We watched every minute of the GPHG 2020 so you don’t have to. And you owe us a beer, it wasn’t amazing…Zach Blass
The 20th annual GPHG was streamed and broadcast live, with digital spectators tuning in around the world to see who would win what some refer to as “the Oscars” of watchmaking. Each year, an academy of industry experts, journalists and influencers is assembled to determine the nominees for these prestigious awards – with 30 of these members ultimately selected to serve as the final jury. This year, unfortunate circumstances minimised the physical in-person presence at the GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève). Nonetheless, the show was upbeat and filled with that good ol’ Swiss humour and an abundance of cheese-related puns and references. They were a bit CHEESY if I may say so myself. I’ll see myself out …
Anyway, for those who do not speak French, the show was also translated into English. While I appreciate the effort, it was a lot to follow at times with both the speaker and translator equally audible and therefore talking over each other frequently. Fortunately for English speakers around the world, many of the CEOs accepting their awards were fully cognisant of the worldwide audience and keenly opted to make their speeches in English for us to understand.
Challenge – Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight “Navy Blue”
The Black Bay Fifty-Eight”Navy Blue” was the long-awaited sequel to the original BB58 watch. It is an incredible diver for the dollar, and an example of a brand completely engaging in fan service – giving consumers the blue rendition they always wanted. Unlike the previous version, there are no elements of fauxtina to the watch, which, in my opinion, is for the best and why I own the Navy Blue and sold my original 58.
Diver’s – Breitling Superocean Automatic 48 Boutique Edition
A watch Stallone could wear in an Expendables film, this 48mm diver from Breitling is a frankly supersized Superocean watch that has a military vibe to it. With its dark green lacquer dial, sage faux coloured hands and markers, ceramic timing bezel, and DLC coated titanium case, this watch is large and in charge and ready to take a beating from those with wrists large enough to wear it.
“Petite Aiguille” – Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II
The Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II is a solid entry into the Breitling catalogue that I am sure many wish was a standard production watch. Not only does this second limited edition utilise the colour of the year – blue – it also has a subtle pop of colour through its rainbow markers that make this quite the playful professional watch. Created to raise money for frontline workers during the COVID pandemic, this watch was made for a good cause and is sure to catch the eyes of onlookers and fellow watch enthusiasts.
Men’s – Voutilainen 28SC
Voutilainen timepieces are highly desirable among collectors and are not watches you see every day in the metal. Considering the intricacy and handiwork involved in creating such watches, it is no surprise that production numbers are not high – as they are very labour-intensive with top-tier techniques and finishes that make enthusiasts want to reconsider what it means to be a holy trinity brand.
Men’s Complication – Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
There is a bit of irony to the fact a time-only watch has taken the men’s complication prize. Understandably, voters recognised the incredible amount of complexity in making this watch possible with 6000 hours split between two watchmakers to fabricate a single watch entirely by hand.
Iconic – Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
A revitalised icon from the ’90s, the Bulgari Aluminium chronograph may not be everyone’s pick but deservingly finds recognition in its standout design and versatility on the wrist. Further proof of the 30-year cycle in action.
Chronometry – Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.2
This award is given to a watch that is comprised of at least one tourbillon and/or a special escapement and/or another development improving chronometry (precision timekeeping). Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.2 does so in spades with its intricate fusee and chain transmission, remontoir d’égalité, and deadbeat seconds mechanisms – held in place by steel pillars akin to Berthoud marine chronometers from the 18th century.
Calendar and Astronomy – Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton
A fan favourite among the Time+Tide team, the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin is a perfect blend of modern aesthetics with a traditionally revered complication. The skeleton dial displays all of the artistry and ingenuity of the movement, while maintaining legibility and not adding clutter to the field of view. Considering the amount of complications and components, it’s a marvel that Vacheron Constantin can fit it all in such an ultra-thin profile – brilliantly executed with top-class contrasting satin and polished finishes.
Mechanical Exception – Bovet 1822 Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter 2
Unique in aesthetic and highly complicated, with a minimum of 60 hours spent finishing its components, the latest entry into the Bovet Récital line definitely exemplifies mechanical exception and a high degree of craftsmanship and watchmaking.
Chronograph – H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic
Chronographs at times can be quite homogenous in look, typically circular in shape, with sharp tapered lugs emulating a classic profile. H. Moser & Cie, however, don’t settle for normal, and instead push the boundaries of our expectations with their novel designs. This Flyback Chronograph Streamliner truly is a work of art and we are happy to see it receive the praise it deserves. Besides, how many watches have a movement with a Batman mask Easter egg? So cool.
Jewellery – Van Cleef & Arpels Frivole Secrète watch
Hidden-dial watch bracelets are nothing new to the industry, but Van Cleef & Arpels definitely flex their skills as a jeweller with an intricate array of gold flower petals – that when seemingly parted reveal a small clock dial within.
Artistic Crafts – Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Soleil Féerique
Van Cleef & Arpels took home two prizes, showing that the judges appreciate their craftsmanship and seamless collaboration of their master jewellers and watchmakers who work to create more than just a timepiece, but rather a work of art.
Ladies’ – Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey
The Miss Audrey from Bovet is a gorgeous green timepiece, with a malachite green guilloche enamel dial that really shows off how skilled the artisans at Bovet are. The hands, while seemingly a small detail, are meticulously crafted with many rounded angles, finished to the highest standards.
Ladies’ Complication – Charles Girardier Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse
It’s nice to see a lesser-known revived brand take home a prize at the GPHG, and this watch truly has the class and air of royalty not often seen in watches. The dial looks like a wallpaper or print found in the finest hotels or palaces around the world, with extremely intricate carvings that provide great depth to its aesthetic. It’s also nice to see a ladies watch receive a high degree of mechanical attention.
Innovation Prize – Parmigiani Fleurier Hijri Perpetual Calendar
A perpetual calendar with a twist – the complication is calculated with respect to the Hijri or Islamic lunar calendar instead of the typical Gregorian calendar. A gorgeous timepiece, but it is very telling that a watch is innovative in our industry if it finds a way to cater to consumers who are not Eurocentric. Food for thought …
Audacity Prize – H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon H. Moser X MB&F
This selection made perfect sense to me, as when I am asked about the most audacious manufactures in the industry, both MB&F and H. Moser & Cie. are the first to come to mind. Hopefully these two brands continue to collaborate in the future, as their team-up injects much-needed bold design into a rather traditional, conventional industry.
Horological Revelation Prize – Petermann Bédat Dead-Beat Second
This watch, while incredibly rooted in watchmaking tradition, is fabricated by two of the youngest independent watchmakers in the industry. According to the GPHG website, “Their friendship started a long time ago, sharing the same bench at watchmaking school and even living together while perfecting their craftsmanship at 1 Ferdinand-A, Lange Strasse in Glashütte. The school is universally acknowledged as one of the best in the traditional watchmaking world.” This is an authentic example of traditional watchmaking, with the pair leveraging techniques that have not been used in decades – reviving dead and intricate aspects of the craft.
“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix – Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
At first, when the Ultimate Concept from Piaget did not win the Mechanical Exception Prize I was utterly shocked. Thankfully, its initial loss was actually the result of it later taking home the grandest prize of all: the “Aiguille d’Or” – which represents a winner amongst all of the categories. When discussing how to honour the 60th anniversary of the Altiplano line, an idea was thrown around that to honour the historic 9P movement, which is 2mm, the brand should work to create an entire watch that was only 2mm thin. Seven years of hard work later, the vision was fully realised in a commercially viable way – a deserving winner of the awards’ most esteemed prize.