The Finalist Watches of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020 (GPHG) – our Favourites

A lot of things are new for this year’s edition: here’s our take on the Academy’s selection of the 2020 GPHG finalists


As always during these days, the entire watch world looks at Geneva for the announcement of those watches who will join the finals of the industry’s equivalent to the ‘Oscars’, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). The votes are in and counted, and the selected watches have been announced – here’s our favourites among them, and why they should win.

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Award Ceremony(GPHG Award Ceremony)


A wind of change…

Before we begin, a few words on the changes which made the 2020 edition of the traditional award a lot different than the previous ones, changes which are not only but also due to the COVID-19 crisis. The most eminent of all revisions concern the selection process. Until last year, only brands could enter watches for the award, and a two-round selection process by a 30-something people strong Jury selected the finalist and then amongst them single out the winners in 12-14 categories. Between round one and round two the finalist watches would travel the world to allow a great number of people to appreciate them at hand, and also the Jury would meet in persona behind closed doors to deliberate about the winners.

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Travelling Exhibition(GPHG Travelling Exhibition, Geneva)

This year, the organisers aimed for a more transparent, more inclusive and more representative selection process, and established an ‘Academy’ of 400 watch industry representatives, journalists, collectors and retailers, who’s tasks it was to (i) initially propose watches to be included in the award (brands are still able to submit on their own initiative) and (ii) to undertake two rounds of voting to determine the finalists (6 watches in each of the 14 categories) and pre-select the winners, who will travel on exhibition only in Switzerland.

Like in the years before, a Jury will – together with the Academy- conclude ultimately on the winning pieces. As it stands now, the Jury is still to meet in person on Geneva with the finalist watches at hand, but in these times, everything is fluid (even the process so far hand many facets of ‘ad hoc’ decisions made by the organisers), and we will see how it turns out in the end. Even the award ceremony, scheduled for 12 November, is ‘tentative’.

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020
With that out of the way, let’s see which watches joined the finals, and which of those we feel deserve a win. We go through the categories in the order chosen by the GPHG:

1) Ladies:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Ladies
The finalists are:

  1. Beauregard Lili
  2. Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey
  3. Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Bouton perle
  4. Dior Montres Dior Grand Bal Ruban
  5. Hermès Arceau Petite Lune Sprinkling of diamonds and sapphires
  6. Piaget Limelight Gala Precious Sapphire Gradient

the eclecticum’s take:

Here we have different votes.

One of us would chose Dior’s Grand Bal Ruban for its cinematic animation – the watch is driven by an automatic movement, and the rotor has been relocated to the dial side and superbly executed swinging knot. Lovely, technically interesting, and done with taste.

His second choice would be the Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey, a feminine watch combined with versatility which can be worn as wristwatch or as pendant, or can even be used as table clock. An in-house movement ices the cake.

The other one from our team would chose the Chanel Mademmoiselle Privè Bouton perle for its Parisian spirit. Closer to ´Pret-a-porter´ it still represents the “code” of ´Haute Couture´, at least design wise. It´s suitable for any fashion or black tie event, but also easy combine with Jeans & T-Shirt – Parisian style. Quartz is not our first choice in general, but it does the job and the DNA of Chanel is shown pretty well. A winner in my book!

2.) Ladies Complication:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Ladies Complications
The finalists are:

  1. Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon
  2. Charles Girardier Tourbillon Signature Mystérieuse « fleur de sel »
  3. Jacob & Co Astronomia Fleurs de Jardin Rainbow
  4. Maurice Lacroix Masterpiece Embrace
  5. Piaget Altiplano Tourbillon
  6. Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Diamant

the eclecticum’s take:

Van Cleef & Arpels has a great history of what they aptly call ‘poetical complications’, and the Lady Arpels Ballerine Musicale Diamant does not disappoint: a musical watch playing a melody specifically composed by the choreographer George Balanchine to be reproduced by a watch, combined with a ballet animation (representing the main French, American and Russian schools of dance) and a cleverly integrated retrograde time display is quite a statement, and our top choice here.

