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GPHG - Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève
GPHG 2016 - Chronographs battle it out!

GPHG 2016 Chronographs battle it out!

While chronographs are by far the most popular horological complication, they are paradoxically one of the least strongly represented at the GPHG, with just 11 models vying with each other in the 2016 edition. Competition is set to be fierce in this category, although two models definitely stand out from the rest.

The Chronograph category is a recent one for the GPHG, since it has only been present for two editions to date. In 2015, a master stroke by Piaget – the first Altiplano chronograph – won first prize for its absolute elegance and its ability to renew a well-established collection. In 2014, the award had gone to the ultra-technical DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon from De Bethune, a choice reflecting a very different perspective that highlighted a blend of construction, technique and innovation.
So what should we expect in 2016? To definitively entrench the legitimacy of the category, the ideal option would be to reward a model combining both aspects: top-rate aesthetics and novel technology. These twin criteria represent a significant filter for a pre-selection comprising just 11 models.

Beautiful creations, yet...
Diplomacy naturally prevents us from citing certain brands which – despite the obvious commercial qualities of their models – are delivering nothing more exciting than an umpteenth chronograph built on an outsourced base movement, even if the latter is complemented by a calendar or a gold case, or if the watch is issued in a limited series. These are all superficial assets that are too weak to enhance their excessively conventional nature.
All of which means that keen observers will naturally lean towards those equipped with exclusive movements. One would naturally wish to cast a vote for the Mille Miglia 2016 XL Race Edition by Chopard, a prestigious authentic Manufacture being masterfully guided along the path of absolute elegance. The Mille Miglia is a key collection in the Chopard range, equipped for the first time with an in-house movement. It is a token of excellent progress, yet finds itself confronted by the immutable reality that what is new for a brand is not necessarily so for the watch industry. It should thus in fact be saluted, but not rewarded.


The Big Bang Unico Sapphire by Hublot comes up against the same obstacle: this exceptional model is equipped with a Hublot base movement (Unico) housed in a (sapphire) case boasting a technology that is admittedly impressive but exudes a sense of déjà vu. The fact that it has never been made “on such a large scale” (500 units), as the brand points out, makes no difference to the individual nature of each watch.


Final match-up
The jury should probably therefore end up deciding between two models. The first is the Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Chronograph 45mm ceramic, by TAG Heuer. It boasts an in-house movement, particularly sophisticated skeleton-working, a 100% ceramic case, 1/100th of a second precision, and all at the particularly attractive price of 6,300 Swiss francs (in sharp contrast with the previously mentioned Big Bang retailing at CHF 55,000). In other words, this is a model that brings far more than the average to the table, with a price tag well below average market standards for this type of piece.


Nonetheless, if one were to single out just one of the contenders, it would be the Memoris Red Eclipse by Louis Moinet. It sums up and transcends all the qualities mentioned so far. Firstly, by means of its fundamental principle: in tribute to Louis Moinet, inventor of the chronograph, the model shifts the entire chronograph complication to the dial side, while leaving the normal time-dedicated mechanism on the case-back. So this is not an additional module nor a skeleton-type approach, but instead a complete reversal of the calibre. It is beautiful, technical and unique. One never tires of admiring the ballet performed by the column wheel, perfectly positioned at 12 o’clock and activated by a 2 o’clock monopusher in keeping with the finest watchmaking traditions.


Secondly, because Louis Moinet has opted to issue a limited series entirely hand-engraved to an outstanding level of quality. This is the first Memoris to feature a case that is sculpted right the way through to the smallest details, and the particularly technical case composed of 52 parts is also infinitely more elaborate than its competitors.
Thirdly and lastly, because the brand has managed – in the course of its 10 years of complete independence – to put the brilliant watchmaker Louis Moinet firmly back on the map of timekeeping history. 2016 indeed corresponds to the bicentenary of his invention of the chronograph, in 1816. Memoris brilliantly transcends this heritage and at last brings something truly novel to this sovereign horological complication. It has been a long time since such a comprehensively impressive model has been submitted to the jury, which we sincerely hope will grasp this opportunity.

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