Our Predictions In The Artistic Crafts Category Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG): We Have A Majority Winner
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
Watches in the Artistic Crafts category demonstrate exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enameling, lacquering, engraving, guilloche (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc.
JM: Welcome back to the Voutilainen Category . . . um, I mean the Artistic Crafts category. I joke, but this category has become a bit of a showcase for Voutilainen to present some incredible works of craft. And Hermès too, which has showed off some amazing pieces over the years. They are both seen once again up against a handful of other pieces sporting their own varieties of artistic crafts, giving us another great year to try and suss out which will win. I admit from the start that I am a bit torn because I have caught myself just staring at multiple pieces, drinking in the colors, textures, and skills on display. I’m very interested to hear what caught everyone else’s eyes!
ED: I love this category to bits, but it is so hard to judge these pieces without having seen them. And because most of them are unique pieces, I dare say hardly anyone will have seen them. This is why being in the jury room is the most important factor in judging the Artistic Crafts category.
The shortlist this year includes some unique pieces, some small series pieces, and one comparatively large-volume piece (of 100 examples) by a bigger producer. All are beautiful and rare in their decorations, which include guilloche, engraving, enamel work, miniature painting, wood marquetry, gem setting, and Japanese lacquer work.
GG: Artistic crafts applied to watchmaking are among my favorite aspects of the world of timekeeping, so I’m always particularly interested to see what remarkable works are presented each year at the Grand Prix.
MG: Artistic Crafts is always one of the more difficult categories to judge as there is such an incredible variety in the way that these artistic techniques can be expressed. In the end, it comes down to how they are all brought together and how strong the overall concept is.
IS: As with the Jewellery category, trying to judge the Artistic Crafts finalists without handling the watches and examining them carefully with a loupe is like playing darts in the dark. But here goes, so look out!
Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie
JM: This is the only category where you could say that a Grande Sonnerie Carillion Supersonnerie is not only not an automatic winner but doesn’t even make my top three. The dial has a very specific pattern of guilloche to represent the acoustic waves pulsing out from the center and is coated with perfectly applied flinqué enamel by the legendary Anita Porchet.
The enamel is not just a simple coating but specifically uses variable shades of blue to create undulating highlights that one would expect from a billowing wave of silk, yet it’s guilloche on white gold. However perfect the enamel is, though, it is a very subtle expression of the skills of the guillocheur and enamelist and fails to play more than one note, something that doesn’t get you very far in the visual equivalent of a battle of the bands. This is truly a marvelous watch, but 95 percent of that comes from what is inside and not what decorates the dial.
ED: There is nothing that is not stunning about this watch, but next to some of the other entrants in this category, its excellent dial crafts do not stand out.
GG: If the prize were for most technically advanced watch with a decorative dial, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie would be a leading contender in this class, especially as the flinqué enamel work is done by Anita Porchet. Porchet or no, a wavy guilloche pattern with translucent applied enamel doesn’t stand up to some of the other more interesting efforts this year.
IS: There may be some who think that a grande sonnerie carillon, which is one of the most complex of all horological complications, and considered by many as the most difficult, has no place in this category. On paper it looks like it would be more appropriately placed in the either the Men’s Complication or Mechanical Exception categories. And I count myself among them.
I do not award points for complications in the Artistic Crafts category because, despite knowing many watchmakers who may merit the description, I don’t think that watchmaking is considered an artistic craft (hopefully one day though), which means that the winner here for me is based on the GPHG guidelines for the category, which state, “ . . . demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enameling, lacquering, engraving, guilloche (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc.”And by those criteria I think the Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie fully merits its place as a finalist in the Artistic Crafts category. My eye was naturally drawn to the watch rather than its name, and I thought that the watch – thanks to its extremely artistic hand-painted blue enamel by Anita Porchet over an undulating wave hand-guilloche dial by Yann Von Kaenel – looked absolutely sensational. I’d be happy to wear one.
And the slim bezel case is a perfect frame for the dial. I’ve not been a fan of the Code 11.59 . . . until now.