Very well worthy of a watchmaking upgrade, the enticing Bulgari Serpenti collection now made a big leap with the Seduttori Tourbillon and now features the world’s smallest tourbillon movement – chapeau, our second choice!

3.) Mens:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Mens
The finalists are:

  1. Bulgari Octo Finissimo S Blue Dial
  2. De Bethune DB28XP Starry Sky
  3. Laurent Ferrier Classic Origin Green
  4. Petermann Bédat Dead beat second
  5. Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition
  6. Voutilainen 28SC

the eclecticum’s take:

The first tough category! A lot of worthy contenders, but also many who have been laureates already. For its impressive implementation of a jumping seconds complication and they stupendous use of everything a seasoned watch lover would crave for, the finishing, the use of large jewels, the considered complex presentation of the mechanism, we think the Petermann Bédat Dead beat second is spot on – and should in our view be the winner. Also, to encourage other young watchmakers to dream and dare!

Talking about other selections, we have two different favorites once more.

One would be the De Bethune DB28XP Starry Sky, as the new thin case profile benefits the DB28 a lot and brings a fresh alternative to this iconic collection, and I also love how the blue ‘microlight’ firmament shines in different light situations.

Second one would be the Romain Gauthier’s Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only, as it dares to be different in this category. It may represent another approach of fine watchmaking, of today. Dress codes and lifestyles changed and so should/could classical watches as well. On top it´s perfectly executed!

4.) Mens Complication:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Mens Complications
The finalists are:

  1. Bovet 1822 Récital 27
  2. De Bethune DB28XP Tourbillon
  3. Girard-Perregaux Quasar Light
  4. Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
  5. Hermès Slim d’Hermès GMT
  6. MB&F HM10 Bulldog Ti

the eclecticum’s take:

In our view, the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 stands out for so many reasons that we actually cannot think of any other watch in this category. It is a testament to finest manual watchmaking, designed and constructed to be created only by hand using decades if not centuries old tools and machines, and achieving a level of perfection which tops the already sky high Greubel Forsey standard (we did not think this was possible, but then…). It is a statement for watchmaking (at the peak) in every single element and aspect, and delving deep into it one learns so much!

5.) Iconic:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Iconic
The finalists are:

  1. Breitling Chronomat B01 42
  2. Bulgari Aluminium Chronograph
  3. Girard-Perregaux Laureato Infinity Edition (42mm)
  4. IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Chronograph
  5. Piaget Altiplano Origin Automatic
  6. Seiko Professional Diver’s 1000M

the eclecticum’s take:

Like many of us, we started our personal watchmaking journey with a Bulgari (Bulgari Bulgari) Aluminium watch (not a chronograph and maybe not in aluminium, but still) – our entry ticket to fine(r) watches, with bold, distinctive and tasteful design realised with an unusual material (in watchmaking) that emphasises the lightness of it’s parent Italian ‘dolce vita’. Overall, the new Chronograph recalls a lot of this – and with is a feeling that was missing in the industry for a long time. Our winner!

Girard Perregaux’ Laureato is a long-time love of ours, and the new Infinity Edition with its dark black Onyx dial is a watch with offers versatility, sportiness and depth, and thus we’d select it as the runner-up.

6.) Chronometry:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Chronometry
The finalists are:

  1. Armin Strom Gravity Equal Force Stainless steel
  2. Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer
  3. Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity
  4. Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.2
  5. Moser & Cie Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon H. Moser X MB&F
  6. Theo Auffret Tourbillon in Paris

the eclecticum’s take:

Interesting approaches are shown by several, and a lot of worthy contenders. Still we’d chose Chronometrie Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.2 without hesitation. It delivers on all levels! Highly sophisticated to the max yet understated. Almost like a chronometrical tool – a luxury one, perfectly executed holistically as far as the technology, the design and the execution aspects are concerned.

