This is the big week of the year for Geneva and the watch world. First, the GPHG prizes were handed out, then Christie’s hosted Only Watch, the biennial auction that raises money for muscular dystrophy research. These events set the stage for the big auctions of the season from Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s (here’s our schedule of all the big auctions for the second half of 2019).
Let’s first take a look at some of the winners (and upsets) at GPHG 2019.
Grand Prix D’Horologerie de Geneve (GPHG) Prizes
Whether you like to call it the Oscars of watches or not, the fact remains that the GPHG is the watch world’s biggest awards event of the year. The prizes are highlighted by the “Aiguille D’Or” prize.
Let’s first acknowledge the problems with GPHG: Winning watches tend to be expensive and not necessarily representative of what people are actually buying from Switzerland; and because brands self-nominate, Patek and Rolex do not participate (they can’t handle the risk of losing!). That said, it’s still a wonderful evening to highlight some of the best of what’s come out of the manufacturers in the past year.
Aiguille D’Or: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Self-Winding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
The “Aiguille D’Or” is essentially the “best in show” prize, given to the top watch of the year; if we’re continuing the Oscars analogy, this is the watch industry’s Best Picture.
There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe this watch. It’s the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar wristwatch, with the movement measuring just 2.89mm thick, and a case 6.3mm thick. Presented as a prototype in platinum at SIHH 2018, this production version features a case that’s a combination of platinum and titanium, with a satin-brush finishing.
To achieve the record-breaking thin movement, the perpetual calendar functions, normally arranged on three levels, have been merged into one single layer. This led to a couple innovations from AP’s R&D team: the end-of-the-month cam has been integrated to the date wheel, while the month cam has been combined to the month wheel.
By the way, the dial is beautiful too, and redesigned from previous Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar models. The day, date and month subdials have been enlarged, while the night and day indication at 8 o’clock has been added symmetrically to the leap year indication positioned at 4 o’clock.
Ladies’ Watch: Chanel J12 Calibre 12.1
Chanel pretty much owns the ladies’ category, having also won last year. It’s worthy recognition for the house’s effort to bring watch manufacturing in-house and focus on doing some really cool things. It’s also a recognition that Chanel — unlike many other brands — is doing these things with a specific goal of creating great products designed for women. This J12 is no exception.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of the J12, and so Chanel looked to give it a makeover while still keeping the look that has made it a modern classic. This meant redesigning and refining the bezel, dial, and typeface; for example, numerals applied to the dial are now in ceramic, matching the one-piece ceramic case construction.
In addition, Chanel introduced a new 12.1 caliber automatic movement, developed by the new Suisse Kenissi Manufacture in which Chanel is a shareholder. The caliber 12.1, is chronometer certified by COSC and offers 70-hour power reserve.
Upsets: From Ugly ducklings to GPHG winners
Two of the most controversial watch releases of the past year were the P01 from Tudor and the Code 11.59 collection from Audemars Piguet. The news cycle went something like this: enthusiasts shit all over them, made some memes, while the watch media levied a number of defenses. Then, the media got mad at enthusiasts for all the jokes, while enthusiasts got mad at the media for what they viewed as disingenuous defending of shitty products. Round and round we went for a couple weeks, then we mostly forgot this had ever happened at all.
Notably absent from this cycle were the brands. If we live in an “any press is good press” age, in which the best thing a company can do is get some social media hype and free press, the releases can be considered nothing by massively successful. And now, both Audemars Piguet and Tudor have a GPHG prize to show for their efforts.
The Code 11.59 Minute Repeater won the Men’s Complication prize, while the Tudor Black Bay P01 won the “Challenge” prize for watches under CHF 4,000. It’s certainly an endorsement of brands taking risk and doing things differently, which I can get behind.
Men’s Complication: Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie
Challenge: Tudor Black Bay P01
For more, see the full prize list from GPHG:
Ladies’ Complication: MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT
Men’s Watch: Voutilainen 28ti
Iconic Watch: AP Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra Thin
Chronometry: Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud Carburised steel regulator
Calendar and Astronomy Watch: Hermes Arceau L'heure de la lune
Chronograph: Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic
Diver’s Watch: Seiko Prospex LX line
“Petite Aiguille”: Kudoke 2
Innovation: Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat perpetual calendar
Audacity: Urwerk AMC
“Horological Revelation”: Ming 17.06 Copper