MG: An incredible watch with a stunning dial, yet the proposition of this Code 11.59 feels a bit light in this category. While the dial is beautiful and well chosen, given the complication of the watch it doesn’t take it to the next level. It creates synergy, yet it is still the complexity of the watch that takes center stage.
Further reading: Hearing Is Believing: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie And The Science Of Sound
Quick Facts Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Grande Sonnerie Carillon Supersonnerie
Case: 41 x 13.5 mm, white gold decorated with guilloché
Dial: flinqué enamel by guilloche artist Yann von Kaenel and enameler Anita Porchet
Movement: automatic Caliber 2956; 48-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; grand sonnerie
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 820,000
Bovet Amadeo Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon
MG: I know that he has modest taste, but this looks like a watch that the pope should be wearing. It is very rich, high on details, but also deeply refined. I don’t know any other brand that would be able to pull off something as delicate and beautiful as this. My favorite part is the way that the tourbillon hangs between two sculpted vines. Such a delight to look at!
ED: As usual for Bovet, this is an ethereal piece of art created by highly skilled artisans with meticulous engraving and impeccable miniature painting.IS: With exquisite skeletonization, hand-engraving, and miniature painting, the Bovet 1822 Amadeo Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon walks away with the prize for most artistic crafts in one watch. It’s a stunning work of art, but the style is overly ornate and complicated for my simple tastes. I think it’s a strong contender but isn’t my pick to win.
GG: The Bovet 1822 Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon is certainly in the Bovet style, and I can’t fault the use of different techniques on the two sides of the watch to present us with two options for enjoying the view. It’s tough to say without handling the watch, but from the images the work seems perhaps a bit less polished than that on some of the other pieces.
JM: This is a tough call to make given that the Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon features both masterful engraving on the entire case and of the entire skeleton movement, plus micro painting on a mother-of-pearl dial. The execution is nothing short of insane: the time needed for the engraving is more than 220 hours by a single skilled engraver in such a way that no single piece of the movement structure appears to be a bridge or base plate aside from the tourbillon bridge. Everything else is completely sculptural.
The miniature painting is also incredible, though I find the scene painted not to my taste even though it fits with the engraving style perfectly. The effort put into this piece should be commended and so I would call this my second runner up, but I don’t think it has enough of a wowza factor to take the win.
Quick Facts Bovet Amadeo Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon
Case: 45 x 14.3 mm, red gold, fully hand-engraved with Fleurisanne motif
Dial: miniature painting on mother-of-pearl set with genuine pearls
Movement: manual winding skeletonized Caliber 14BM02A1 with one-minute tourbillon; 168-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 328,485
Hermès Arceau Hermès Story
JM: Ahh, good old Hermès, showing up with an awesome bit of unique marquetry, micro painting, hand-engraving, and miniature 3D painting. The core of the dial is the 290 nano-sized slivers of five different wood species that are hand-cut and -stained before being painstakingly assembled.
The eye is said to take five days alone to ensure that the nuance of the tiger’s expression comes through with the individual pieces. If it was only that tiger, this would be a hard piece to beat, but it also features an array of other animals that are hand-painted over multiple days to create physical depth to the paint for a three-dimensional finish.
With the variety of characters on the dial it is clear that Hermès was going for a fun and frivolous setting as the praying mantis is wearing a tuxedo, the peacock some pearls, and the tortoise a bowler hat. The immense amount of time necessary for the wood marquetry is astonishing and having visited Hermès to see the artists at work, I am truly humbled by the crazy amount of skill and craft inside that workshop.
I am torn by this piece because I also think the Voutilainen could take the crown in this category simply from the visual impact of the dial, but if I took off points from Audemars Piguet for being a bit of a one-note dial, I should apply my criteria to everyone. For that reason Hermès wins by a hair for me thanks to the breadth of skills on display. It is just so darn spectacular.
ED: Once again an exquisite entry by Hermès with an interesting story and impeccably crafted elements. Hermès is always good for a surprise, and this watch is a beautiful example.
IS: Hermès has an unparalleled reputation for blending fine art and horology and the Arceau Hermès Story only reinforces that reputation. The tiger is meticulously crafted in wood marquetry and the other fauna are beautifully hand-painted.
