Martin Green’s Thoughts and Predictions for the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG)
by Martin Green
Another year, another GPHG. I always like to approach these awards as a way to view the state of the industry. Of course, it only shows part of it, as not all brands compete, but it still gives a good idea. Creativity is still running high. The different categories still puzzle me, as there are watches in the Ladies’ category witha complication, while there is a special Ladies Complication category for that.
I also wonder if there still is a need to divide ladies’ and men’s watches, as I know many ladies who wear watches marketed towards men, and I own and wear one of the watches in the Ladies Complication category myself. That aside, the GPHG has always been a celebration of high-end watchmaking, craftsmanship, and creativity, and the 2023 edition is no exception.
One of the challenges of the GPHG is that quite a few watches could belong to different categories simultaneously. That can cause difficulties, as I consider the Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret is a superb jewelry watch, but it feels a bit lost in the category of Ladies’ watches. I really love its concept and because it is quite a practical watch. It might even win but not among these other ladies’ watches.
For me, that honor goes to me to the Perpetual Moon 38 Mintnight by Arnold & Son. I love how they play with not only the color of different materials and the texture. The oversized moon phase display makes it so that you really interact with this complication and gives the watch a significant visual impact.
The Hermès Arceau Petite lune shows some similarities with the Arnold & Son, with the main difference being what the name says; the moon is petite. Especially combined with the smaller hands, I find this a less successful combination. While the composition is very beautiful overall, the timepiece aspect seems almost like an afterthought.
I think that Piaget is getting its groove back. With the Hidden Treasures, the brand successfully channels their glorious past, and I hope that they follow this path for the rest of their collection.
Of the remaining two watches, I find the Beauregard just a bit too cute, and while very well made, this is one watch that really needs a mechanical movement.
The RXby is a brand I haven’t heard of before and the dial of their Espressione Romantica is just an overload of technicolor for my eyes. It highlights that fortunately, the improbable encounter between Francesco Hayez, a leading artist of Italian Romanticism, and Wassily Kandinsky, the pioneer of abstract art, which inspired the piece, never actually happened.
My favorite world-time watches are made by Svend Andersen. That makes it hard for me to see the Arctic Sunrise Andersen Genève X BCHH as a ladies’ watch, as I think it can easily go both ways. As always is, the execution superb, in both form and function, and the hues of the different materials are superb. Combined, it gives a very warm proposition, which adds a nice, complimenting contrast to the center of the dial.
I would crown the Andersen as the winner, but I love how seemingly effortlessly Chopard can go into different styles without losing itself. This Imperiale Jumping Hour is superb in execution, in its heavy baroque style. I enjoy how they integrated telling time into the overall design. Even the setting, with the large brilliant-cut diamonds in the bezel, plays into the theme. Beautiful is that this Chopard is also a heavyweight in terms of its movement, which features a very impressive 8-day power reserve.
The Dior Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior puzzles me, as they have done so many things so well, with an enchanting dial and beautiful diamond setting, only to ruin it by making the automaton mechanical and the movement for the timekeeping quartz. It is like Dior hasn’t entirely made the transition from fashion brand to haute horlogerie.
Gucci does that better with the G-Timeless Planetarium with diamond-studded stars, although moving diamonds are not really a complication. However, they do seem to have found a style of their own. I am curious to learn Tom Ford’s thoughts.
Among the competition, the IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar seems rather mainstream and almost dull. I have no idea why it is considered a ladies’ watch as this IWC can easily go both ways. It is a great watch, although I prefer the charm of earlier models, which show the year in full instead of the leap year indicator on this one.
When Louis Vuitton gets creative with its watches, they go all the way, as this Tambour Fiery Heart Automate shows. This is pur sang creativity, over the top, all in, yet executed at a very high level of quality, making it literally serious fun, but just too whimsical in this version for me to consider it for the win.