If we were to give more points, both the Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer (for its fantastically conceived chronometer escapement) as well as Armin Strom’s Gravity Equal Force (for trying to optimise a central timekeeping bottleneck at a budget) points as well.

7.) Calendar and Astronomy:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Calendar Astronomy
The finalists are:

  1. Behrens Apolar
  2. Chopard U.C Perpetual Twin
  3. IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide
  4. Parmigiani Fleurier Hijri Perpetual Calendar
  5. Sarpaneva Watches Lunations Harvest Moon
  6. Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin Skeleton

the eclecticum’s take:

We’d chose Sarpaneva Watches Lunations Harvest Moon for its refreshing take on the complication, with interesting (technical & design) details. It dares to be different without shouting.

Also, IWC’s Portugieser Yacht Club Moon & Tide deserves a mention for its unique and decidedly astronomic complication, the tide indication, however we are not impressed by finishing details after we held the watch in our hands.

8.) Mechanical Exception:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Mechanical Exception
The finalists are:

  1. Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance
  2. Bovet 1822 Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter 2
  3. Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron
  4. MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome
  5. Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept
  6. Ressence Type 2A

the eclecticum’s take:

We’d chose Armin Strom Minute Repeater Resonance for being a ´Grand Complication´ like never seen before and with a contemporary design approach. Technically outstanding, awesome in the details and still wearable.

If you are ‘man enough’ you might find delight at the Jacob & Co Bugatti Chiron, a watch as ‘overdone’ as the referenced car. And as such a matter of taste (if means match anyhow…).

9.) Chronograph:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Chronograph
The finalists are:

  1. Atelier de Chronométrie Split-seconds chronograph
  2. Breitling Top Time Limited Edition
  3. Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic
  4. Kurono Tokyo by Hajime Asaoka Kurono Chronograph 1
  5. Louis Moinet Memoris Superlight
  6. Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT Steel Black

the eclecticum’s take:

Another rich category. We’d chose the Breitling Top Time Limited Edition for its “no rocket science” but appealing approach, without breaking the bank.

The split-second chronograph of the Madrid-based Atelier de Chronométrie is the exact opposite of the latter but an impressive chronograph.

10.) Divers*:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Divers

The finalists are:

  1. Breitling Superocean Automatic 48 Boutique Edition
  2. Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers
  3. Grand Seiko 9RA5 Professional Diver’s 600M
  4. MING Ming 18.01 H41
  5. Reservoir Hydrosphere Bronze x Revolution “The Maldives Edition”
  6. Ulysse Nardin Diver X Cape Horn

the eclecticum’s take:

Divers are a category which operates within strict technical and functional limits (and also expectations!). Keep it simple, but perfect even in detail feels appropriate for any diver and MING 18.01 H41 just delivers in most parts. It´s nice to see what is possible, even in the mid-price range. Almost like a mirror to the industry in general, isn´t it? Bravo team MING, once more!

11.) Jewellery:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Jewellery
The finalists are:

  1. Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Intrecciati
  2. Chopard Magari
  3. Dior Montres Dior Grand Soir Reine des Abeilles
  4. Jacob & Co The Mystery Tourbillon Full Ruby
  5. Piaget Limelight Gala High Jewellery Black Opal
  6. Van Cleef & Arpels Frivole Secrète watch

the eclecticum’s take:

Definitely the Bulgari Serpenti Misteriosi Intrecciati. Perfect for any “Gala”, representing the skills of a power house in the jewellery business and even wearable for eclectic moments with a more casual outfit. “La Dolce Vita” for princesses of today.

12.) Artistic Crafts:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Calendar Artistic Crafts
The finalists are:

  1. ANDERSEN Genève Jumping Hours 40th Anniversary
  2. Bovet 1822 Amadéo Tourbillon Squelette 7 Jours
  3. Dior Montres Dior Grand Bal Plume
  4. Hermès Arceau Into the Canadian Wild
  5. Jacob & Co Astronomia Sky Phoenix
  6. Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Soleil Féerique

the eclecticum’s take:

We’d chose ANDERSEN Genéve Jumping Hours 40th Anniversary, even when it is a somehow quiet contender, but a solid one – nothing more, nothing less.

