Joshua Munchow’s Thoughts and Predictions for the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG)
With the 2023 edition of the GPHG nearly upon us, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide my thoughts and predictions from my first year as a member of the Academy. I know I am only one of the 800+ members, but I was intrigued to be a part of the process up until the final round of voting.
In the past, I usually did not peruse the participating watches until after the award ceremony and kept my focus on only the nominated pieces, but since I was a part of the voting to nominate the watches this year I will say that I was impressed by the variety that entered and surprised by some of the pieces that didn’t make it past the first round of elimination.
The sheer number of praise-worthy watches that were left out of the nominations was incredible, but with a limited number of slots per category, it was bound to happen.
But like others have said, it goes to show that this is another excellent year for watchmaking with scores of awesome pieces representing most corners of the industry.
As a result, for each category, I will make a prediction for which watch might win, share which watch I like the most regardless of winning potential (which may be my runner up), and which watch surprised me the most.
Like Ian I also tend to discount quartz watches in everything but the jewelry category since only there does it often make sense, but in this category, I do prefer a mechanical movement. I also concur with Martin that the days of needing gendered categories may be coming to a close, but since it still exists we must assess these incredible pieces under this lens.
Since the category is for a basic women’s watch I would assume it should be wearable with more than just a ballgown and a red carpet, so for me this puts the Piaget Hidden Treasures and the Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Watch off the list of contenders.
The Ludo Secret Watch is the watch that most surprised me, however, being such a pleasurable item to touch and operate, the hidden watch face appearing when the figure-8 case is squeezed between your fingers. But it is a bit too fancy for the everyday ladies’ watch, and not very practical, so off the list it goes.
Aesthetically I can’t say I am too fond of the XRby La Montre d’Art as specifically ladies watch, though it is a fairly simple watch. Yet with a sapphire case and cloisonné enamel dial it feels like it should reside in the Artistic Crafts category, plus at 40 millimeters in diameter and 12 millimeters thick, it is rather bulky for a feminine inspired watch.
My personal favorite is another watch that I don’t think might win, simply because it is a very distinct style that some may not appreciate, though I don’t know how. The Beauregard Lili Bouton is a stunning assembly of carefully shaped mother-of-pearl petals precisely arranged to form a gorgeous flower.
The various versions of this watch in precious stones blew me away when I saw them in person and I was enamored by the aesthetic. If it was a mechanical watch I would push hard for it to win, but I think the uniquely bold design combined with the quartz movement might keep it from taking the podium.
This leaves the two moon phase watches (my favorites as you might have guessed), so what would make one a better choice over the other?
This is where my practicality comes in and suggests that an everyday watch probably isn’t absolutely encrusted with diamonds and dazzling ruthenium crystals. The Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon MintNight is stunning and has the bigger, more impressive moon phase, but it feels a bit too sparkly.
I would hazard a guess that many would opt for the lower key (yet equally beautiful) Hermès Arceau Petite Lune that has the deep blue dial and more poetic astronomical vista.
While it still has a diamond set bezel, it could much more easily pair with more everyday clothing and fly under the radar if need be, so it is the watch I predict will take the prize in this category.
Winner – Hermès Arceau Petite Lune
Favorite Runner Up – Beauregard Lili Bouton
Surprise – Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Watch
Ladies’ Complication Category
This category is always wrought with hesitation from me as it typically is filled with watches I would have a hard time agreeing are “complicated” watches but this year that is far from the truth.
A few may be hard pressed to clearly fit into this gendered category, yet this could be a good reason to highlight that a ladies’ category may have less clear meaning these days.
Regardless, there are a bunch of cool pieces to choose from and I could easily see this category going in a few directions.
But first I’ll start with a couple pieces that I don’t think will win but are just all-around fantastic watches. The first is the Andersen Genève X BCHH Arctic Sunrise, a new version of the classic Anedersen Genève world timer which has been a favorite across the industry but lacks anything that would definitively make it a ladies’ watch, something that might be argued is a good thing.
Still, I don’t think it would have the support to win this category given its competition, just like the IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar.
A top notch piece and my personal favorite if I had to choose one to be my own watch (it has a moon phase accurate to 577 years), the IWC Portofino is a classic look and complication that makes no attempt to be anything other than what it is, a solid 40 millimeter calendar watch.
Even while this one might not be an obvious ladies watch, that cannot be said for the Dior Grand Soir Automate.
Encrusted with diamonds and featuring a shooting star automaton, the Grand Soir Automate would normally have given this category some stiff competition, but I can’t get by the fact that it has an utterly tiny set of watch hands and equally tiny quartz movement to keep time which is separate from the mechanical automaton.
This feels like a lack of courage from a brand not known for venturing into haute horology like Chanel or Hermès, but they definitely made a solid effort following loosely in the spirit of Van Cleef & Arpels.
The Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium makes a good show with dancing diamond studded stars and a central tourbillon, but I fear incoherently distinct aesthetics might hurt this one and keep it from taking a prize.
The same could be said for the Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata, the most surprising piece in the group. I think the Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo & Juliet vibes it’s giving off narrow its audience even while the awesome automaton provides a fun feast for the eyes.
My pick to win has to be the Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour with an 8-day power reserve and gorgeous Urushi lacquer turning this diamond ensconced timepiece into something straight out of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums (and that is a good thing).
The typography of the jumping hours contrasts perfectly with the distinct design of the flowers and birds with gold and silver petals counting the minutes.
The rear of the movement has even more engraving and decoration with a power reserve indication, all of which is packed into a case slightly more than 10 millimeters thick.
It also has a very distinctive look, but it feels like the most cohesive piece that fits well into this category. And if you lost the diamonds around the bezel I would happily want to wear this watch myself.
Winner – Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour
Favorite Runner Up – IWC Portofino Perpetual Calendar
Surprise – Louis Vuitton Tambour Firery Heart Automata
Oh to be back to the always tough Men’s category, where the variety makes it incredibly hard to compare amazing watches. Once again this crop is absolutely top notch and even with possible upsets from the Aiguille d’Or or winning a special prize, I feel this category still could go a few different ways.
I’ll lead off with my most surprising watch and the one I don’t think will win, maybe.
The Xhevdet Rexhepi Minute Inerte was a watch and an announcement that surprised me back in January as I was sort of stunned to learn that Xhevdet had departed working with his brother at Akrivia to start his own brand, and that the first watch would be something so technically complicated.
But to this day I have yet to see a finished watch so to me it is still only a concept watch. I love the concept and the movement which is a mechanical version of the Mondaine Swiss Railway clock (a definite horological achievement), and especially the aesthetics (it’s hard to branch out on your own from such a distinct brand aesthetic and begin with something this graphically strong).
It’s possible that the jury will have their hands on the actual piece and it will blow them away, in which case it could very well win and help cement the entire Rexhepi family as horological savants, but it is also up against very, very stiff competition so it needs to show up ready to fight, and with a description or demonstration to make it clear why it’s so cool.
Two other pieces that I don’t think will win are the Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro-Rotor (a solid, every-day wear watch that I would happily rock year-round) and the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Starwheel.
Both are great watches and represent a great addition to any collection and something you would be excited to wear all week long. But in the Men’s category it takes a bit more than that to win the day.
One of the most awesome and historically tantalizing pieces is the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC, another amazing entry from the brand.
But given that the dial makes it a bit harder to read at a glance this could take it down a notch as the best Men’s watch as it would fit better into a chronometry category (which I did indeed vote for it in that special Chronometry prize category).
The two pieces battling for the top spot in my mind are the De Bethune DB28xs Starry Seas and the Simone Brette Chronomètre Artisans. Both pieces are absolutely stunning but very different in aesthetics and horological essence.
My favorite, if I had to choose one to wear for the rest of my life, is the De Bethune. I have always loved the brand, the style, and the “Starry” versions that now include rolling waves of the sea. Perfect. No notes.
But… the Simone Brette Chronomètre Artisans caused a bit of a shockwave through the collector community and the horological community with its release, and I understand why. It might be one of the most perfect “first” watches of any brand to ever exist, selling out before it was even released to the public. It invented new forms of decoration and finishing and is both supremely simple and sublimely considered.
The only thing that could keep it from taking the top spot in this category is if it wins the Aiguille d’Or, which I do think it is easily in the running for.
But if that doesn’t happen, and people don’t think the aesthetics are too snazzy to win the best Men’s watch, then it is very possibly going to be the winner this year.
Winner – Simone Brette Chronomètre Artisans
Favorite Runner Up – De Bethune DB28xs Starry Seas
Surprise – Xhevdet Rexhepi Minute Inerte
Men’s Complication Category
This might be the very first year that I think the Men’s Complication category is less intriguing than the basic Men’s category. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some incredible watches here, but I find myself more enamored by the simpler watches this year, at least when comparing these two groups.
Also, just like the men’s category, the complication category lacks a focusing element so the entries are rather varied, making it difficult to compare and contrast once again.
I’d like to first address the Artya Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon, which does feel like it should be moved to the tourbillon category since it has no other complication, at least in the movement.
The sapphire case has been treated in such a way that it changes color depending on the light temperature, a fascinating physics phenomenon, but a visual trick does not count as a complication by any stretch of the definition.
Something chock full of complications is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept, a bold follow-up to the RO Concept line which contains its first self-winding split-seconds flyback chronograph.
The aesthetic may not be for everyone but the mechanics are pretty impressive with the split seconds mechanism centered on the rear of the movement in the center of the large ball bearing that supports the winding rotor.
Audemars Piguet has always had a strong showing in the GPHG and it’s possible that it could win here, which is my prediction. I’m not sure if the others are strong enough to clearly overtake AP, even if I might prefer other pieces for myself.
