It hasn’t exactly been a stellar year for awards ceremonies. One by one the red carpets were rolled away as events were cancelled and stars were forced to Zoom in to less-than-glamorous virtual prize givings.
Which is why we were extremely happy to hear that one of our favourite award ceremonies of the year, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, would still be going ahead. While perhaps not as famous as its film and music counterparts, the GPHG is the most important evening in the watchmaking calendar. Known colloquially as the ‘watch Oscars’, it celebrates the finest, most complicated and innovative advancements in mechanical watchmaking – and this year’s edition has thrown up some truly worthy winners. Here’s everything you need to know.
“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix: Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
Case: 41mm cobalt alloy
Movement: Calibre 900P-UC manual-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes
Stand out features: Scooping the GPHG’s most coveted prize, the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate concept represents a huge leap forward in the field of ultra-thin watchmaking. The entire watch, including case and sapphire crystal stands at just 2mm tall – making it the thinnest in the world. This has been achieved by fusing the movement with the caseback, a technical innovation that resulted in the filing of no fewer than five patents by Piaget.
Ladies’ Watch Prize: Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey
Case: 36mm steel
Movement: Calibre 11BA15 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, date
Stand out features: A classic timepiece updated for the modern watch wearer, Bovet’s 2020 edition of the 1822 Miss Audrey stands out for that vibrant deep green hue and lotus flower guilloché dial. Housed in Bovet’s patented Amadéo case, the diamond-set Miss Audrey timepiece can also transform into a table clock or pendant complete with a complimentary jade bead necklace.
Ladies’ Complication Watch Prize: Charles Girardier Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse “Fleur de Sel”
Case: 37mm white gold
Movement: Calibre CG1809 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minute, tourbillon, automaton
Stand out features: Don’t know the Charles Girardier name? Not surprising – the once thriving watch house closed its doors in the 19th Century and this award-winning timepiece marks the first chapter in its return to the market. Inspired by the founder’s playful timepieces, the Signature Mystérieuse features some unusual high complications, including a flying tourbillon and a rotating automaton formed by the brand’s initials.
Men’s Watch Prize: Voutilainen 28SC
Case: 38.5mm titanium
Movement: Vingt-8 manual-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Stand out features: While this is certainly a handsome watch, with its engraved navy and white dial, the true specialness of this timepiece lies in its movement. Among its technical innovations are a unique escapement wheel configuration that improves efficiency and an oversized balance wheel for perfect regulation resulting in this being the first Vingt-8 movement to feature a centre seconds function.
Men’s Complication Watch Prize: Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
Case: 43.5mm white gold
Movement: In-house manual-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, tourbillon
Stand out features: As the name suggests, the Hand Made 1 is a real triumph of handmade watchmaking. 95% of its components have been made using only hand-operated tools, requiring more than 6,000 hours of work to create a single timepiece. The feat is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the techniques used to create the Hand Made 1 are considered a dying art, requiring Greubel Forsey to build both a specialised team with the sole aim of building this timepiece and a new calibre to power it. In the process the watchmaker hopes to pass these skills on to a new generation of watchmakers.
Iconic Watch Prize: Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
Case: 40mm aluminium
Movement: Calibre B130 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph
Stand out features: When it comes to the GPHG, a higher price doesn’t mean a greater chance of taking home one of the most prized awards – as Bulgari’s Aluminium Chronograph demonstrates. Inspired by the brand’s first generation of aluminium watches, debuted in 1998, this chunky, statement timepiece continues a rewriting of the rules around luxury timepieces, using unexpected materials and bold design to stand out from the crowd.
Chronometry Watch Prize: Chronométre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.2
Case: 44mm pink gold
Movement: Calibre FB-RE.FC manual-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve, jumping seconds
Stand out features: Taking its cues from the marine clocks Ferdinand Berthoud was appointed to make for French royalty in 1770, the movement of the Chronométre FB 2RE is encased in an 18 carat gold cylindrical container, a feature not often seen on traditional wrist watches. Its calibre also features an unusual bridges and pillars design and rare fusee-and-chain transmission – this is one for the true mechanical watch enthusiasts.
Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
Case: 50mm pink gold
Movement: Calibre 1120 QPSQ/1 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, date, day, month, year, moon phases, perpetual calendar
Stand out features: While not the thinnest watch on this list, Vacheron Constantin’s super-slim offering is notable for the number of complications it packs into its 4.05mm tall movement. Openworked so as to be admired, its intricate skeleton design still leaves room for date, day, month, year and moon phase indications as well as a perpetual calendar that won’t need any intervention until 1 March, 2100.
Mechanical Exception Prize: Bovet 1822 Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter 2
Case: 47.8mm sapphire
Movement: Calibre 17DM06-DT manual-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, moon phases, power reserve, world time
Stand out features: The second iteration of the much-lauded Bovet 1822 Récital 26 Brainstorm, and the second Bovet timepiece to scoop a prize at this year’s GPHG, the Chapter 2 is a masterful combination of artistry and technical expertise. Encased entirely in sapphire so as to allow for full admiration and inspection, its clever movement and dial design allows for the easy reading of a second time zone, moon phase and world time and an astounding power reserve of five days.
