Every year, the entire watch industry unite to celebrate the achievements and innovations that they’ve laboured over the past year. This year, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG)’s theme of honouring the past to encourage the future is a poignant one, and is a chance to look back at how far timekeeping has come over the centuries.
Now in it’s 19th edition, the GPHG Foundation isn’t stranger to choosing the best the year has to offer. 84 contestants were chosen by a jury of 30 in a secret balloting to choose winners for 14 categories. This year, four special awards were also handed out, alongside a Special Jury Prize that was awarded to Luc Pettavino, the founder of the Only Watch auction.
Here, we look at some of the most notable winners this year.
The perpetual calendar has been one of watchmaking’s most poetic complication for its ability to track the passage of time with such detail and accuracy, yet it also comes with a setback; re-setting its indications after it has been allowed to run down requires quite a fair bit of external help.
Vacheron Constantin has now solved this issue by giving this watch a “standby” mode, with a power reserve of not just couple of hours and days, but more than two months (65 days, to be exact) worth of juice. This remarkable technical know-how — one that’s required plenty of expertise to execute — is further bolstered by jumping indicators for the date, month, and year indications.
Even if technicality isn’t your thing, it’s not hard to imagine how the Genus GNS1.2 stood out in a sea of mechanically exceptional watches. It’s dial perfectly encapsulates the spirit of organised chaos with free-moving elements that appear to be on rails.
Here, the hours are indicated at nine o’clock, while the tens-of-minutes are marked via a lead travelling indicator, which moves freely from one central orbit to another. The precise minute read is shown on the rotating dial in the three o’clock position. The result is a kinetic work of art for the wrist, one that took 10 years of research and three years of development to achieve.
It’s easy to see why this chronometer is a cut above the rest. Launched following the success of its namesake, the FB 1, the Chronometre FB 1R.6-1 is a masterclass in innovation. To start, it’s 44m case is made of carburised steel — a scratch- and wear-resistant form of steel that’s also tougher — lending not only functionality to this watch but also a matte, industrial-esque look to that works in tandem with the dial’s intriguing asymmetry.
As a masterclass in dynamism and serenity, the dial sees a unique layout that highlights the ingenuity of its caliber FB-T.FC.R within. The regulator-type display is reflective of Berthoud’s history as a horologist mechanic in the French navy. This eye candy continues at the back of the watch, where his eye for detail and engineering skills are put on full display.
Chanel has proven time and time again that it’s not only its bags and tweed jackets that deserve all the attention. The J12 was relaunched again this year to plenty of approving nods from watch enthusiasts, mostly because it now houses a COSC-certified Swiss-made automatic caliber 12.1.
At 38mm, the watch is designed to fit most wrists comfortably — yes, even men’s. Inspired by racing yachts, the accessory is designed to be a dive watch, and sees sportier elements throughout, such as an increase in the bezel’s notch count and reworked Arabic numerals.
It wasn’t all European names that made the cut at the GPHG; the Malaysia-based Ming 17.06 Copper did equally well for its fascinating use of visual depth, geometry and light. A warm etched copper dial sits beneath luminous hour markers that appear to be suspended, while the hands are set as close to the dial as possible for minimal parallax.
The watch also debuts a stainless steel case for more wrist presence, while inside lies a modified self-winding ETA 2824-2, assembled by La Division du Temps before its final checks by the Ming team in Kuala Lumpur.
The world can’t get enough of the Royal Oak, more so when it’s defied all manners of engineering laws to not only become ultra thin, but also sport a perpetual calendar within. It is this boundary-pushing in the world of micro-engineering that bagged the storied Swiss house — and its iconic timepiece — the “Aiguille d’Or” grand prize this year.
With a movement of 2.89mm in thickness and a 6.3mm tall case, this Royal Oak is also the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual wristwatch, thanks to clever re-engineering within. Perpetual calendar functions which are traditionally arranged on three layers had to be merged into one single layer instead. On its dial, the signature “Grande Tapisserie” pattern makes way for a sleek blue satin finishing, elevating the timepiece to award-winning heights.