Both the Bovet Récital 27 and the Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin may be as equally complicated as the AP, but the more classic and restrained aesthetics keep them from standing out. Piaget may stand out as the extra complicated but beautifully slim watch that might help it overtake AP, but it also could fly under the radar and fade from the top.
My personal favorite is the Parmigiani Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante, a super simple concept that is truly innovative, a main judging criterion for the category.
I love the concept of a countdown minute timer with a rattrapante style minute hand, but the style and lack of visibility to the complication (and perhaps a lack of clear understanding of its use and functionality) could keep this one away from the podium as well.
The last unknown is the visually intriguing Voutilainen World Timer, the watch that surprised me the most as the style departs so starkly from what we have come to expect from the master. The cushion-shaped case gives a huge wrist presence to this piece, but the more monochromatic dial leaves a bit to be desired I feel.
This departure could keep Voutilainen from taking this category as I could imagine the jury struggling to make up their mind on how they feel about it, which could be all the pause needed to move on.
Winner – Audemars Piguet RO Concept Chrono GMT Large Date
Favorite Runner Up – Parmigiani Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante
Surprise – Voutilainen World Timer
I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve all agreed that the Iconic category seems either pointless or unnecessary to effectively give an award for a watch that has been commercially successful.
Commercial success is often the hopeful outcome of receiving an award, so this is sort of like giving someone an award for already winning, but alas, here we are.
The group of pieces in this category are definitely high quality and commercially successful with all but one being pretty visually (and sometimes technically) distinct from a lot of what is on the market.
A Royal Oak, Carrera, Navitimer, and Freak are incredibly well known and perpetually popular, and the new version of the Ingenieur hearkens back to the early roots of the collection.
Only the Chopard lacks the clear and unique aesthetics that set it apart from the wider industry in a way that is hard to imitate. And while I was surprised both that the Chopard L.U.C. 1860 was found in this category and that I liked it so much (just not for the reasons it would be entered here), I have to pass on the Chopard L.U.C. 1860 as the winner here.
While I’m at it the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph should go since a Royal Oak has won the Iconic category twice in the last four years.
My favorite piece that I would love to win is the Ulysse Nardin Freak One, a modern Freak that shows the extent that the Freak is still a mainstay of the industry.
But I also know that it’s called the Freak for a reason and the jury tends to be conservative so I wouldn’t be surprised if it misses the top spot.
The Tag Heuer Carrera is a fantastic edition that I would love to be part of my collection, but Tag Heuer just won last year with the Monaco and it won the Revival prize with the Heuer Monza in 2016, so it also probably should step aside to let another piece win.
The Breitling Navitimer is definitely an iconic watch and could very easily take the crown, but given it fits a much smaller niche in the market it may not have vociferous support on the jury, and so it may also fall by the wayside.
This brings me to the watch I think will win judging by how hard it was advertised upon its launch at W&W 2023 and how pleasantly surprised people were by the design, the IWC Ingenieur Automatic. It is an easy watch to get behind because it looks like a classic IWC that many profess to miss, and it is a classic Genta design which is a perennial favorite among collectors.
I’m not sure if it truly is as iconic as others but it does feel like it has a solid chance at taking home the crown and showcasing how going back to the beginning can be a winning strategy.
Winner – IWC Ingenieur
Favorite Runner Up – Ulysse Nardin Freak One
Surprise – Chopard L.U.C. 1860
I’ve always been torn about tourbillons competing in complication categories so keeping the best tourbillons in their own group helps focus what we are judging and allows them to shine for what they are, complex relics of pocket watches that now exist to flex horological muscles.
As always the GPHG is full of wonderful examples of the Breguet invention, but there aren’t many that stand out to me to win this category.
All are stunning and I would happily cherish them in my collection if I had the chance, yet only two are above the rest as something unique this year.
It must first be stated that I always have and always will love Arnold & Son, Laurent Ferrier, Parmigiani, and Bovet, but each of their respective entries feels familiar and expected from the brands.
The Ultrathin Tourbillon from A&S is not the first piece from them to fill this aesthetic or engineering niche. The Virtuoso XI from Bovet is absolutely amazing and features all the awesome Bovet touches to make it a lust-worthy piece, but it still follows the typical Virtuoso path fairly closely.
The Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon from Parmigiani was and is a great component of the Tonda PF collection, but it feels entirely in-line with what should be a part of that collection and is not unlike watches we have seen before from a variety of maisons.
The Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit from Laurent Ferrier is an aesthetic departure in part from the brand, but the lack of any new distinctive engineering surrounding the tourbillon doesn’t help it stand out in this field, no matter how much I like it.
This leaves the entries from Bulgari and HYT. Central tourbillons are already a step above due to the added difficulty of engineering the movement and gear train, so both of these pieces stand out just for this.
