The Oscars of the watch industry has just ended and 17th edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) has yielded some expected winners and also some unexpected upsets. Come meet the winners of GPHG 2017.
Meet the Winners of GPHG 2017
Founded in 2001, the main objective of the Foundation of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) promotes Swiss watchmaking traditions and values worldwide. The annual GPHG honours excellence of horological production and the finest creations each November at the Grand Théâtre de Genève. This year, the GPHG 2017 panel of jurists have chosen these brands as winners for the following awards:
Winner of GPHG 2017 Ladies High Mech Watch Prize: Van Cleef & Arpels
Ever faithful to a poetic view of life, Van Cleef & Arpels introduced a distinctive dimension to the field of watchmaking: that of dreams and emotion. Best known of “poetic complications” or mechanical expressions of stories on the dial, the Van Cleef and Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate expresses these values and themes emblematic to the maison.
Employing both watchmaking and artisanal skills, watchmakers, lapidaries, enamelers, engravers and stone-setters combine theirl savoir-faire to embellish complication watches and exceptional dials like those of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate to depict a dreamlike perspective on the passage of time.
Why it won: As the hours and minutes flow, the butterfly of the Lady Arpels Papillon Automate beats its wings randomly – one to four times in a row, depending on the power reserve.The maison manages to create a lifelike automaton butterfly thanks to the irregular frequency of its movements, taking place every two to four minutes when the watch is not being worn and more often when it is on the wrist. The butterfly’s liveliness echoes that of its wearer, with alternating periods of calm and activity or it can be activated on demand via button.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Tourbillon and Escapement Watch Prize: Bulgari
Bulgari has been collecting watchmaking kudos since they astounded the industry with their 2014 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, breaking records to become the world’s slimmest tourbillon. For 2017, the brand upped the horological ante by skeletonising their record breaking tourbillon and introducing the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton.
The Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton is driven by an ultra-thin, openworked tourbillon comprising 253 parts. To ensure perfect efficiency and precision, its barrel spring is equipped with a slipping spring and the tourbillon cage is fitted on a peripherally driven ultra-thin ball-bearing mechanism. This exceptional in-house movement houses a barrel held by three ball bearings, an innovative feature serving to double the height of the barrel spring and thus achieve an 80% increase in power reserve, delivering a 52-hour power reserve, an impressive accomplishment for such a slim tourbillon model.
Why it won: By skeletonising an ultra thin tourbillon and then applying ball bearings to further reduce the thickness of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, Bulgari moves to another level by offering devotees of beautiful watchmaking a new interpretation with an entirely skeleton-worked tourbillon. Bulgari also swept up the GPHG 2017 men’s watch prize with their Octo Finissimo automatic
Winner of GPHG 2017 Innovation Prize: Zenith
When World of Watches spoke to Jean Claude Biver in July, we learnt that the LVMH watchmaking chief had planned to position Zenith as the “future of tradition”. It was then that we learnt of a brand new Zenith oscillator. When the winner of GPHG 2017 innovation prize was revealed to be the Zenith DEFY Lab, there was really little surprise to the editorial team.
Zenith introduces a completely newly developed movement called the ZO 342 for the DEFY Lab. Instead of using the conventional means of regulating a mechanical watch by means of a balance and hairspring assembly with its more than 30 individual parts and a thickness of about 5 mm, the LVMH Watch Division Research & Development Department innovated the single 0.5 mm high Zenith-Oscillator. The monolithic regulating organ for the DEFY Lab which consists of only two components with considerably optimized functionality. The Zenith-Oscillator is an all-of-a-piece organ without mechanical linkages that replaces 31 ordinarily assembled, adjusted, regulated and controlled parts. The absence of conventional mechanical couplings eliminates contact, friction, wear, slack, lubrication, assemblies and dispersions.
