Ian’s Predicted Winners of the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG)
by Ian Skellern
Well, despite ever-present COVID, the war in Ukraine, and a property crash in China, the world’s economy has held together enough to make 2023 a fantastic year for fine watchmaking. Here are my predictions for the watches to win prizes at the 2023 GPHG. The prize giving ceremony will be held on Thursday the 9th of November 2023.
Ladies’: women’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases – and potentially adorned with a maximum 9-carat gemsetting.
While it doesn’t expressly state that quartz movements are not allowed in this category, I’m discounting them to promote mechanical watchmaking and thin the field. So the Beauregard (unfortunately), Piaget, and Van Cleef & Arpels don’t make my cut. And while I like the colorful cloisonné enamel dial of the XRby, I don’t find it very feminine.
So that leaves me with the Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon 38 Mintnight and the Hermès Arceau Petite lune. And as they both have very attractive moon-dominated dials, automatic winding movements and 38mm cases, it’s a tough call. But I’ve tossed a coin and my predicted winner is the Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon 38 Mintnight with the Hermès Arceau Petite lune a very close runner up.
Ladies’ Complication: 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, dual time or other types of model) and do not fit the definition of the Ladies’ and Mechanical Exception categories.
I’m taking out the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata because I think that the dial is too busy and at 42 mm it’s on the large side for a ladies’ watch. At 40 mm the IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Perpetual Calendar is a better size, but a QP isn’t interesting enough to win here and the dial looks too plain in this company. And while the automate of the Dior Montres Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior is mechanical, the movement is quartz so that’s another one out for me.
The spinning stars of the Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium look eye-catching, but are not what I’m looking for in a ‘complication’, so that leaves the Andersen Genève X BCHH Arctic Sunrise and the Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour. It’s another close call, but my vote goes to the Andersen Genève X BCHH Arctic Sunrise.
Men’s: men’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases – and potentially adorned with a maximum 9-carat gemsetting.
I like the clean design of Xhevdet Rexhepi’s Minute Inerte, but do not understand the point of the ‘complication’: “the second hand turns in 58 seconds before pausing at 60 for 2 seconds at each lap, while keeping the chronometry of the movement. The minute hand is inert and jumps instantly by one minute when the second hand starts.” It is certainly different, but I don’t think that’s not good enough to win here.
The Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Starwheel features an iconic AP complication, but looks too much for a simple men’s watch so it’s out for me too. In another field, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Micro-Rotor might be a potential winner here, but not this time.
That leaves me with the De Bethune DB28xs Starry Seas, Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC, and the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans, any of which could deservedly win here. And it’s complicated by the fact that both the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC and the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans are potential Aiguilles d’Or winners, which would take them out of the running.
I’m going for the De Bethune DB28xs Starry Seas simply because it has the cleanest dial and is more likely to be a regular wear men’s watch.
Men’s Complication: men’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. world time, dual time or other types of model) and do not fit the definition of the Men’s and Mechanical Exception categories.
For I think the first time in my life I’m counting a Kari Voutilainen watch out of the running, because I don’t like the look – of its case: the shape just doesn’t work for me. And I’m ruling out the ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon because while a color-changing case is very interesting, it’s not a complication (and technically, neither is a tourbillon), and why isn’t it in the Tourbillon category?
And as much as I like the Bovet 1822 Récital 27, I can’t help but feel as I’ve seen it too many times before at the GPHG over the years. I’m also passing on the Piaget Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin because, while it’s a very nice looking watch, I’m looking for more than a QP, even an untra-thin QP, to win here.
That leaves me with the very complicated Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date and the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante.
And my vote goes to the Parmigiani because the Minute Rattrapante is both an innovative and useful complication.
Iconic: watches stemming from an emblematic collection or model that has been exercising a lasting influence on watchmaking history and the watch market for more than 20 years.
As I’ve reiterated year on year, I think the Iconic category should be dropped as it is more a ‘your turn’ prize than rewarding exception horology. All of the nominated watches here could win as they are all based on watches that have had “ . . . a lasting influence on watchmaking history.”
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph, Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph 41, IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur Automatic 40 and TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph are all big-name iconic watches, but we all been there, done that. I’m surprised that it’s already been 20 years since the first Chopard L.U.C 1860, which was (and is) a sensational watch, but not really an industry changer.
So my pick is the Ulysse Nardin Freak One, which didn’t just push, but smashed the consensus as to what a watch could be.
Tourbillon: men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one tourbillon. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
The HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires is a spectacular tourbillon and it’s great to see HYT back on the stage, but at 48 mm (even with lugs) it’s just too big. And because size matters, I’ll also rule out the 44 mm Bovet 1822 Virtuoso XI, the Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon and the Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit (which disappointingly for me has a small movement in a big case).
That leaves me with the Arnold & Son Ultrathin Tourbillon Gold and the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon. And while both are extremely nice-looking, easy-to-wear watches, the Parmigiani Flying Tourbillon is the one I’d most like to wear so is my pick to win.
