Our Predictions For The Aiguille d’Or (Grand Prize) Of The 2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) And Other Discretionary Prizes
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 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. The winning watch should be the whole package: a watch combining several standout elements rather than focusing exclusively on the most complicated watch or a particular technical breakthrough. An Aiguille d’Or laureate should be a “grail” watch in my view.
GG: Time for the major awards! As a juror I found the process of sifting through the large number of finalists to identify worthy winners for these distinctions both fascinating and rewarding, and it’s always interesting to read the tea leaves to see what a given year’s Jury selections tell us about their view of what matters now in horology.
As usual I went through the entire list of 90 finalists and made my own long list of potential winners for the Aiguille d’Or and other above-category distinctions. Pieces that I considered but that didn’t end up on top were from Rexhep Rexhepi, Hermès, H. Moser & Cie, Grönefeld, BCHH, Miki Eleta, Grand Seiko, Zenith, and Kari Voutilainen.
JM: One watch to rule them all, that is what we are pondering today. As it is the only category that allows any nominated watch to win (but in so doing, gets taken out of its category), this is where we have to practice some divination We can never know which watch will be so deserving that it will disappoint us and lose its category only to go on to win the ultimate prize because many of our favorite watches have lost their category, not won any of the discretionary prizes, and didn’t win the Aiguille d’Or.
So the entire GPHG ceremony will be spent wondering if a watch was snubbed or if it is going to be honored later. It is difficult to predict exactly which watch will win, but we have had a pretty good record of at least one person in our group picking the ultimate winner. The discretionary prizes do throw a wrench in predictions since they aren’t always awarded. But just to cover my bases I’d like to make a few predictions to pick up a few extra wins for my own scorecard.
MG: The Aiguille d’Or is always one of the most difficult prizes to predict, not only because you have all the watches to choose from, but also because so many are so good. I can see it going several different ways, but the watch needs to be exceptional to even stand a chance. It could also be a clock, but somehow I have a hard time believing that would happen. In terms of watches, Bulgari played a stellar card with the Octo Finissimo Ultra, but I feel that the release of the marginally slimmer Richard Mille casts a shadow over that. Armin Strom could have a winner with the Mirrored Force Resonance, but a chauvinistic voice in my mind also says that the Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf stands a decent chance.
IS: Picking the discretionary prizes is like picking the winning number in a lottery, but there are a few standouts that make it worth taking a shot.
2022 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Aiguille d’Or Predictions
JM: I’ve picked three that I think have the best chance of winning, starting with the Voutilainen Ji-Ku.
While in the Artistic Crafts discussion I originally said it was a bit of a one-note watch for the Artistic Crafts category, that doesn’t apply to the wider Aiguille d’Or. It presents an absolutely stunning dial with a rather useful worldtime complication all inside a gorgeous Voutilainen case with a fantastic movement perfect for someone wanting a grail watch in every respect.
The layout is easy to read even with the dazzling dial, and the size is a “perfect” 39 mm (perfect in many collectors’ minds). The biggest thing that could keep it from winning could be that it is a unique piece – I’m not sure if a unique piece has ever won the Aiguille d’Or, nor do I know if I think one should. Still, it is hard to get past this watch as a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and horology that many would want on their wrists, so I would not be surprised if it is elevated to this level for the win.
IS: I think that the Aiguille d’Or is down to three watches, the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra 10th Anniversary, and the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo, plus a clock, the Van Cleef & Arpels Fontaine Aux Oiseaux.
The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar won the Aiguille d’Or at the 2021 GPHG, the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo might take the Innovation prize (if not best chronograph), and I’m not sure that the jury will award the big prize to a clock, which leaves me predicting that the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture will take the big prize of the 2022 Aiguille d’Or.
GG: My vote for the Aiguille d’Or goes to the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo, a mix of radical innovation, clever construction, and striking aesthetics.
JM: My next prediction is based on two main things, horological innovation and pedigree. The Legacy Machine is an industry darling for a reason: it always looks good and packs so much history into a cutting-edge modern timepiece. The Sequential Evo is no different even if it could be considered a bit too busy to win the Aiguille d’Or, though that has never stopped other watches from winning. What it has inside, the amazing movement developed by Stephen McDonnell, is truly hard to compare to any other watch in the GPHG this year. It breaks a bunch of norms and injects some fresh air into both the chronograph sector as well as provides another example of how new ideas don’t need to be incredibly divisive or garish. The main thing I could see keeping it from winning would be the aesthetics of the dial since the movement makes it a bit hard to read at a glance, but that may not matter at this level.