First up, the Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon adds one of my favorite mechanisms, the jump hour, as well as the original Daniel Roth butterfly minute display. The aesthetics are rather bold with the bright green contrasting with the black, and the sapphire dial partially showcases the mechanisms underneath.
But this watch has been seen before in a few configurations, so the novelty is the specific edition, not the watch as a whole, so for me it stays as a runner up. Given Bulgari’s past performance in the GPHG it would be completely unsurprising if this piece won, but if enough members of the jury point out that this is just a new iteration of a previous model, it may not make it to the podium.
That leaves the biggest surprise of the bunch and the watch I think should probably win, the HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires.
This watch represents both the most novel implementation of a tourbillon in the category and the surprising and welcomed persistence of HYT. After reorganizing as a brand and almost disappearing, the Conical Tourbillon stands as a testament to resilience and creativity.
The orbiting gemstones add a nice mechanical touch surrounding a complex tourbillon assembly, the most technically innovative and unique engineering in this category.
Extremely unconventional aesthetics could put the jury off in favor of another classically minded piece, but it seems to me that this watch deserves the win for best tourbillon of the bunch.
Winner & Surprise – HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires
Favorite Runner Up – Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon
Calendar & Astronomy Category
Getting to the Calendar and Astronomy category we finally arrive at my favorite complication, the moon phase, which every entry has in one form or another.
But a simple moon phase is only one part of almost every watch as well, save one, so sadly it doesn’t appear that my favorite complication will be enough to win.
My biggest surprise in the category is, funnily enough, the Felipe Pikullik Moon Phase 1, the one watch to contain only a moon phase. I had followed the maker for a while and have been enamored with the Moon Phase one since he publicly released it, so seeing it get nominated (of course I voted for it as a member of the Academy) was awesome.
But no matter how much I like the aesthetics and the simplicity of the spherical moon phase, I can’t argue that it should take the top spot given the stiff competition of an annual calendar with equation of time and four full perpetual calendars with varying extra details.
So while I’m happy to sing the praises of the Felipe Pikullik Moon Phase 1, I think it lacks the complexity to take the podium.
Going a different direction, I think two of the perpetual calendars, the Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar and the IWC Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar (etc.) lack enough distinction to take the win either. Both are awesome but they are fairly standard versions of a perpetual calendar and something seen before in both cases.
And speaking of being seen before, the incredible Bovet Récital 20 Astérium was entered last year for the mechanical exception category, making this year’s entry feel too familiar for my liking. It’s tough to have such an amazing timepiece get passed over because it already lost once in a very tough category, but only the Iconic category is concerned with “previous success.”
The watch that is probably my favorite and I would think has a great chance of winning is the Habring x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual which not only has the perpetual calendar but a monopusher chronograph as well, making it the most mechanically complex piece in the category.
I could see it winning in some circumstances, but I think it falls just short of my predicted winner, the Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar.
Known for realizing difficult to compute calendars, such as the Hijri Perpetual Calendar in 2020, Parmigiani knocked it out of the park with a calendar so difficult and technically complex that even after being slowly presented with the functionality by Parmigiani, I still remain only vaguely aware of exactly what the calendar computes and how it works.
So with a watch like that in this category, it feels hard to assume any other watch will have a chance to win since this is clearly the most innovative piece of the category.
Winner – Parmigiani Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar
Favorite Runner Up – Massena LAB Habring x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual
Surprise – Felipe Pikullik Moon Phase 1
Mechanical Exception Category
Here we reach the most contested and competitive category when it comes to sheer innovation. Aesthetics matter, but this is the category where wild complications and unique mechanics take center stage by design, and as such it makes it a hard category to predict since the pieces often are rather divergent.
It’s the same once again this year, with six very different takes on horology, but I also think there are a few clear front runners.
First I would remove the Jacob & Co Astronomia Revolution from the group since a version of this model has been seen in the GPHG five times in the last four years, not including 2021 when it was entered but not pre-selected meaning that twice there were multiple versions pre-selected in the same year.
Once again, I am not saying it isn’t amazing, but at this point it is kind of a known quantity, even if this is the first time it was chosen in the Mechanical Exception category.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Opera Automata is a work of mechanical genius, but I also give preference for mechanics that provide functionality over visual theatrics, so I would pass over this piece in favor of others that provide horological innovation over pure complexity.
That brings me to the Hautlence Sphere Series 1, my biggest surprise in this category because I absolutely loved this watch when it came out. The visual display is stunning and super creative (quite possibly one of my favorite things to ever come from Hautlence), but I fear that a “simple” jumping hour with retrograde minutes isn’t enough to take the trophy in this group.
Getting into horological innovation we come to a pair of watches that are thematically similar but achieve their goals rather differently, the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité and Rudis Sylva RS 23. Both dabble with dual oscillators in an effort to provide a more consistent timekeeper and cancel out variability in position and use.