Calendar and Astronomy: men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g. date, annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases display, etc.). Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
Congratulations to Piaget for having their Piaget Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin nominated in two categories (the first was in Men’s Complication), but I don’t think that a QP is enough to win here. For that reason, I’ll also rule out the IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe, Massena Lab Habring² x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual, and, as much as it pains me not to reward a sensationally finished hand made watch, the Felipe Pikullik Moon phase 1.
With its hours, minutes, seconds, date, day, month, power reserve indicator, retrograde minutes, tourbillon, equation of time, special escapement, annual calendar, and summer & winter equinoxes, the Bovet 1822 Récital 20 Astérium takes the prize for most astronomical and calendar complications; but my pick is the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar because the oriental calendar is such a difficult complication to develop.
Mechanical Exception: watches featuring a special mechanism, such as an innovative or sophisticated display, an automaton, a striking or any other acoustic function, a special escapement, a belt-driven movement or comprising another original and/or exceptional horological concept.
My first not to make my cut are the Jacob & Co Astronomia Revolution and Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata because, while they are both mechanically exceptional, I don’t like the designs and at 47 mm they are both too big.
And as much as it pleases me to see Hautlence here, at 50 mm the Sphere Series 1 is far to big for most to wear as well. At 42 mm, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 is not only wearable it blows the competition away with the number of it’s complications: hours, minutes, date, day, month, year, moon phases, flyback chronograph, split second chronograph, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, striking watch semi-Gregorien, plus petite and grande sonnerie, and I can easily see it taking this prize.
I’m a big fan of the Rudis Sylva RS 23 with dual harmonious oscillators, but in this competition, I think another dual oscillator will win, the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité. And if the Czapek Complicité takes the Aiguilles d’Or (as it well might) or the Chronometry prize, my second choice predicted winner is the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication.
Chronograph: mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.
This chronograph category is the most difficult to pick in my opinion. I’m first cutting the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph and TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Skipper (love the 39mm size), both of which are excellent chronos, but unfortunately, I have to start culling somewhere. My next to drop is painful as it is a chronograph I’d love to own: the Singer Reimagined 1969 Chrono, a totally revamped and very wearable Singer.
My top three are the De Bethune DB Eight, Grand Seiko Tentagraph, and Petermann Bédat Chronographe rattrapante. If the GPHG jury went with the Seiko I could well understand the decision as it is a superb chronograph and Seiko do things extremely well, but my top two are the De Bethune DB Eight and the Petermann Bédat Rattrapante.
As much I love the Petermann Bédat, especially its sensational hand finished movement, the De Bethune is my pick to win as it has by far the smoothest chronograph pusher feel I’ve ever experienced. It is a tactile pleasure to operate. In fact, the pusher is such a revelation I think that it will have a chance at taking the Aiguilles d’Or, in which case I predict the Petermann Bédat will win.
Sports: watches linked to the world of sport, whose functions, materials and design are suited to physical exercise.
I don’t understand why the TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer isn’t in the chronograph category as it’s a chronograph from head to tail, so it is my first cut. I know this is a new model, but the Doxa Army is next simply because I feel I’ve seen it before. I like the 40mm IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur Automatic 40, but it’s my next to go simply because I don’t like its date wheel not matching the dial.
I quite like the quirky case shape of the Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF and it certainly looks like a casual wear sports’ watch, so I think it has a good chance here. The Grönefeld 1969 DeltaWorks is a watch I’d love to own, but at nearly 45mm in diameter it’s too big for me.
My predicted winner though is the Tudor Pelagos 39 due to its perfect size for most wrists (including mine), 200-meter water resistance, and relatively affordable price. Plus the fact that in making GPHG predictions over many years, I’ve learned never to bet against Tudor!
Jewellery: watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewellery and gemsetting, and also distinguished by the choice of stones.
The Gucci Timepieces G-Timeless Planetarium with colored stones is the same model as in the Ladies’ Complication category but with different colored gems. That doesn’t rule it out but the sophistication of its gem setting doesn’t appear to stand up to the competition here. This is a category in which it is impossible to judge the pieces without actually handling them, but here goes anyway.
The Piaget Swinging Sautoir is my next cut simply because it is more a necklace than a watch. I imagine that the Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra feels beautiful around the wrist and it certainly doesn’t lack lots of gem setting, but it is more a cuff than a watch so it’s out for me too.
For diamond lovers, the 11+ carats on Chopard Pure Happiness is likely to offer just that, but while I am no doubt as to the quality of Chopard’s gem setting prowess, I’m after a more tactile sensation and something more out (but to too far out) of the ordinary here.
So I’m down to my top two: the Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Mystery Set emeralds watch and the Damiani Margherita Watch. And while I’m reluctant to bet against just how good the Van Cleef & Arpels is, I’m taking a long odds bet that the Damiani Margherita Watch will look and feel as good as it does in my imagination.