ED: I concur, believing the winner will be the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo.
JM: My third predicted winner is where I redeem myself in the eyes of Rexhep Rexhepi (hopefully) by saying I think it is high time that Akrivia be recognized as one of the best in the game with an Aiguille d’Or. I passed over the Chronomètre Contemporain II in the Men’s category for the simple reason that the watch (or a relatively similar piece) already won the Men’s category, and with other pieces that I thought were the better value for an everyday men’s watch I said it didn’t feel like it should win. But secretly I thought that it did already win there and that was a steppingstone to the Aiguille d’Or, so it made little sense to award it there and disqualify it from winning the top prize.
Everything about this watch – the grand feu enamel dial, the exquisite movement, the handmade Jean-Pierre Hagmann case – makes this watch quite possibly the perfect classic wristwatch. If it doesn’t win the Men’s category or get some other discretionary prize, then I think it is a STRONG contender for the Aiguille d’Or, and I would be thrilled for Akrivia to get the fullest recognition of achievements.
MG: I feel that the most appropriate winner would be the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon. A Japanese watch winning at a Swiss contest is quite a thing, but healthy competition makes everybody better. Apart from that, the Kodo is simply that good! It combines form, function, innovation, and great design. I strongly hope, and suspect, that we will remember a decade from now that this is the watch that really got Grand Seiko’s quest in highly complex watches started, with perhaps even a permanent collection of them as part of the brand’s offerings.
ED: This prize rewards the best competing timepiece featuring a non-conformist, offbeat approach to watchmaking and fosters creative audacity. This prize is discretionary, meaning the jury will decide whether there are grounds for awarding it in 2022.
JM: I think that out of every watch in the competition, the one that will win the audacity prize is one that will make an earlier prediction of mine incorrect, and that is the M.A.D.1. Given the very wild and unique aesthetics for a watch of that price point, coming from the same people that have made past GPHG (and Aiguille d’Or) winners, it is hard to pass up as an audacious entry into the market. The same wild aesthetics might also be what keep it from winning the Challenge category since a watch like the Kurono Tokyo Calendrier Type 1 might have broader wrist appeal, making the M.A.D.1 a perfect candidate to win the Audacity Prize.
GG: For Audacity, I’m picking the Gelfman IN-16 Nixie as the best embodiment of the prize’s definition, a timepiece featuring a non-conformist, offbeat approach to watchmaking. The jury may prefer the M.A.D.1 Red, but I see that piece as an offshoot of the earlier Blue version and in any case less audacious than the Gelfman.
ED: Since the M.A.D.1 Blue was never entered into the GPHG, I find it’s fair game here in the differentiated case with red accents. And it’s my pick for the Audacity prize.
IS: While the Konstantin Chaykin Harley Quinn and the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier watches are both in the running here, I predict that if the M.A.D. Editions M.A.D.1 Red doesn’t win the Challenge category this year, it will be because it will win the Audacity prize.
ED: This prize rewards the best competing timepiece offering an innovative vision of time measurement (in terms of technique, design, display, materials, etc.) and/or opening up new development pathways for the watchmaking art (sustainability, traceability, ethics, etc.). This prize is discretionary, meaning the jury will decide whether there are grounds for awarding it in 2022.
GG: I’m hard-pressed to come up with anything more innovative than the Van Cleef & Arpels Fontaine Aux Oiseaux automaton. What a marvel! While automata have been around for generations, this particular embodiment of the principle is to me a level above and fully deserving of the Innovation prize.
IS: I think that the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra 10th Anniversary and the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur are serious contenders for the 2022 Innovation prize, but my best guess is that it will be won by the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo (and if so, the Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf Tantalum will win best chronograph).
JM: For me this has to be the Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf Tantalum. I can’t think of another piece that might have just missed out on winning its category by being overshadowed by even more innovation than the incredibly innovative and creative horology in the Grönograaf. But, and this is a big but, the MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo may also not win the Chronograph category due to it receiving a discretionary prize or the Aiguille d’Or, so this might not matter. But discretionary prizes do not prohibit the winning watches to not win their respective category, so while MB&F might win the top prize, Grönefeld could very possibly take home two awards if things end up shaking out that way.