MG: Hermès seems to be a brand that never lacks inspiration. I love the playful approach of this watch, although I feel that it could be more powerful as the wood marquetry gives off a different vibe than the animals cut from agate. I feel that the result would have been even more powerful if Hermès picked one or the other. That being said, the level of craftsmanship and details is astonishing.
GG: The Arceau Hermès Story has an interesting array of beasts on its dial, first and foremost the tiger in wood marquetry, one of my very favorite crafts. For me, though, the flat appearance of the tiger contrasts too vigorously with the look of shinier painted miniatures that share the dial. And the spatial arrangement of the animals seems a bit random rather than telling a true story.
Quick Facts Hermès Arceau Hermès Story
Case: 38 x 10.26 mm, pink gold set with 82 diamonds
Dial: miniature painting on agate, wood marquetry tiger, hand-engraved and -painted gold animals
Movement: automatic Caliber H1912, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 50-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 12 pieces
Price: CHF 88,000
Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow
GG: Is it okay to say that I like the Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow? The colorful jeweled face that pops above the crystal and moving multicolored petals behind are pure fun. If I put the accent on “crafts,” this watch falls a bit short, but if the weight is on “artistic,” it certainly ends up in the upper half of my selection.
ED: I am also strangely drawn to this piece, Gary, especially after having tried it on at Watches and Wonders. That tactile, moving flower is not only eye-catching, but also mesmerizing. And pure fun.
MG: This watch spells out “FUN” to me, Elizabeth. The sapphire crystal case perfectly sets the stage for the smiling flower with its moving petals to steal the show. The rainbow gem setting is well executed, yet this is a watch that impresses with its overall concept and not with the application of a craft. It all comes together so seamlessly that one can only conclude that Hublot has made an art out of collaborations, achieving a level no other brand has done before.
And that is why it is my winner in this category.
IS: While I appreciate the striking colorful rotating flower and the artistic craft that went into creating the 487 gem-set extravaganza of this Hublot Classic Fusion, I feel that the frame of a painting is an essential element in showcasing the artwork it encapsulates, and the Classic Fusion case, even in transparent sapphire crystal, just looks to chunky to me. It seems more a colorful sports watch than a work of art.
JM: This is one of the easiest pieces for me to take out of the running because it doesn’t really present anything other than gem setting in a sapphire crystal case, something that would have been more at home in the Jewellery category than Artistic Crafts.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Takashi Murakami’s smiling flower and the spinning petals – the watch is fun and unique – but I don’t feel like it represents artistic crafts in the spirit of the category. If there wasn’t a jewelry category then I could give it more consideration, but as it is, it doesn’t really feel right for this category compared to the other five pieces.
Further reading: Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow: Fusing Fun, Flowers, And Rainbows
Quick Facts Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow
Case: 45 x 14.05 mm, sapphire crystal
Dial: 487 gemstones, including rubies, pink sapphires, amethysts, blue sapphires, tsavorites, yellow and orange sapphires
Movement: automatic Caliber HUB1214 with silicon escapement, 72-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, officially certified C.O.S.C. chronometer
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 100 pieces
Price: CHF 100,000
Van Cleef & Arpels Charms Coccinelle Féerique
MG: Give Van Cleef & Arpels a fairy and the brand makes magic. Once again an incredible creation that almost seems lifelike because of the rich details. Van Cleef & Arpels makes the most out of the different decoration techniques and brings them together in a fun way. To that extent, I feel, that it doesn’t need the three-layer bezel as I wish the designers would have utilized even more space for this spectacular dial.
JM: I really struggled with this piece trying to decide if it should be a runner up, the winner, or not even make my top three. In the end I felt it just missed out from being in my top three simply from the complexity and sheer physical input required for some others that this one didn’t seem up to the same level. Obviously, the sculpted gold fairy, the enameling and miniature painting, and the mother-of-pearl base are all terrific, setting the scene for a magical meeting among the leaves.
I have nothing negative to say about the awesome effort or the aesthetic, I simply think other pieces show more mastery and difficulty in their crafts. It also doesn’t help that the watch sports a quartz movement which, coming from Van Cleef & Arpels, makes me a bit sad knowing they have made so many incredible mechanical pieces that it feels a bit out of place for a watch of this caliber.
