GPHG is coming tomorrow here is what two regular contributors Frederic and Sanford make of it all.
The home-based SW crew will all be out tomorrow night at the first SW meet up with Tudor and Mappin & Webb, so our live coverage tomorrow may or may not come to pass!
Figures crossed the Rainbow Hublot wins the overall prize, for no other reason than comedy content for next weeks podcast
First up and in no particular order:
Ladies’ (Sandford)- Moritz-Grossman Tefut Arabian Nights Milanese
The Arabian Nights Milanese is the perfect combination of gemstone setting, precious metalwork, and traditional hand-crafted watchmaking. It is a beautiful example of design, craftsmanship, and creativity. One of the best features is the single lug holding the top and bottom of the strap to the case. Designing the case this way almost ensures all the focus is on the Arabian night scene on the dial; highlighting the colours with blue jewels on the ends of the legs, as well as the crown.
Ladies’ Complication (Sanford) – Chaumet Soleil de Minuit Flying Tourbillion
This piece is in the ladies’ section, but at 40mm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on a man. The dial is stunning with the pattern of radiating jewels from the tourbillion in diamonds and “fiery stones”. The inspiration was the sun, but it resembles more of a peacock to me. Either way, this may be the most beautiful dial in the competition.
Men’s (Frederic) – DB28 Yellow Tones
This watch category this year really falls into two halves, the beautifully simple camp and the beautifully open-hearted, with all competitors bringing a lot to the party. It’s therefore hard to pick a favourite in this one. Nonetheless, someone has to win. While I personally would admittedly be buying the Groenefeld if I had to put my money to one of them, the winner in my eyes would be the De Bethune DB 28.
As with most of the other competitors, the design of the DB 28 is not fundamentally new. So much so actually, that it already won an aiguille d’or at the GPHG in 2011. But, in contrast to the remainder of the lot, the De Bethune comes with some proper innovation. In this piece, De Bethune treats what began life as bland grey-brownish titanium in such a singular way that it ends up looking essentially like gold. In doing so, De Bethune are likely closer to qualifying as alchemists as the entrant that actually goes by that name (and charges twice the price). The rich golden tones take the DB 28 over the finish line with an albeit tight lead over the pack for me, despite its costing about three times as much as the Groenefeld or the Bridge One, and possibly lacking the rich luscious hand anglage of Kari’s 28ti.
Men’s Complication (Frederic) – Ulysse Nardin Freak X
I will not do it. As much as I liked having it on my wrist when I tried it a few weeks ago and as much as I love its three-hand brother I wear every day, I won’t take the easy path and go for the Vacheron here. It’s unbelievably beautiful and it shares what’s quite certainly the best blue dial in the industry with the remainder of its line, but as much as it pains me, it does not bring with it enough of a unique proposition to win this category. Instead, my favourite in this category is a watch that adds a proposition to the market that has not existed before it. And I don’t mean the impressive bathroom scale by D. Candaux. I get that this is the conclusion of a story that’s really worth telling and a beautiful independent offer. But at CHF 273,000, that’s not an unprecedented proposition, and why should we care about Mr Candaux’s dream watch more than we should about say those of Mr Greubel and Mr Forsey? No, the watch that clearly wins this for me here is actually on the exact opposite of the pricing spectrum. It’s the Ulysse Nardin Freak because that brings an – albeit a little simplified – carousel and the Freaks unique time display into an area where the likes of myself can reasonably aspire to enjoy it. And that, in my view, is more complicated than making an unbelievably impressive watch for six figures. But that is not all. More importantly, in a price bracket defined by Daytonas that have looked the same for ages and the just-about-to-jump-the-shark blue dialled Genta genre, making a thoroughly modernist watch with a strong stand-alone identity is very much deserving of commendation.
Iconic (Sanford) – Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph
A two-register, $2,000 chronograph over the Audemars Piquet Royal Oak? Yep. I see this piece and think ‘heritage’, the ‘60s’. Looking at the Royal Oak, I see a matchmaker that has never innovated past this model. If it’s the only model you can sell, and you still make it, that’s not iconic. That’s just good business.