I find it a bit surprising that none of the men’s watches are ordinary. The Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro-Rotor is perhaps the most standard looking, but following last year’s edition gave me a bit of an overdose of this watch.
Audemars Piguet has been so focused on the Royal Oak that they seem to have forgotten the other horological delicacies they used to serve. The Starwheel was among them, but brands like Urwerk took it to the next level, and Gorilla made it affordable. This AP Code 11.59 would make a great Gorilla or a basic Urwerk, but I feel that Audemars Piguet can do much better: they might start with taking off the seconds hand.
I have been a big fan of Ferdinand Berthoud from the beginning, yet the round case of the Chronomètre FB 3SPC doesn’t resonate as well with me as its previous design.
I have yet to experience the Xhevdet Rexhepi Minute Inerte in real life, but the ‘complication’ is a bit lost on me.
Two watches blew me away; Simon Brette’s amazing creation and De Bethune’s Starry Seas. While the De Bethune comes very close to being the perfect watch for me, I had the pleasure of seeing Brette’s Chronomètre Artisans in the metal, and it’s a true experience that deserves to win.
Is a color-changing case really a complication? It has to be because a tourbillon is not, making the ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon very cool but in the wrong category.
While I loved Parmigiani’s rattrapante GMT, the Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante concept is lost on me. The same with Voutilainen’s World Timer. My expectations of Voutilainen are sky high, thanks to his incredible high-quality work, but this dial is simply too much on the dull side, and the case looks like Bell & Ross decided to make a dress watch.
As a huge fan and avid collector of Piaget, the current generation of the Polo has never been convincing to me, and even as a perpetual calendar, it doesn’t work. Perhaps if they called it Emperador (to which collection it belongs) and didn’t go for such an obvious trend color it would work better.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date is like when you have a kid order a birthday cake. They add so much that it really is too much of a good thing. That leaves the Bovet Récital 27 as my predicted winner, which listens to its own beat and creates a beauty of a travel watch with a very impressive 168-hour power reserve.
I agree with Ian that this is one category that needs to be scrapped or changed. Being more iconic is something you simply can never state. Another problem is that it is hard to decide when a watch is an icon to begin with. It is also not always the case that the newer versions are better than the models that gave them such a reputation. Therefore, my vote has to go to Chopard’s L.U.C 1860, as their relentless dedication has made their L.U.C collection a true and consistent treat in the world of Haute Horlogerie.
I love how you can get a tourbillon in so many different flavors these days. Many of the competing watches are very powerful propositions, but I can’t help my personal preferences playing a large role in determining my predicted winner in this category. The Bovet Virtuoso XI is phenomenal, but 44mm is too big. The Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon is also too much for me, but that has more to do with its color combination.
The HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires is so over the top it is my runner up. The Arnold & Son Ultrathin Tourbillon Gold and Parmigiani Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon are sensible tourbillon watches, if there is such a thing, to buy and enjoy daily, but it is the Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit that is my predicted winner. Not being able to see the tourbillon from the dial side and to put it in a sportive case is simply chic!
Calendar and Astronomy
The Récital 20 Astérium is another solid entry from Bovet, combining complexity with an enticing design. That is also what I am missing a bit in the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe and the Piaget Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Obsidian.
While I love the Massena Lab Habring² x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual, its monochrome theme doesn’t work for me.
The Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar is a treat, but I would have rather seen that in a different case than, again, the Tonda PF. That leaves Felipe Pikullik’s Moon Phase 1. I shouldn’t pick this as a winner, as it is just a moon phase, but all combined, it is a modest yet exquisite creation, very pure and potent.
Mechanical Exception is perhaps the most challenging category to judge, with incredible entries. In terms of technical complexity, the Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 should win. However, I find the packaging of all these complications a bit of a mess, with windows cutting into subdials, bright white backgrounds of the discs, while the dial itself is a sort of cream color. Compared to the competition, its design is lacking.