Rudis Sylva opts for a hands-on forcible approach literally gearing two balance wheels together by cutting teeth into their rims and linking them mechanically, using oppositely mounted balance springs to counteract each other’s positional variance.
This is absolutely wild and differs dramatically from Czapek which goes for a more traditional dual balance design that links the parallel gear trains together with a differential in the center to dole out an averaged time. Both are incredible but if I had to give an edge to one it would likely be the Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité due to my understanding of how these mechanics work, plus I personally prefer the style and proportions of the Czapek.
The Czapek is my favorite runner up, but it still cannot compete with my prediction for winner, the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra Complication Universelle RD#4.
I don’t think it’s possible to enter an ultra-complication that sports a flyback split seconds chronograph, a perpetual calendar, petite and grand sonnerie with minute repeater (not to mention a really unique moon phase) and not take the category. In fact, the only way I see this watch not winning the category is if it takes the Aiguille d’Or which it is perfectly set up to do.
It also blows away pretty much every ultra complication that I’ve seen since it comes in at a rather petite 42 millimeters in diameter and less than 16 millimeters in thickness, making it surprisingly wearable. Seven years and 1,100 parts later and this watch is clearly the most exceptional mechanical watch in the GPHG this year.
Winner – Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra Complication Universelle RD#4
Favorite Runner Up – Czapek Place Vendôme Complicité
Surprise – Hautlence Sphere Series 1
When discussing chronographs, it is very easy to compare these machines since the goal is very clear, provide the ability to track and divide time for measuring events.
Even better if you can do it with style and in a way that provides an advantage, is easier to use, or adds novelty. With that in mind, this group has a lot of great contenders, and even the ones I eliminate right away are great chronographs.
On that note, I will eliminate the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, the TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Skipper, and the Singer 1969 Chrono, all of which I would love to personally own.
But getting serious, all three do exactly what you would expect a basic chronograph to do, the Singer with a more ergonomic display, the AP with a flying tourbillon, and the TAG Heuer with perfect vintage styling. While the movement inside the Singer, the AgenGraphe, is one of the best chronograph movements ever created, it has already won for that feat. So off the podium these three go.
My biggest surprise and a watch that could be the sleeper winner is the Grand Seiko Tentagraph, a 1/10th of a second chronograph with 3 days of power reserve while the chronograph is running. It wowed when I first saw it and it is a phenomenal chronograph, the only thing that might keep it from taking the crown is the historical undervaluing of Grand Seiko when put against small independent Swiss watchmakers.
There is still a home field advantage in the GPHG and it could keep the Tentagraph from being recognized even though it is a tremendously solid chronograph (and the first ever chrono from Grand Seiko)
This brings me to the winner, or in my case, the tied winners, De Bethune DB Eight and the Petermann Bédat Chronographe Rattrapante.
Both represent incredible, silky smooth movements with haute horology at the core with classic looks and pretty dazzling mechanics. Petermann Bédat has the edge on the last point with a simply stunning movement and a split seconds function.
My personal favorite still goes to the De Bethune DB Eight as it I had to choose one to wear for the rest of my life it would be that one out of the bunch. De Bethune has always had my heart and so does the DB Eight.
But I cannot decide if the pure aesthetics of the DB Eight will win over the jury, it very well could and for good reason, it is beautifully proportioned.
The Petermann Bédat Chronographe Rattrapante is a bit harder to read and is not what I would say a flawless aesthetic design, but the movement could be.
Each could very easily go on to win the category, with the other winning a special award just to make sure it’s recognized, but the same could also be said for the Grand Seiko.
So to hedge my bets I call this category a tie and will be equally happy for either to win.
Winner – TIE – De Bethune DB Eight & Petermann Bédat Chronographe Rattrapante
Favorite Runner Up – De Bethune DB Eight
Surprise – Grand Seiko Tentagraph
This is an easy category for me because I truly think that one watch stands out as the best sports watch for one simple reason, it doesn’t approach the category too narrowly yet provides everything you want in a basic sporty watch.
This isn’t a diving category, which means having that niche aesthetic isn’t the end-all. It also isn’t about racing since there is already a chronograph category, so this doesn’t provide an edge either.
This is the more broad Sports category so you can effectively ask what watch can work well in most athletic and rugged environments, and for me it all points towards the Grönefeld 1969 DeltaWorks. It is my favorite, it surprised me the most when it was launched, and I think it is the winner here.
Very solid arguments could be made for the Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF, an awesomely capable high frequency watch that is smaller and likely wears better on the wrist, plus the high frequency movement is great for long term accuracy.
Another strong contender would be the newly redesigned (to look like the original design) IWC Ingenieur, a truly classic stainless steel sports watch that became iconic when Gerald Genta redesigned it in the 1970s during the age of the new luxury sport watch.