Why it won: The 15 Hz (108,000 vibrations per hour) frequency of the Zenith-Oscillator is three times the historical frequency of the El Primero movement, while showing a 10 percent higher power reserve. In terms of precision of the Zenith DEFY Lab exceeds requirements of the ISO-3159 standard. In fact, never has a serially produced mechanical watch in the history of watchmaking reached such a high level of performance and precision amounting to +/- 0.5 seconds from 0 to 48 hours, trumping the best conventional series production balance assemblies range of +/- 2 seconds over 24 hours. Of course Zenith won the GPHG 2017 innovation prize, duh.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Petite Aiguille prize: Tudor
The vintage inspired Tudor Black Bay Chronograph was winner of the GPHG 2017 Petite Aiguille prize. When Tudor released teasers about a new chronograph unveiling for Baselworld 2017, I had hoped it would be a Monte Carlo Chronograph, instead, their new manufacture Tudor Chronograph derived its core aesthetic elements from the Heritage Black Bay diver’s models. Nevertheless, it’s an attractive vintage looking two register chronograph and a distinct brand icon of modern Tudor rather than being another heritage re-issue.
Why it won: Boasting a 70-hour power reserve, a silicon balance spring and certification by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute, the Manufacture chronograph Calibre MT5813 that drives the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chronograph model is a high-performance movement which was developed with Breitling (who themselves refer to the chronograph movement as manufacture calibre Breitling 01). The Tudor Black Bay Chronograph’s MT5813 uses the brand’s own high-precision regulating organ and exclusive finishing.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Revival watch: Longines
With a treasure trove of immense heritage (Longines was one of the original BIg Three before Patek), Longines regularly draws on its historical pieces to enhance its Heritage line. The Longines Avigation BigEye is a re-issue chronograph from the 1930es. The brand with the Flying Hourglass motif also has a great tradition of pilot watches and provenance within the field of aviation, case in point: Charles Lindbergh.
Why it won: The Longines Avigation BigEye is inspired by a chronograph whose aesthetic is typical of the great age of aviation. True to the spirit of pilots’ watches, this model displays a very readable dial with a focus on the minute counter and tactile push buttons operable with aviator gloves. Given the heritage, there’s little wonder the Longines Avigation BigEye takes the revival watch prize.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Aiguille D’or Grand Prix: Chopard
To take top honours during your 20th birthday is a fitting celebration; the Winner of GPHG 2017 Aiguille D’or Grand Prix: Chopard L.U.C. Full Strike, the Fleurier manufacture’s first ever minute repeater. With more than six years of work, the L.U.C. Full Strike is Chopard’s most sophisticated chiming watch to date, building upon the L.U.C Strike One which chimes each striking hour, launched in 2006.
The L.U.C Full Strike chimes the hours, quarters and minutes on transparent crystal gongs, the result is exceptional clarity. These sapphire rings are an integral part of the watch glass, which creates a perfect loudspeaker faithfully to diffuse the chimes of the hammers striking the sapphire. This is a unique technical solution which is visible at 10 o’clock and results in a tone of matchless purity that is rich and full, powerful and resonant. It makes literal the traditional maxim “crystal-clear” sound.
Why it won: Almost 17,000 hours of development have been lavished on the development of calibre 08.01-L and Chopard has found all-new in-house responses to historical issues relating to the nature of the gongs, as well as to the operation and ergonomics of the striking system as a whole, in the process applying for three pending patents. Furthermore, a series of security systems protect the L.U.C Full Strike from all inappropriate handling operations that can damage minute repeaters. Finally, the rotations of the strike governor – the component that gives the striking mechanism its rhythm – traditionally produces a humming sound but on the calibre L.U.C 08.01-L is entirely inaudible. Editor’s Note: At a point in minute repeater history, a competing brand had indeed discovered a solution to silence the humming component only to have it re-introduced when the watch buying public considered the minute repeater “hum” a mark of quality.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Mechanical Exception Watch Prize: Vacheron Constantin
Brooking the least argument, the winner of GPHG 2017 Mechanical Exception Watch Prize rightly belongs to the Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600.