13.) “Petite Aiguille”:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Petite Aiguille
The finalists are:

  1. Bell & Ross BR 05 Skeleton
  2. Breitling Superocean Heritage ’57 Limited Edition II
  3. Habring2 Chrono Felix Panda
  4. IWC Schaffhausen Portugieser Automatic 40
  5. Sarpaneva Watches Sarpaneva x Moomin
  6. Trilobe Secret

the eclecticum’s take:

We’d chose Trilobe Secret. A lovely design with an interesting approach of showing time. Individuality is a strong topic of today and affordable bespoke options makes it even more interesting.

Other than that, both Habring2’s Chrono Felix Panda as well as the really nicely done newly revised Portugieser Automatic 40 from IWC Schaffhausen will stand chances – Habring2 are a clear darling of GPHG, but have won with similar watches already. For IWC it would depend a lot on how Jury and Academy value fresh designs at the “Petite Aiguille”: if a lot then IWC won’t make it.

14.) Challenge*:

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020 Challenge

The finalists are:

  1. Behrens Rotary
  2. Breitling Endurance Pro
  3. Kurono Tokyo by Hajime Asaoka Kurono Anniversary Green ‘森:Mori
  4. Louis Erard Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein
  5. MING Ming 27.01 Ultra Thin
  6. Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight

the eclecticum’s take:

Advanced, pure and still affordable comes to my mind, looking at the MING 27.01 Ultra Thin. Easy to imagine as an entry piece into the world of collecting or as an eclectic spice to any watch collection. Contemporary watchmaking at its best if you are on a (reasonable budget).

We also think that the Kurono Anniversary Green ‘:Mori as well as the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein are eclectic pieces – one for those seeking well designed and made but moderately priced timepieces that show other watchmaking philosophies than the typical Swiss and German ones, and the other one because one of the most eminent designers in watchmaking makes a return to the scene with aplomb but again at price tag that is bearable.

Conclusion:

With all the changes around the proposal as well as the selection processes that came with the 2020 Edition of the GPHG, its really difficult to predict any possible outcome for the finals. But one thing is clear: we feel that the new procedures have both broadened the range of watches that enter the competition, but also reaffirmed the focus on watchmaking content and credibility.

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Travelling Exhibition
Just look at the following: one consequence, perhaps, of the new suggestion process for watches was that a number of watches and brands one has never heard of entered the competition. Its always good to have ones’ mind open for novelties and newcomers, but honestly a lot of them felt like they should not belong to a competition which claims to assemble the ‘best’ watches of a given vintage. It looks like the Academy felt the same, and these were wed out of the process (this does not mean that we consider all watches that did not make the cut are ‘unworthy’, we’re actually far from that), and we would attribute this to the more inclusive and representative GPHG Academy structure.

Overall, we believe this benefits the legitimacy and the relevance of GPHG – and this comes precisely right now: it’s interesting times we have, and this is just perfect to question some paradigms of the industry:

  • Play safe and just copy (your) history
  • Be different for the sake of being different
  • Money can buy it all

Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève GPHG Academy Nominated Watches 2020
In a recent interview with Time+Tide, industry veteran and legend Jean-Claude Biver (and himself awardee of the GPHG Special Jury Prize in 2018) made the following remarkable comment: “the winners will be those who make the crisis your friend”. Biver did not specify what and how we would do this, but for us at ‘the eclecticum’ the conclusion would be this:

The “light of passion, creativity and entrepreneurship” it´s still burning if one looks further and hopefully this will be rewarded as well. Be eclectic!

We’re now eagerly counting the days until the laureates will be selected!

the eclecticum

_____________

*) Team member Ornatus Mundi is one of the co-founders of MING, and therefore does not participate in evaluating the categories MING competes in, namely Divers and Challenge.

Comments:

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.