Both of those watches have the best chance to unseat Grönefeld from taking home the trophy, but I don’t think they provide enough variety, visually, for me to think they are the best of the year. They may have a wider reach due to their respective long histories, but Grönefeld stands out in every way to me.
If I had to give one the edge it would be the Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF as it provides that high frequency movement and very similar aesthetics to the IWC Ingenieur, taking the lead over the refreshed IWC. This would be my runner up if Grönefeld doesn’t take it for some reason.
That doesn’t even address how the Tudor, TAG Heuer, and Doxa are all great watches for themselves, but against these other three I think they trail mightily behind.
And at the front of the pack I think Grönefeld stands strong. I may be wrong and miss this category, but my loyalty for design, mechanical aesthetics, and variety will always lie with the Grönefeld brothers.
Winner – Grönefeld 1969 DeltaWorks
Favorite Runner Up – Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF
Surprise – Grönefeld 1969 DeltaWorks
Jewelry is always a tough category simply due to the fact that stones and settings are not my area of expertise, and aesthetics are such a personal aspect of what we like about these pieces. But in the end I still have some rather strong preferences that I think match how the jury tends to feel, so I’ll stand by my choices.
The first watch I’ll eliminate if the only watch that actually has a mechanical movement, and a fun one at that. The Gucci G-Timeless Planetarium is pretty awesome from a mechanical standpoint, but as a part of the jewelry category, it falls pretty flat when it comes to stone choice, setting complexity, and pure aesthetics.
A piece I love the look of is the Damiani Margherita, but I feel that the chaotic appearance and general lack of obvious design takes this one out of the running for me, and probably a lot of people.
The Chopard Pure Happiness is on the cusp for me because it clearly has a very fun concept of loose stones within the body of the watch, and the quality of the diamonds is second to none. But the settings around the edge of the watch feel bulky and prone to getting caught on anything nearby, making this very lovely watch just miss for me.
The biggest surprise of the category is the Piaget Swinging Sautoir which is truly adore and would happily suggest as a top piece of jewelry for anyone loving the color green but preferring to have nothing on the wrist. I don’t know if that is enough for it to win, however.
My favorite design, from an attention grabbing standpoint is the Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra, a fantastically well designed bangle watch with a pattern that jumps out at you.
I could easily see this one taking the crown, Bulgari often leads with the Serpenti, but it also is less practical (not that this category is about practicability) than my winner. The settings and choice of stones is awesome, but it still is missing something.
And that is the secret aspect, something that I find incredibly valuable in the jewelry category. That is why my winner is the Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Mystery Set Emeralds, because not only does it have the lusciously rounded mystery set emeralds across the face, but that face flips up to uncover the watch face, making this a perfect companion for those wanting gemstones and a watch, but not a gemstone encrusted watch alone.
It allows you to have your gem set bracelet without making it too obvious it is a watch, but at the push of a button you also have the time, a feature I always adore.
For me, this is the watch that stands out as the best jewelry timepiece in the category, and I imagine the jury might agree.
Winner – Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Mystery Set Emeralds
Favorite Runner Up – Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra
Surprise – Piaget Swinging Sautoir
Artistic Crafts Category
Artistic Crafts is a bit like jewelry in that the aesthetic preference plays a large role in judging, and the technical aspects of how the craft is performed is outside of a typical understanding because, well, it’s basically art.
So plenty of people can have wildly different views on this category, leading to some interesting perspectives. As someone with a background in design, I have strong aesthetic preferences even if the skillsets are very specialized, but I still appreciate all form of craft and artistic expression.
That said, I think I can sus out a few front runners for a variety of reasons, beginning with what pieces I can eliminate.
That begins with the Andersen Jumping Hours Rising Sun, an awesome watch with a very unique Art-Deco guilloche pattern spread across the entire dial. But this is where the artistic crafts ends, and while I understand how difficult and creative it is to make this pattern, it only uses one technique and that doesn’t measure up in this group.
The next watch to eliminate is the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Duo de Lions, a watch that is actually fantastic from a crafts standpoint using gemstone setting, stone marquetry, and hand engraving, but I find fault in the proportions of the stones (most are too big) and the disconnected aesthetic that feels like it may have looked better on paper than in real life.
A watch that I love from a simple aesthetic standpoint is the Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata, a truly organic example of stone marquetry that shows a different side to the skill. But I also don’t feel it packs enough wow factor thanks to the subdued color palette from the stone choices, so off the podium it goes as well.
One of the wild cards is the Rudis Sylva Hymne d’Orient, a bold example of stone setting, marquetry, hand engraving and relief sculpture, all combined into a clear and cohesive theme. If it sparks people’s imagination this could be a strong contender, but I don’t know for sure if it will win.
I say this because my favorite piece and the most surprising watch in the group is the Sarpaneva Näkki, a stunning presentation of skeletonization and super-luminova that is rarely seen in this category.