ED: I think it’s more than high time that Armin Strom takes home a prize for its revolutionary resonance technology! Therefore, I’d really like to see the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance First Edition walk away with the Innovation prize!
Horological Revelation Prize
ED: This prize rewards a competing timepiece created by a young brand (less than ten years of existence since its first model). This prize is discretionary, meaning the jury will decide whether there are grounds for awarding it in 2022.
GG: The Krayon Anywhere picks up my vote for Revelation, as a great example of what a young brand can accomplish. I’m still a bit bewildered as I thought this watch had been introduced a while ago, but assuming that deliveries began in 2022 it’s kosher for prizes and the clever approach to showing sunrise and sunset times along with the adjustability of the movement to change locations without changing cams is definitely a revelation.
IS: I think that Theo Auffret is a shoo-in for the “Horological Revelation” prize.
ED: While the Krayon is a very good choice, and Theo Auffret is perhaps an even better one, I would also like to bring the Trilobe Une Folle Journée into the discussion for this prize.
ED: This prize rewards the best competing timepiece standing out for its remarkable precision timekeeping performance (special escapement or distinctive regulating device). This watch must be officially certified by ISO 3159 standards by an inspection authority such as the C.O.S.C., TIMELAB, Besançon Observatory, or other. This prize is discretionary, meaning the jury will decide whether there are grounds for awarding it in 2022.
GG: The GPHG organization was kind enough to pare down the entries for the Chronometry prize to 15 candidates with chronometric credentials during the Academy’s voting process. Sadly, we didn’t have access to the full timing sheets for all the watches, but here I’ll pick the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RSM.2-1 with its combination of dead seconds and chronometer certification, no mean feat.
ED: This discretionary category is a great new addition. Unfortunately, though, as Gary points out we are not privy to the timing sheets of the 15 qualifying watches. Nonetheless, both the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RSM.2-1 and the L.U.C Full Strike Tourbillon seem like excellent candidates to me, especially since both have several certificates including C.O.S.C. chronometer certification. I would be pleased to see both of these take home Chronometry prizes – we’ll see what the jury says.
IS: Having no balance staff shock protection means that it’s unpractical as a regular-wear wristwatch, so the Zenith Calibre 135-Observatoire should take home the 2022 Chronometry Prize.
JM: I have to guess that if the GPHG awards this category then it will go to the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RSM.2-1. Unless that prize goes to the Zenith Calibre 135-Observatoire since that movement literally won chronometry competitions over half a century ago. This prize could be a tossup considering that the Zenith has literal award-winning pedigree, while the Ferdinand Berthoud is a modern movement with incredible horological mechanics that provide something beyond a purpose-built movement.
The jury will have a lot of influence on what is valued, and I could see it going both ways. I’d give the edge to Ferdinand Berthoud for the effort, and Zenith could sneak in on a technicality.
Predicted Aiguille d’Or winners
Elizabeth: MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo
Gary: MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo
Ian: Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Martin: Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon
Joshua: MB&F Legacy Machine Sequential Evo or Voutilainen Ji-Ku or Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain II
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This is the most important and difficult decision. Being Dutch I really love the chronograaf. But that would be not nice to say since it’s a marvelous good looking watch with a super interesting additional feature the governor part of the chronograph resetting system that allows a softer reset. But on the other hand the great chronograph from MB&F developed by Steve Mc Dowell adds some functions on the timing with a chronograph that are unprecedented. He also takes care of a problem that has been never done before, the loss of amplitude by activating and stopping a chronograph mechanism. The difficult part is that you really have to study the piece to fully grasp the the complete functionality and capability of this chronograph mechanism. But when you get it, you will understand it is a masterpiece of horology that solves some interesting mechanical challenges. Full disclosure I did not handle the Gronograaf and I did with the MB&F chronograph.
Both are incredible good looking but imho MB&F hits another straight homerun out of the park. So imho overall winner MB&F and Gronefeld for the chronograph since its that good and would have won the chronograph contest when MB&F was not competing.
One last remark: handled the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon 1/1 at Philips that will be auctioned I belief in NYC and its extremely well made only have some issue with legibility since due to the watch face which is completely open worked and seems a bit busy. This specific example even has abetter legibility than the “regular” production series
I have been wrong many times, but I think MB&F will not grab it this time, neither the grand seiko (despite my full support)