The prestigious Fondation du Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) awards took place earlier this month with the much-anticipated 2018 prize winners announced in each of the categories.
Over the coming weeks, I will look at the winners in more detail and what makes them so special, however, of particular note, is that over half the winning watches were made by manufactures founded this side of the Millennium (or not much older) and by a new breed of young designers, engineers and entrepreneurs shaking things up in an industry established over two centuries ago.
This, for me, indicates that despite our obsession with 24/7 connectivity on one side, there is increasing interest and demand for fine mechanical wristwatches from a new guard of independent creators and collectors. And, they are here to stay.
The awards celebrate innovation at both the very premium end of the market as well from luxury brands offering more accessible value propositions to attract the new collectors. This also shows a growing interest in more bespoke, collectible pieces for total differentiation in the market and, of course, among fellow collectors.
Here are the awards presented to these young independents:
Krayon is the first of these newcomers who has garnered huge respect in a relatively short time. This prize is awarded to the best watch out of all categories that offers an innovative vision of time measurement.
Founded by Rémi Maillat in 2013, after honing his skills at Cartier as a movement engineer, Krayon receives the Innovation Prize for their Everywhere Horizon, a ‘totally customisable’ mechanical watch able to calculate sunrise and sunset times accurate to your specific location.
MEN’S WATCH PRIZE
Created by 31-year-old Kosovo-born Rexhep Rexhepi, the Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain appears both classical and modern, presenting a visual tension through the marrying of symmetrical and asymmetrical forms. Rexhepi founded Akrivia (Greek for precision) in 2012 at the age of 25, after spending five years at Patek Philippe and at the FP Journe manufacture.
‘PETITE AIGUILLE’ PRIZE
This is for a watch with a retail price between CHF 4,000 and CHF 10,000 (approx R57,000 and R142,000) and includes smartwatches. The prize went to Habring² for their Doppel-Felix. The Austrian husband-and-wife team Maria and Richard Habring have been creating innovative timepieces with signature paired-back styling since 2004.
Felix was their first made-in-Austria, totally in-house watch and won a GPHG prize in 2015. Richard Habring was a former movement developer for A. Lange & Söhne and at IWC where he developed the legendary IWC Doppelchronograph mechanism – a split-second chronograph also known as Rattrapante.
On the surface, the Doppel-Felix is simple and timeless but features an impressive split-second movement and a further novelty in the date module. The date is indicated by a fifth hand that points to large digits on the outer edge of the dial.
CHALLENGE WATCH PRIZE
The Challenge Watch Prize is for watches that retail under CHF 4,000 (R57,000). It was awarded to Nomos Glashütte for the update to their iconic Tangente, the neomatik 41 Update.
Nomos was founded 28 years ago with the goal to make affordable, well-made mechanical watches with a clean, modernist aesthetic and the Tangente is no exception with its unmistakable typography. The classic men’s watch is made bigger this time (41mm diameter) but is still incredibly slender and features an innovative date display ring that encircles the dial.
As the name suggests, this prize rewards the best watch, presented in one of the categories, which features a non-conformist, offbeat approach to watchmaking.
The eponymously named Konstantin Chaykin was founded in 2003 by maverick watch designer and inventor Chaykin who took it upon himself to put Russia on the world map of fine watchmaking. Known for their unorthodox approach, the ‘IT’ film-inspired Konstantin Chaykin Clown appears to be a worthy recipient.
For the Russian watchmaker the emotional connect is key and he believes that there must be more to a watch than chronometric accuracy and high quality. The look on the Clown’s face changes every minute with the two discs displaying hours and minutes for the pupils and the moon phase indicator the smile.
CHRONOMETRY WATCH PRIZE
This is presented to a mechanical watch comprising of at least one tourbillon and/or a special escapement and/or another development improving precision timekeeping.
The De Bethune, DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon achieves incredible accuracy on the wrist corresponding to +/-1 second a day. Weighing just 0.18 grams, its tourbillon is one of the fastest and lightest in the industry.
De Bethune is a Swiss watch brand founded in 2002 with a vision to “combine time-honoured skills with the latest scientific breakthroughs, to achieve absolute precision”.
CHRONOGRAPH WATCH PRIZE
Classic car enthusiasts will appreciate the Singer Track1 Hong Kong Edition by Singer Reimagined, a company established by Rob Dickinson the founder of Singer Vehicle Design – an American company that rebuilds and restores Porsche 911s – and watch designer Marco Borraccino. Their shared love of cars, music and watches – particularly the iconic chronographs of the late 60s and 70s – lead to the creation of timepieces “that would reimagine high-watchmaking”.
MECHANICAL EXCEPTION WATCH PRIZE
Greubel Forsey launched in 2004 and specialises in ultra high-end timepieces featuring multiple tourbillons and inclined balance wheels with the aim of improving timekeeping precision. The Greubel Forrest, Grande Sonnerie is a grand achievement in every sense of the word. Apart from the eccentric, asymmetrical dial design it features a Tourbillon 24 Secondes, grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie and minute repeater, giving the wearer innumerous options on how they’d prefer the hours and quarters to be chimed out.