Not to mention it features a glowing moon phase, I can’t deny that this is the watch I would want if I was given my choice. But, like others, it doesn’t feature a wide variety of crafts, and the aesthetic is very polarizing, so it may not win, but I wouldn’t count it out.
My guess is the winner is very possibly going to be Louis Moinet Savanna Tourbillon Tiger for one simple reason, it is the most unique artistic craft on display this year.
A dial made of 81 tiny, individual puzzle pieces that are all individually hand painted and then carefully assembled to combine into a masterpiece of miniature painting is something that I would not have expected if I hadn’t seen these in person.
The variation on level for the puzzle pieces reinforces the nature of the dial and adds visual depth and makes a very simple idea into something that anyone would be wowed by. For that reason I think it has the edge to take the category and become a memorable concept for the brand moving forward.
Winner – Louis Moinet Savanna Tourbillon Tiger
Favorite Runner Up & Surprise– Sarpaneva Näkki
Petite Aiguille Category
The highly competitive Petite Aiguille category is usually a bit of a smorgasbord of unique and attainable pieces, something that rings true this year.
But what also rings true is that there won’t be much of a competition, at least in my view, thanks to one standout piece. The Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto is a CHF 3,350 striking watch with a chime in passing mechanism, something that shocked and awed the industry.
A chiming mechanism is often one of the most expensive complications to be found in a watch, so for Christopher Ward to release a cool example that most collectors could afford proved that it didn’t have to be for millionaires.
Unsurprisingly it also sold out immediately, making it highly coveted and saw flippers posting their unworn versions for more than twice retail. Clearly, collectors and those in the industry understood what Christopher Ward had just released.
As a member of the six nominated watches in this category, there isn’t another watch that even stands close to the C1 Bel Canto in value per dollar.
The best competitor is the Habring Chrono-Felix Top-Second which reintroduces a 2.5 second version of a chronograph foudroyante or flashing second.
With a small window and a double sided red arm, the Chrono-Felix Top-Second gives you a visual representation of the passing seconds and provides a very short counter that can help provide a pace. It also is a handy tool, according to Habring, for kickstarting motivation as a mental hack to force yourself to start after five seconds of pause.
But that feature isn’t nearly enough to unseat the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto.
This does make me feel sad for the Magraph by Massena LAB and Raúl Pagès, an awesomely made time only sector dialed watch from a great collaboration. In another year it would be a strong contender but this year it just can’t beat a chiming watch.
The same goes for the other pieces from Bulgari, Louis Erard, and Tudor, especially Tudor. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Black Bay should be done here. It’s won enough and provides nothing new to the category or the GPHG, just retire it from competition until Tudor does something truly new with it, like adding a chiming mechanism and keeping the price the same.
In the end, I truly can’t see anyone picking something other than the C1 Bel Canto to win this category, at least anyone serious about watchmaking and what the GPHG stands for.
Winner & Surprise – Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto
Favorite Runner Up – Habring Chrono-Felix Top-Second
Coming to the Challenge category we finally reach the place where nearly every watch collector could possibly find a piece for themselves with a limit on the price maxing out at CHF 2,000. This is still a decent chunk of money for most people, but it’s achievable and that makes these watches very popular when comparing total units sold.
That makes it even more interesting when there are limited editions in the mix because forced scarcity plays an even bigger role when these watches can be scooped up by low and high-end collectors alike. That combined with the pure variety of concept at this price level makes the Challenge category a bit of a wild card.
Taking that into account, there are a few pieces that I feel are likely to be passed over for a variety of reasons, including one that could be one of the best aesthetic designs in the group.
I’ll start with the Timeless HMS 003, a three hander with date function that is a mix of design influences including Bauhaus, classic horology, and late 90’s/early 2000’s industrial design. It’s a rather interesting piece but I think it is a bit aesthetically confused and the lack of a cohesive style could keep it from moving on to take a win.
You cannot say this about the Nomos Club Campus which is and always has been a fantastic value in the watch world, providing solid German watchmaking for a very affordable price. But it also is an expected watch in this price range, and barring the fun color of this model I don’t know if it has enough oomph to excite the jury over other pieces.
I also feel like this describes the Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s Reinterpretation GMT, an awesome GMT divers watch that you could rely on to be a lifetime watch. It’s utterly solid, but does it really “challenge” watchmaking norms or ideas about what you can get at this price? Not really.
A watch that technically performs the same function is the Kurono Tokyo GMT 1, albeit with less water resistance. But the classically retro design coming from a small Japanese watchmaker puts it in the same league as the Seiko but adds a bit more style. Still I don’t know if it will win but it is my favorite for a runner up.
Another piece I love that I am not sure will win is the Raymond Weil Millésime Automatic Small Seconds, a phenomenal design coming from a brand that often is lost in the noise of the industry. It surprised me massively to see this watch come from them, and is probably the best design to come from them that I have seen since being a part of this industry.
