: The Perles de Grace Rose is by far the most traditional jewelry piece in this category. It could have been a jewelry house highlight from any decade in the century. The stone settings are all wonderfully executed, the choice of stones is clearly masterful, and the shapes employed are all expertly crafted.
Yet this is a problem when in this type of competition bringing your A-game just isn’t enough. It reminds me of the jump from high school to collegiate sports (please indulge the analogy). Everyone in the top college sports programs was the “best” at their school, “best” in their conference, or even “best” in their state. But it’s clear that only a few are still able to be considered the “best” at this new higher level as most players become average, it’s just that what is considered average is so much better. I look at the entries by Bulgari, Piaget, and Chopard here, and it is clear they are a step above.
GG: Van Cleef & Arpels’ Perles de Glace Rose might stun in person, but from the images provided it doesn’t have the “wow” factor for me of some of the others despite the prominent stones and light-conducting open-setting techniques.
ED: I’m not in love with the way that these precious gems and pearls appear to be thrown together. Perhaps I need to see this watch in person to make a good call – which is very often the case with this category – but from the photos I am not a fan of this mixture of cuts and colors that seems to ignore the delicacy of the case and bracelet’s ultra-petite sizing. And then there’s the quartz movement . . .
IS: The Van Cleef & Arpels Perles de Glace Rose watch is certainly an eye-catching jewelry watch, but the quartz movement rules it out for me (unfairly, I know). And in a competition in which the initial judging by the Academy is largely based on the photos supplied, these images of the Piaget are too flat to enable effective appreciation of the craft.
MG: While I am a big fan of Van Cleef & Arpels, this Perles de Glace Rose watch is a bit lost on me. I find it too old-fashioned in its style, but also too red in its appearance. The stones are amazing, as is the setting, but overall it doesn’t give me the wow moment that I feel is mandatory for any great jewelry watch.
Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Perles de Glace Rose
Case: 21 x 7 mm, pink gold
Gem-setting: rubies, pink sapphires, and diamonds of various cuts (26.59 ct)
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 458,000
Ian: Chopard Animal World Peacock
Joshua: Chopard Animal World Peacock
Gary: Chopard Animal World Peacock
Martin: Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Haute Joaillerie
Elizabeth: Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Haute Joaillerie
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Split between chopard and vc&a. Going for chopard