Artistic Crafts: watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enamelling, lacquering, engraving, guilloché (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc.
I could close my eyes and throw a dart and whichever of these six nominated watches it hit would be a well deserving winner: they all feature superb artistic craftwork. The virtuoso guilloché of the Andersen Genève Jumping Hours Rising Sun Edition; the clever jigsaw puzzle micro-painting of the Louis Moinet Savanna Tourbillon Tiger; the sensuous curves of the marquetry of the Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata; the miniature painting, gem-setting and gold engraving of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Duo de Lions watch; and the iridescent Super-LumiNova artwork of the Sarpaneva Näkki all deserve a prize.
I cannot pick a runner up, but I do predict the sculptured three-dimensional dial of the Rudis Sylva Hymne d’Orient will take the prize here.
“Petite Aiguille”: watches with a retail price between CHF 2,000 and CHF 8,000. Smartwatches are admissible in this category.
The big question is why does the GPHG put “Petite Aiguille” in inverted commas but not the Aiguilles d’Or? But leaving that aside (for now) making not just a good watch, but a superb watch for under 8,000 Swiss francs (around $8,000) is extremely difficult, so I’m judging the watches here not just on their quality but how much value for money they offer.
The first I’m cutting is the Louis Erard Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin, not because it doesn’t offer value for money but I think the dial design is just too out there for this category. Next to go is the Bulgari Octo Roma Automatic simply because it does not offer that something special I’m looking for. The Christopher Ward London C1 Bel Canto is also out, even though a striking watch for 3’350 Swiss francs is incredible value for money.
That leaves me with three, any of which could win here: the Habring2 Chrono-Felix Top-Second chronograph (I want one), the Tudor Tudor Black Bay (I’d also love one of these and the Magraph by Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès (be still my beating heart). While second place is a coin toss for me, I’m throwing my “never bet against Tudor” out the window and going for the the Magraph by Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès. It ticks all the boxes for everything I’m looking for in a watch at a very reasonable price and the Magraph is my predicted winner.
Challenge: watches with a retail price equal to or under CHF 2,000. Smartwatches are admissible in this category.
Making high quality mechanical watches under $2,000 is an incredibly competitive market and I’m happy to see such variety on offer here. I’m cutting the Kurono Tokyo GMT 1 (a crowd favorite), the Raymond Weil Millésime automatic small seconds, and Timeless Swiss Watch HMS 003 simply because the bright colors of the Nomos Glashütte Club Campus 38 electric green and the Studio Underd0g Watermel0n have attracted my eye so strongly.
But my predicted winner has to be the Seiko 1968 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation GMT. Seiko quality watch and metal strap, 200-meter watch resistance, and dual time, all for a very reasonable price.
Mechanical Clock: mechanical instruments whose main function is time measurement, such as longcase clocks and table clocks. Wristwatches are not allowed in this category.
The key words in the rules for this clock category are: “. . . whose main function is time measurement. . .” For that reason, I’m cutting the car-themed L’Epée 1839 Time Fast II Chrome (which I love), the soccer-themed The Unnamed Society The Champion Macassar, and the flower-themed Van Cleef & Arpels Éveil du Cyclamen Automaton (which I can easily see winning here), because while they all tell the time, they seem more like primarily artistic sculptures that also tell the time.
I like the concept of the Maison Alcée Persée Azur in being a do-it-yourself kit to make your own clock, and the elegant simplicity of the Matthew Norman Diaphane. But my predicted winner is the Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman. A practical mechanical travel clock displaying hours, minutes, date, day, power reserve indicator, dual time, and featuring a tourbillon, striking watch, alarm, and day/night, with distinctively Alain Silberstein colors that you can slip in your back pocket. I want one!
The wild card prizes that can upset all my predictions above
Innovation Prize (discretionary)
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.).
I think that the two top contenders for this prize are both from Parmigiani: the Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar and the Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante.
Audacity Prize (discretionary)
This prize rewards the best competing timepiece featuring a non-conformist, offbeat approach to watchmaking. It is intended to foster creative audacity.
I think that both the HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires and the Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman have a chance at this prize.
“Horological Revelation” Prize (discretionary)
Why (like “Petite Aiguille”) is this prize in inverted commas? It’s likely to be won by the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans and Felipe Pikullik Moon phase 1, and my pick would be Simon Brette if he doesn’t pick up another prize.
Chronometry Prize (discretionary)
This prize rewards the best competing timepiece that stands out for its remarkable precision timekeeping performance (special escapement or distinctive regulating device) and which is officially certified (ISO 3159 standards) by an inspection authority such as the COSC, TIMELAB, Besançon Observatory, etc.
I was going to pick the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité here, but I don’t think it is an officially certified chronometer (as per the rules) so I’m going for the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC.
For the GPHG watch of the year, I think it will between the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC, Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans, De Bethune DB Eight, and the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité, but that’s as much as I can narrow it down.
For more information on all of these watches, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/gphg-2023/nominated-timepieces
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