The annual Fondation du Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) awards are the most prestigious in the watch industry; a celebration of innovation and excellence by the most sought after and luxury brands. From the utterly audacious and “over the top” to perfectly packaged everyday watches, here are some of our winning favourites.
“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix
The 2020 prize-winning ultra-thin Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept is a tough act to follow, but the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar, the slimmest in the world, redefines the limits of contemporary fine watchmaking. The winner of the best watch among all categories this year, the Octo Finissimo captures L’Estetica della Meccanica, or the art of in-depth innovation with regard to both form and substance. No less than 408 components interact within the extremely slender 5.80mm case. The development of the 2.75mm caliber required the movement design engineers of the manufacture in Le Sentier to devise new solutions, such as the use of a micro-rotor and the optimal use of the space between the components without reducing their dimensions.
Testifying to true genius in the realm of miniaturisation, this development powers the hour and minute hands along with all the perpetual calendar functions: retrograde-display date, day, month and retrograde-display leap years. They are adjusted by means of three correctors: one for the date at 2pm, another for the month at 4pm and a third for the day between 8 and 9 o’clock. bulgari.com or 011 883 1325.
As the name suggests, this prize is awarded to the best overall watch that features a nonconformist, offbeat approach. The abrupt and disorienting pause of the past 18-months put our social existence on trial, but defined the way forward as we question and shift our relationship with time and mortality.
To remind us just how fleeting and precious time is, Louis Vuitton’s Tambour Carpe Diem stares life in the face, demanding that we seize every moment especially as we run the risk of “cautious optimism” tainting the pace of our re-emergence from Covid-19. This one-of-a-kind timepiece combines a high watchmaking caliber with a subversive vanitas and demonstrates a fresh approach to the traditional jacquemart watch.
louisvuitton.com 011 784 9854 or 021 405 9700.
Ladies Watch Prize
This prize is awarded to women’s watch comprising only the following indicators: hours, minutes, seconds, simple date, power reserve, classic moon phases. These watches could also be adorned with a maximum 9-carat gem-setting, which is where the elegant Piaget Limelight Gala stands out. The watch fairs were awash with colour this year, particularly rainbows of uplifting, healing colours alongside the growing 1970s trend, with dominant hues and calming pastels seen in cases, dials, and interchangeable straps.
The iconic Limelight Gala with its sensual lines and asymmetrical lugs was first released in the 1970s. Presented in six new “Precious” limited editions for 2021, including this spectacular, award-wining Precious Rainbow with its array of green tsavorites and coloured sapphires. The dial and bracelet of this 32mm automatic 18-carat rose gold piece are decorated with Piaget’s signature hand-worked Palace Décor finishing.
piaget.com or RLG Africa 011 317 2600.
Men’s watch prize
In celebration of Seiko’s 140th anniversary this year we have seen a series of Grand Seiko and Seiko special editions inspired by founder Kintaro Hattori and the landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes of Japan. Among these are the 40mm Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Hi-Beat 36000 with an overall look known as the “Series 9 Design”, inspired by an original Grand Seiko from the 1960s and first seen last year in 18-carat yellow gold as part of Grand Seiko’s 60th anniversary. This stainless steel (Ref SLGH005) model features a textured dial inspired by white birch forests. It is powered by the new Caliber 9SA5 high-beat movement. With its highly efficient Dual Impulse Escapement, Grand Seiko free-sprung balance and twin barrel construction, the exquisite movement delivers a precision rate of +5 to -3 seconds a day and a power reserve of 80 hours. The steel SLGH005 retails for about R176,000. Read more.
Iconic Watch Prize
This award is for a watch from an emblematic collection that has a lasting influence on watchmaking history and the market for more than 20 years. The Audemars Piguet established the icon status of the Royal Oak in 1972 by overturning the prevailing design codes with its Gérald Genta-designed sports luxe watch in stainless steel and integrated bracelet, octagonal bezel, and “Tapisserie” dial.