The Jacob Astronomia Revolution is a revolution and an amazing watch to experience: however, this current execution is a bit much for me, though I have high hopes that future editions will take care of that.
The Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité and Rudis Sylva RS23 are true horological delights, as is the fun effect of the Hautlence Sphere Series 1, but the Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata takes the crown for me as it offers both visual and mechanical delights of a very high level and is very original in its approach.
The Best Chronogragh prize has to go to the Grand Seiko Tentagraph, because the brand finally made a chronograph, which is phenomenal. I am not saying that the others aren’t, but some we have seen before in different versions, while this Grand Seiko, although a bit conservative in terms of styling, heralds an important new chapter in the history of the brand.
What are you looking for in a sports watch? That’s likely to depend on what your preferences are. I think that the Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF makes for a perfect everyday watch, although not necessarily one worn for sport. Same with the Gronefeld 1969 DeltaWorks and the IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40.
Is it just me, or do other people also have trouble keeping the different Tudor’s apart? As for the Doxa Army, I really like this watch and think that it offers a lot of bang for your buck. However, my sport is driving fast cars and for that, the TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer is hard to beat!
It is beyond me how slightly different versions of the Gucci and the Van Cleef & Arpels can compete in this category but were also in the Ladies and Ladies Complication category. While I feel that the remaining competition is strong, with Piaget doing what it does best with the Swinging Sautoir (please keep doing this and do it some more, Piaget!!)
Chopard is delighting as always with their Pure Happiness Happy Diamonds; and the Damiani Margherita Watch takes my breath away with their delicate and crazily complex creation.
Bulgari has hit a home run with the Serpenti Cleopatra. It is vintage and modern at the same time and it would work very well even without a timekeeper inside, but that combination makes it the winner in my book.
Another category with, traditionally, strong competition. I feel that the prize here can go different ways. I feel that the Andersen is a bit lost as it offers less of a vibrant visual treat than the others.
I saw the Louis Moinet Savanna Tourbillon Tiger at Watches & Wonders and love the painting, but the little lines that the puzzle pieces created don’t quite work for me, although they do highlight the incredible artistry involved in creating the jigsaw.
Sarparneva is at the top of its game again with the Näkki, a crazy cool creation only Stepan can make. However, my winner is the Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata, with its masterclass in marquetry – it feels like the brand is again in touch with the essence of itself.
Yet another Tudor Black Bay and I have no idea how new it is as I feel I have seen this before many, many times. It might not be very fair, as it is a good watch, yet not competitive enough in my book for this category.
The same goes for the Bulgari Roma Automatic and the Magraph by Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès. Excellent watches, watches you want to buy and own, but a bit conservative.
The Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin is everything but that. It is a fun piece, but I like the complication that Christopher Ward offers with its Bel Canto. However, the Habring2 Chrono-Felix Top-Second takes the prize for me in reintroducing an old but fun complication with delightful packaging, giving you the feeling that you’ve got your hands on a vintage military watch.
Can six watches be any more different than these? From delightfully conservative like the Raymond Weil Millésime automatic small seconds to the mind-blowing progressive (in terms of color at least) Studio Underd0g Watermelon.
Among all these, it’s the Nomos Club Campus 38 electric green that conquered my heart. It is a charmer in a perfectly sized case, fun colored dial, and off-beat California dial. A sturdy companion that is fun.
How would you like your clock served? That’s quite a question for this category. We go from the unaffordable two-and-a-half-million-dollar Van Cleef & Arpels Éveil du Cyclamen Automaton to the put-it-together-yourself Persée Azur from Maison Alcee.
My favorite though is Alain Silberstein, who has made perfection with his Izman travel alarm clock. Silberstein’s expressive style is perfectly balanced by the finishing of the titanium case and dial. It even comes with two surprises: an elegant mechanical alarm function and a tourbillon. The latter is a both rarity and a treat.
For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/gphg-2023/nominated-timepieces
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