The unique twin-dial Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 combines astronomy and the watchmaking art in a celestial white gold composition. Twenty-three essentially astronomical complications appear on the front and back dials of the watch, providing a reading of time in three modes – civil, solar and sidereal – each driven by its own gear train. Embodying the height of technical sophistication, its fully integrated 514-part calibre with six barrels guarantee three full weeks of autonomy.
Why it won: Featuring an all-new construction, Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 follows in the eminent wake of a unique creation representing a milestone in the history of mechanical horology and laying a veritable cornerstone for new watchmaking feats by Vacheron Constantin. Five years of development starting from a blank page, a dedicated master-watchmaker, along with two years of design, have given life to the one-of-a-kind Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600, displaying 23 complications on its twin dials. This Haute Horlogerie ‘heavenly phenomenon’ is one of the most complex ever made and heir to a proud lineage of astronomical timepieces. It provides a combined display of civil, solar and sidereal times by means of three separate gear trains.
Winner of GPHG 2017 Special Jury Prize: Chanel Mademoiselle Coromandel with enamel dial made by Anita Porchet and Suzanna Rohr
The work of master artisans — enamellers, engravers, and stone-setters — the Mademoiselle Privé Coromandel exemplifies Chanel watchmaking and their penchant for intricate beauty. Suzanna Rohr and Anita Porchet are virtual strangers to industry outsiders but in high horology circles, they are veritable grand mistresses of enamelling.
A visit to Gabrielle Chanel’s Rue Cambon apartment will reveal her love for exotic orientalism – courtesy of the Coromandel panels dressing her home. That the Chanel Mademoiselle Coromandel with exquisite enamel dial made by Anita Porchet and Suzanna Rohr takes this special prize is fitting from both an artisan and brand heritage perspective.
GPHG 2017 Unexpected Upset 1: Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph
The Visionnaire Chronograph, powered by the automatic calibre 6361, is a revolutionary new movement that imparts unprecedented clarity, precision and efficiency to the highly popular chronograph complication. The new chronograph movement developed by Agenhor, the Geneva-based movement specialist, is the brainchild of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. This significant gain in legibility is thanks to the unique construction of the calibre 6361, comprising a central chronograph module set within an annular base movement.
The advantages imparted by the unique construction of the calibre 6361 go far beyond chronograph legibility. Chronographs are inextricably associated with the concept of precision, and the new instant-start indications of the calibre 6361 provide a significant advantage over the ambiguity of traditional chronographs and their semi-instantaneous twitches. This feat is achieved by a system of snail cams, fixed to the chronograph wheels along the central camshaft of the calibre 6361. Upon completion of a full minute or a full hour, a snail cam trips a pawl that instantly clicks the chronograph indication forwards by a single step. Further precision is provided by the patented AgenClutch, a completely novel, lateral-friction clutch that robustly combines the smooth engagement of the modern vertical clutch with the flatness of the traditional system.
GPHG 2017 Unexpected Upset 2: Montblanc 1815 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition
The 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter Limited Edition 100 showcases a vintage style: sunray finished champagne dial matching the bronze case.
At the heart of the timepiece lies a traditional manual monopusher chronograph movement, the calibre MB M16.29, with a column wheel mechanism, horizontal coupling, chronograph bridge in a “V” shape, a large screwed balance wheel vibrating at a frequency of 18,000 semi oscillations per hour and a power reserve of 50 hours.
This in-house chronograph has been entirely handcrafted at the Montblanc Manufacture in Villeret and is characterized by an exceptional finishing. Designed in a large “pocket watch” style, the calibre MB M16.29 has been inspired by the original calibre 17.29 designed for pocket watches and wristwatches in the 1930s. This new version uses almost the same shape of components as the calibre 17.29 , but features different finishings, such as inside angles, Côtes de Genève stripes and circular graining.