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"Grand prix d'Horlogerie de Genève"
GPHG 2016  - Phase one complete!

GPHG 2016 Phase one complete!

The jury has made its first choice for this year’s GPHG, whittling the selection down to six watches in each category and showing a clear preference for certain brands in the process.

As of the start of September around 100 watches no longer have a chance of bagging a prize at this year’s watchmaking Oscars, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. The members of the jury have chosen their six top watches in each of the 12 categories, which will soon embark on a world tour ahead of the prize-giving ceremony in Geneva on 10th November. One of the most striking things to come out of this first-round vote is an apparent predilection for certain brands, even though the jury members attribute a ranking for their top six watches in each category in secret. All the watches submitted by Chopard, Hermès, Tudor and Ulysse Nardin have been preselected, for example, but none of the timepieces presented by Armin Strom, Carl F. Bucherer, HYT or Raymond Weil were chosen.

chopard-precious-chopard

In some cases, the choices are understandable. I was clearly on to something when I highlighted the predominance of small seconds models  in the men’s category. Only one of the watches preselected, the Tudor Heritage Black Bay, does not have a small seconds indication (it’s also the only one without a precious-metal case). A bold model such as the HYT Skull Bad Boy, which was entered into the same category, is in such stark contrast to this apparent trend, so it’s less surprising that it wasn’t preselected. HYT models are, as I said in the same article, more suited to the mechanical exception category, but the brand didn’t make the cut here, either.

In one of the hotly contested categories, that of ladies’ watches, only three brands stood out for avoiding the cliché of diamonds and only two, Carl F. Bucherer and WATCHe, of avoiding the other staple ladies’ watch cliché: mother-of-pearl. Sadly, neither of these were preselected and the six finalists from the 24 entrants are arguably more jewellery watches than simple ladies’ watches and are all at the upper end of the price spectrum. The choice was a lot easier in the Ladies’ “High Mech” category, since there were only seven entrants. The unlucky one was Antoine Preziuso’s Stella Polare Tourbillon.

The chronograph, time zone and tourbillon categories will leave the judges some tough decisions for the final vote, since the finalists all three categories include the strongest brands in these genres. Competition in the Mechanical Exception category will be fierce, too, with minute repeaters as different as the imposing Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie (44mm diameter, 561,000 Swiss francs) and the slender Bulgari Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater (40mm diameter, 6.85mm thick, 160,000 Swiss francs) up against an exceptional Recital 18 Shooting Star tourbillon from Bovet and the debut timepiece from the revived Ferdinand Berthoud brand.

As is customary in the GPHG, little attention seems to have been paid to the price of the watches. In the Calendar category, the elimination of the Claude Meylan Légende 88 and the Frédérique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar (the cheapest on the market) pushes the average retail price of the finalists in this category above 100,000 Swiss francs. It’s a similar story in the “Sports watch” category, where we might expect to find competitively-priced watches and diver’s watches aplenty. Instead, the only dive watch to make the preselection is the Eberhard Scafograf 300, alongside similarly sporty watches like the TAG Heuer Monza and the Tudor Black Bay, but also alongside not-so-sporty tourbillons from Montblanc and Ulysse Nardin.

eberhard-scafograf-300

Without the 280,000 Swiss franc price tag of this watch, the average price in this category would have been a whisker over 10,000 Swiss francs; with it, it jumps to over 55,000 Swiss francs. Mind-boggling prices are the expected norm in the Artistic Crafts and Jewellery categories, but we now find prices up in the stratosphere of fine watchmaking even for relatively mundane categories and may rightly question the relevance of the finalists not just for the average customer but also for more serious watch fans.

Watch buyers with more humble means can, of course, seek solace in the Petite Aiguille category – the only one where price is the sole consideration and a ceiling of 8,000 Swiss francs is imposed. Here, the big names in more affordable watches, such as Seiko, Tudor and Zenith, will be up against competitive offerings from luxury houses such as Hermès and Tiffany & Co. Spare a thought also for the 14 young and lesser-known brands cast aside by the jury, for whom the GPHG could have provided a welcome promotional boost: Drakkar, van’t Hoff, WatchE, Greco Genève, Hedera, Ollivier Savéo, Pagès, Alf Lie, Luxius Suisse, Blancarré, Mauron Musy, Montres duManège, Gvchiani and ZRC.

hermes-slim


 
 
 

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