Calendars and Astronomy (Frederic) – CODE 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar
This one may be controversial, but I believe the winner here should really be the Code 11.59. “Why?!?” you might ask, and you’d have every right to, based on the monumentally mishandled launch by Audemars Piguet. But that terribly executed communication debacle is exactly the reason this should get another round in the spotlight. Once you handle the new 11.59 in person, there’s more there than one might think. The illegible and bland dials of the three handers have been rightfully discussed to death. Releasing these at all, let alone releasing them just on the heels of IWC’s 150 years collection with the embarrassing proviso that they could only be photographed from a ¾ side angle was undeniably one of the more unfortunate faceplants we’ve seen from a major watch brand in recent years. And AP really deserves no praise for that. What they do deserve praise for however is the guts to come up with something genuinely new, which, when the dust finally settles, actually is a fairly fantastic case with a properly beautiful set of movements. And when – as they do in the Perpetual Calendar – they put that behind an aventurine dial, there’s no denying they got a winner. At about CHF 75,000, this clearly outclasses the loaded six-figure mega watches it is up against (making an impressive watch where the money is no object somehow just isn’t as impressive to me). The decision is a bit tougher regarding the very cool entry from Hermès and Sarpaneva’s fantastic glass fiber moon phase. But in terms of what it means for the watch sphere, I’m afraid the 11.59 Perpetual retains a very slight edge there as well in my book.
Chronograph (Sanford) – Chopard L.U.C. Chrono One Flyback
Zenith had 4 chronographs in this competition, but the one submitted for this one is illegible. The L.U.C. can be read, has a simple elegance missing from the other submissions, and has that added desirability of being a flyback.
Mechanical Exception (Frederic) – Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar
Please let me preface this by stating that developing a compact 35 Kg atomic clock is impressive, whether or not it can set a mechanical watch, even for CHF 2.7 Million. That’s why the Urwerk will likely take this category, and it really deserves an award. The sympathique portion, where the mechanical watch synchronizes with the atomic clock is hugely impressive, despite the underlying principle being as old as Breguet. But ultimately, what Urwerk appears to have done here (and please excuse me if I got this wrong), is make an intricate, electronic, set of sensors and interfaces with the ability to regulate and set a befitting watch, a robot watchmaker if you will. That is cool beyond description, but again, is it a mechanical exception?
I would argue that another entrant in this category, though ultimately simpler, actually is closer to this description. Exception, to me, is something that distinguishes by being different from everything else. To do that, it needs to bring something to the table that has never existed before. Mechanical, well especially after the above, that’s fairly obvious. Against that backdrop, neither making something that existed in impressively flat iterations before incrementally flatter, nor an imaginatively complex and hardly legible time display fully meets the specs, let alone making a grand sonnerie perpetual for the better part of CHF 1 Mio.
Ulysse Nardin’s innovative use of the elastic properties of silicium comes closer, but after Zenith’s advances in the field (as entered in the chronometry category), might not be quite as exceptional after all.
So that leaves us with a watch which, if unassuming at first sight (and hardly pretty by any description), fields a very pragmatic and very unique new feature that really advances how perpetual calendars will (or should) be made in the future. And it does so entirely without departing from the age-old materials and techniques of fine watchmaking, which is after all what GPHG celebrates. So, as much as I would personally want to have the Ulysse Nardin on my wrist, that is why I would award this category to the Vacheron Constantin Twin Beat.
Diver’s (Sanford) – Ressence Type 5
I love how unique this piece is being the only one in the competition that’s oil-filled. That feature also means its perfectly readable underwater, the clear analogue markings almost look digital in comparison, and I love how the dial constantly moves in its entirety to tell the time. It’s a simple design that leaves an outstanding impression.
Jewelry (Sanford) – Hublot Big Bang One Click Rainbow King Gold
In comparison to the other pieces in the competition in this category, the Hublot most looks like a watch. The dial is beautiful; blending the combination of rubies, sapphires, and turquoise into the red and purple-hued leather straps wonderfully.
Artistic Crafts (Sanford) – Hermes Arceau Baobob Cat
Different lugs on the same watch seemed to be a reoccurring theme this year, but the stand-out feature of this Hermes offering is the hand-crafted dial featuring a leopard inside of a baobab flower. Highlighted by the blue sapphires adorning the bezel, this is a stunning watch that the artist designing it truly immersed themselves in.
“Petite Aiguille” (Sanford) – IWC Schaffhausen Pilots Watch Chronograph Spitfire
This category is meant for watches between 4,000 and 10,000 CHF. Of the finalists, this IWC model is the most likely to be worn every day, and it is also the most legible. The bronze case pairs amazingly with the green dial and gold hands.
Challenge (Sanford) – Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial
The watches in this category are all under 4,000 CHF, and as always, it’s hard to find a better watch than a Seiko. Not only does this model have a dial made of porcelain, but it also has a unique date feature that tracks the complication at 6 o’clock. The craftsmanship shown in this model is outstanding for 2,200 CHF (as low as USD 1,900 at some retailers). The dial features painted Roman numerals in blue, with the 12 painted in red. All this and it has 100m of water resistance.