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Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève - Form and substance

Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Form and substance

How will the “Watchmaking Oscars” surprise us in November? A brief preview…

Since institutionalising the 12th Art in 2012 on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, the Foundation of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève has definitely not been resting on the laurels of a ceremony that was perfectly orchestrated this time. On the one hand, it has launched a broad consultation of the leaders of the brands that were absent as well as those that took part, in order to analyse the various needs and feelings in respect to the competition; and on the other, it has set up a think-tank committee to help it define a response strategy.

The event

In terms of substance, the “Watchmaking Oscars” continue to aim at promoting fine watchmaking in a unifying manner; in terms of form, it has enhanced its international visibility, broadened the competencies of the jury, and established new award categories more closely attuned to the market. These measures have already convinced manufacturers such as Audemars Piguet and Girard-Perregaux to stage their big return to the fold, and more symbolically encouraged the small brand with the new red branding to emerge from the shadow of the green giant with its unmistakable crown.

Personalities such as Philippe Starck attract the attention of more general-interest media

This greater international visibility stems not only from the exhibitions scheduled to make a stop-over in Beijing – in partnership with the Banque Privée Edmond de Rothschild which supports the Chinese capital’s House of Art (Yishu8) – followed by Macau (Galaxy Casino), Dubai (Cuadro Fine Art Gallery), Geneva (Cité du Temps) and Singapore (L’Atelier by the Hour Glass) – but also from the composition of the jury. Some of the personalities on the roster, such as world-renowned designer Philippe Starck, inevitably attract the attention of more general-interest media; while other jury members, including specialised journalists from the United States, Asia and Europe, naturally abundantly cover the topic themselves. The BBC has also joined the list of official media partners already including the FT, GMT and WorldTempus.

The jury

A more solidly-based jury? It is doubtless the most well-grounded jury one could possibly imagine. In formal terms, it is composed of 20 members representing 12 nationalities. Each vote counts, but no one can impose their own vision. As far as substance is concerned, ten or so journalists, specialised historians and bloggers are joined by several collectors, along with members representing cutting-edge skills and expertise in fields regularly explored by the watch industry such as architecture, design, gemmology and jewellery. Last but not least, Aurel Bacs, the watchmaking expert of the world’s leading auction house, Christie’s, ably embodies the Presidency of this 18-carat jury of which the members’ names appear on the gphg.org website.

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève laureats 2012
The categories

Ladies' Complications and Men's Complications

So what about the new categories? It was of course important to distinguish the field of Artistic Crafts from that of Jewellery, just as ladies and the watchmakers who create mechanical gems for their deserved a Ladies’ Complications category. The addition of a new intermediate class between the Men’s and Grande Complication categories, in the shape of the Men’s Complications watch, has clearly found favour among the brands since it is that which has attracted the most candidates. On the other hand, the category of which the definition should be reviewed – and of which the ambiguity should indeed have been pointed out by the think-tank committee on which yours truly sits – is that of Innovation. The term throws together various aspects relating to substance (the movement) and form (the watch exterior), which means that the 30 or so candidate models thus form a particularly incongruous assortment despite their undeniable intrinsic qualities. In addition to these 10 categories, the Jury will also rule on awarding the Horological Revelation and Revival prizes, as well as its very own Special Jury Prize, while the list is rounded off by the Public Prize.

As we await the results to be unveiled on November 15th 2013, everyone is free to make their own ‘official selection’!

Brice Lechevalier is editor in chief of GMT

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