Chronograph Watch Prize: H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic
Case: 42.3mm steel
Movement: Calibre HMC 902 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, flyback chronograph, chronograph with central display
Stand out features: Featuring Moser’s first integrated steel bracelet, the Streamliner is notable for its sheer sleekness. Just look at that cushion-shaped case and uncluttered dial. But its chronograph movement, conceived by Agenhor, is the real reason it won at GPHG. Another first for the brand, it represents a thoughtful reimagining of Moser’s steel chronographs and sets a high bar for watches to come.
Diver’s Watch Prize: Breitling Superocean Automatic 48 Boutique Edition
Case: 48mm titanium and ceramic
Movement: Calibre Breitling 17 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, soft-iron inner case against magnetic fields
Stand out features: Diving watches should be rugged, durable and ready for anything – and few timepieces fit the bill quite like the Superocean. This particular version of the popular diving watch is particularly well suited to the adventurous thanks to its oversized 48mm DLC coated titanium case, bi-directional rotating bezel and bold dial design. It also features an inner iron case to protect against the effects of magnetic fields so it can be counted on wherever you dive.
Jewellery Watch Prize: Van Cleef & Arpels Frivole Secrète
Case: 31mm yellow gold
Functions: Hours, minutes
Stand out features: Do you really need to ask? Just look at it. This is more a piece of fine art than a simple wristwatch. Though it does perform that function as well, if you want it to. Part of a tradition of fine jewellery ‘secret’ watches, the delicate 31mm dial can be hidden beneath a cascade of golden petals and diamonds should the wearer desire.
Artistic Crafts Watch Prize: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Soleil Féerique
Case: 41mm white gold
Functions: Hours, minutes
Stand out features: Cementing its place at the highest level of artistry in watchmaking, Van Cleef’s second prize-winning timepiece is a lesson in the striking levels of design that be achieved on such a small scale. Its mosaic dial, featuring diamonds, sapphires, enamel bead planets, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl and onyx is a brilliant example of the blurring between fine jewellery and high watchmaking.
“Petite Aiguille” Prize: Breitling Superocean Heritage '57 Limited Edition II
Case: 42mm steel and ceramic
Movement: Breitling 10 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Stand out features: The second Superocean to make the grade this year, the Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II is notable for its very timely approach to watchmaking. Its rainbow dial is inspired by the tireless frontline workers who have fearlessly battled the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with part of the proceeds from each watch donated to charities supporting frontline healthcare workers. In total Breitling will donate 500,000CHF to these causes.
Challenge Watch Prize: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Navy Blue
Case: 39mm steel
Movement: Calibre MT5402 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, unidirectional rotatable diving bezel
Stand out features: Another watch that falls in to the category of ‘pieces we’re adding to our Christmas list’, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight has been a favourite for years but, with its new navy blue colourway, secured its place among the best looking sport watches on the market this year. Waterproof to 200m and finished with that iconic ‘Big Crown’ and luminescent hands and indices, it’s also a functional and durable watch for the avid sportsman.
Innovation Prize: Parmigiani Fleurier Hijri Perpetual Calendar
Case: 44.6mm platinum
Movement: Calibre PF009 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, moon phases, perpetual calendar Hégirien
Stand out features: Evidence of the growing influence of the middle Eastern market on high watchmaking, this elegant new release from Parmigiani Fleurier was inspired by the restoration of a pocket watch featuring an Arabic calendar. The lesson learned from this restoration – the Arabic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon and requires vastly different technology to that of a Gregorian calendar, were translated into a table clock in 2011 and, finally, have made their way to a wristwatch for the first time in 2020.
Audacity Prize: H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon H. Moser X MB&
Case: 42mm steel
Movement: Calibre HMC810 self-winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, cylindrical tourbillon
Stand out features: It isn’t often two watch houses come together to share their expertise but, when they do, they results are often spectacular. Such is the case in this partnership between H. Moser & Cie and MB&F, the most fantastic feature of which is its unique three-dimensional cylindrical tourbillon and an unusual inclined sapphire dial that appears to float between case and fumé plate.
Horological Revelation Prize: Petermann Bédat 1967 Dead Beat Second
Case: 39mm red gold
Movement: Calibre 171
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, jumping seconds
Stand out features: The second time piece from new independent watchmaker Petermann Bédat, the Dead Beat Second is quite a fait accompli for two watchmakers yet to reach their 30th birthdays. Marking the passing of time with discrete jumps, rather than the sweeping motion generally associated with Swiss watches, this astonishingly refined timepiece features a semi-open dial and highly attractive design inspired by the aesthetic codes of the 1960s.
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