GG: The Van Cleef & Arpels Charms Coccinelle Féerique is my runner up this year. While it mixes media like the Hermès, it does so in a more fluid and coherent way; and the story of the fairy meeting the ladybug in the woods is clearly portrayed.
IS: I love the Van Cleef & Arpels Charms Coccinelle Féerique because it makes me smile. The dial design is playful; the bland of enamel, miniature painting, stone setting, and gold engraving work harmoniously together; and the gem-set bezel frames the dial beautifully. I’m marking it down for its quartz movement, but I doubt that will be a factor for those who love this watch.
ED: This sweet watch packs a punch in terms of beauty and the application of rare crafts, but I don’t think it quite hits the same level as some other entrants in this category, especially the outstanding entry by Kari Voutilainen.
Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Charms Coccinelle Féerique
Case: 32 x 7.75 mm, pink gold
Dial: cabochonné enamel, miniature painting, gem setting, and engraving
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: CHF 72,500
JM: Once again Voutilainen stuns with an incredible display of lacquer marquetry art from Japanese artist Tatsuo Kitamura. It employs a sunburst design made of hundreds of tiny slivers of Jyunkin-itakane, aka gold leaf; Yakou-gai, or shell of great green turban; and Awabi-gai, which is abalone shell from New Zealand. It also features gold dust in the form of tiny circles that break up the radiating lines of shell and gold leaf.
The colors and layout are visually arresting and create a dial that makes you unable to look away. Dials from Voutilainen have used similar techniques in the past to amazing results, and this is no different. Out of every watch in this category it is the one that will automatically grab your attention and send you into a trance.
But if I am being honest, the skill, which is quite clearly magnificent, is only one type of artistic craft, and that counted against AP, so I need to apply it here too. That is what makes me mark this watch as my first runner up instead of my winner (plus Voutilainen has won multiple times in the past), just by a tiny margin. It is very close because I can’t get over how much I want to stare into this dial, but I don’t think that is (or should be) enough to take this category this year.
GG: It seems impossible that Kari Voutilainen and his collaborators can come up with winner after winner in the Artistic Crafts realm, but here we are again. If experience is any guide, the Ji-Ku is even more brilliant in person than in photos, and that’s saying something. And although the emphasis here is on the craft, I will mention as a side note that this unique worldtimer is based on a new, slimmer base movement from Voutilainen.
ED: Like some of the past winners in this category by independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, it is hard for me to take my eyes off this timepiece. That alone tells me which way I need to vote.
IS: Kari Voutilainen has already won the Artistic Crafts prize in 2014, 2017, and 2019. So on that basis he is due to win again, and with this sensational lacquer dial by Japanese artist Tatsuo Kitamura, I think that he will. While the competition here is very strong, the Voutilainen Ji-Ku is both my pick to win this category and the watch I’d most like to own and wear.
MG: Talk about a captivating dial! The craftsmanship to create this is as astonishing as the result. The dial really elevates the watch as a whole, while still being perfectly in sync with the design language Kari Voutilainen has favored for years. The whole creation has a sense of energy to it, and even seems to move, making it one of the finest dials I have ever seen on a Voutilainen. And that says something!
Quick Facts Voutilainen Ji-Ku
Case: 39 x 11.3 mm, platinum
Dial: Japanese lacquer with Saiei Makie and Somata zaiku using Kinpun (gold dust), Jyunkin-itakane (gold leaf), Yakou-gai (shell of great green turban), and Awabi-gai (abalone shell from New Zealand)
Movement: manual winding Voutilainen caliber with free-sprung balance, power reserve 60 hours, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; world time
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 365,00
Elizabeth: Voutilainen Ji-Ku
Gary: Voutilainen Ji-Ku
Ian: Voutilainen Ji-Ku
Joshua: Hermès Arceau Hermès Story
Martin: Hublot Classic Fusion Takashi Murakami Sapphire Rainbow
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Voutainen: what a dial
The kid in the micro painting on the Bovet looks like he’s carrying a HUGE dump in his diaper.
Bovet 1822 Amadeo Amadeo Skeleton Tourbillon.