This winning Royal Oak 15202 “Jumbo” Extra-Thin model has a 39mm platinum case and bracelet with a gorgeous smoked-green sunburst dial. This is the first time that this configuration is seen on the Jumbo collection, which is the closest contemporary model to the original Royal Oak Ref 5402 design. The self-winding Manufacture Caliber 2121 is fitted with a 22-carat gold oscillating weight.
Mechanical Exception Watch Prize
At a mere 4.3mm thick, the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic is the world’s slimmest self-winding watch. To be this thin the Piaget Alitplano is designed as an inseparable mechanism: the movement and the case form a single entity, with the case serving as a main plate to which an incredible 219 components are affixed. Some of the parts are barely thicker than a hair, including certain wheels measuring just 0.12mm (compared with 0.2mm on a traditional movement). This year’s edition is presented in a 41mm white gold and Piaget’s signature blue.
piaget.com or RLG Africa 011 317 2600.
Chronograph Watch Prize
The design of the new 41mm Zenith Chronomaster Sport chronicles the evolution, over five decades, of the iconic wristwatch with tricolour chronograph registers made famous by its legendary movement, the El Primero Caliber 400. Introduced in 1969, this was the first high-frequency automatic chronograph and is still in use to this day. Its high-frequency of 36,000 VpH and its column-wheel mechanism ensure tried and tested reliability and precision for more than 50 years.
The story of the movement continues in the new El Primero Caliber 3600 featuring some material and technical upgrades, reduced parts and improved functionality for the new age. With the centre chronograph hand jetting around once every 10 seconds, the Caliber 3600 can measure and display elapsed time with a precision of 1/10th of a second from the 5Hz (36,000 VpH) escapement.
It has an extended power reserve of 60 hours and is water resistant to 100m. Priced from R175,000 on a steel bracelet.
zenith-watches.com or Picot & Moss 011 669 0500.
Diver’s Watch Prize
The stainless steel Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Driver is the perfect, stylish companion to accompany you as you traverse the city or venture into the wilds. Louis Vuitton’s most iconic timepiece, the drum-shaped Tambour was also its first when launched in 2002, with a diver’s model joining the line in 2005. Presented in streetwise attire, the new references are further refined, kept clean and minimal with the diving scale featuring on a turning flange at the outer edge of the dial. There are three 44mm models with automatic movements and a 36mm for ladies with a quartz movement.
Louis Vuitton 011 784 9854 or 021 405 9700.
Jewellery watch prize
Flowers are a continuous source of dreamy inspiration for Chopard’s co-president and artistic director Caroline Scheufele, who brings expressions of joy to the watches and jewellery she creates. And who wouldn’t be overjoyed with this the “Flower Power” jewellery watch from their emblematic Red Carpet Collection? Exquisitely crafted by Chopard’s artisans, Scheufele has drawn inspiration from nature both mythological and real. From her bountiful “Garden of Eden”, precious stones have been picked like berries to adorn this timepiece with pink sapphires, pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds creating garlands with a total of 30 carats. The pink mother-of-pearl dial is created from 12 pink sapphires. Showing Chopard’s commitment to sustainable luxury, the entire watch is made of ethical Fairmined-certified 18-carat white gold.
chopard.com or Picot & Moss 011 669 0500.
“Petite Aiguille” Prize
This is awarded to a watch with a retail price of R60,000 to R150,000, and includes smartwatches. The stealth Tudor Black Bay Ceramic features a 41mm matt-black ceramic case with micro-blasted finish, and black PVD-treated steel bezel with a 60-minute graduated insert in black ceramic. The applied hour markers and snowflake hands with off-white Swiss Super-LumiNova are bold against the domed matt black dial. Through the sapphire crystal of its open case back is revealed the Manufacture Caliber MT5602-1U, finished entirely in black. Its rotor is a black tungsten monobloc, which is openwork and satin-brushed with sandblasted details. The bridges and main-plate have alternate sandblasted, polished surfaces and laser decorations. Read more.