But it also disappoints me because when I try to go find the watch I cannot. Google allows me to see the webpage for the watch and that it is in stock but when I try to click through, RaymondWeil.com suddenly transports me to RaymondWeil.us and the watch no longer exists on that website.
So either this watch is only available in Europe, or whoever is managing their e-commerce business does not know what they are doing because making a watch extremely hard to find and purchase is the best way to make a person swear off a brand. I shouldn’t need a VPN to shop for a watch that has no indication of being limited to a certain market, and that is a failure on a variety of fronts.
This doesn’t affect it’s placement in this category, but it is enough to make a watch that I thought was awesome but could struggle to win an easy pass for the trophy.
Regardless, the watch I imagine could (and probably should) win is the Studio Underd0g Watermel0n Perpétuel LE, a wickedly cool and a bit odd chronograph that provides a unique function (in the category) and a very unique aesthetic.
While it may not be for everyone, collectors looking to stretch their money as far as possible would have a hard time beating this piece in this group of watches.
Winner – Studio Underd0g Watermel0n Perpétuel LE
Favorite Runner Up – Kurono Tokyo GMT 1
Surprise – Raymond Weil Millésime Automatic Small Seconds
Mechanical Clock Category
Continuing the success of having a separate clock category, this year we see another amazing set of mechanical clocks at all different price levels.
This also introduces a massive problem that may be unavoidable, the most expensive clock is 638 times more expensive than the more affordable one, clocking in at CHF 2.58 million, meaning that it sort of is an automatic winner for being the most complex, high-end, innovative piece.
A basic and classic mantel clock cannot go up against an ultra-complicated automata engineered to be a historically significant piece of horology history. It just can’t.
So while my winner for this category is both obvious and logically impossible to beat, it does not negate the quality and creativity of the rest of the pieces.
Start with the Mathhew Normal Diaphane, a modern design version of a classic mantel clock at a reasonable price. The style is visually distinct and would be an awesome conversation piece on someone’s mantel, and at that price it could even be mine.
The main competition for this piece, the Maison Alcée Persée Azur, provides a different aesthetic that sits somewhat in the same area, but provides an experience with the purchase. It was designed to be a kit that intrepid watch and clock lovers can put together on their own with an included set of tools, making this a clock that would convey a true sense of ownership, something that surprised me completely at its price point.
Out of all the clocks here, being one I could possibly purchase and would allow me to put it together before finally hearing it chime the hour, it may be the most personal clock that exists in the competition.
But it also is not enough to take down the top piece for all the reasons I started with at the beginning. The next grouping of clocks are where a lot of the creativity and value reside, all being somewhere in the same price range and being wildly different.
The Unanmed Society Champion Macassar is an absolutely wild clock that takes the form of a futbol sitting on a winding ribbon of metal, enclosing a very cool jumping hours clock that sits underneath a tiny football pitch where you can actually try to score penalty kicks. The intended audience is rather focused but the implementation and execution is incredible.
A perpetual favorite for watch and clock lovers, L’Epee made a contribution with the Time Fast II Chrome, a literal race car clock that uses the functions of the car to interact with the movement including pulling the car backwards on its rubber wheels to wind the movement and the automaton, turning the steering wheel to set the time, shifting the gear lever to switch between winding functions, and turning the key to “start” the engine automaton.
This clock is fantastic and innovative, and shows why L’Epee is a leader in unique clocks. But once again I don’t know if it outpaces the one I’ve chosen to win.
My favorite runner up is the Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman due to both its distinct style and rather useful functionality. Any travel alarm is awesome, and one with a dual time zone and 8-days of power reserve is very practical, and the aesthetic design, while not universally loved, is such a fun companion on your travels.
And compared to my chosen winner it is surprisingly affordable, only costing as much as a nice car compared to a Beverly Hills mansion.
But that brings me to the one I’ve chosen to win, the Van Cleef & Arpels Éveil du Cyclamen Automaton. This piece is arguably one of the finest clock automatons ever made, much like others produced by Van Cleef and Arpels, and it has no equal in this category.
Is a museum level unique piece the best clock for most people? No, not at all, but it does provide a level of horology that should humble anyone interested in miniaturized mechanics.
Since I doubt we will ever have a “Mechanical Exception – Clock” category separate from a “Petite Aiguille – Clock” category, it is unlikely that anything other than these masterpieces can win, regardless of how cool or how much value they can provide. Perhaps the jury will see this and give the Van Cleef & Arpels a special prize to separate it from the more realistic pieces, but if not then it clearly is the cream of the crop.
Winner – Van Cleef & Arpels Éveil du Cyclamen Automaton
Favorite Runner Up – Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman
Surprise – Maison Alcée Persée Azur
You can watch the GPHG live on Quill & Pad from 18:30 CET, Thursday the 9th of October.
For more information on all of these watches, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/gphg-2023/nominated-timepieces
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