Now in its seventeenth year, the annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG 2017) has become the most coveted award in the watchmaking industry.
Unofficially likened to the Oscars for horology, the prize was originally given by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry until 2011, when The Foundation of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, or GPHG, was established.
Its five founding members—The Republic and Canton of Geneva, The City of Geneva, The International Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds, The Geneva Laboratory of Horology and Microengineering and The Edipresse Group—are committed to promoting Swiss watchmaking expertise to a global audience.
The awards, presented every November at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, are split over twelve contested categories. With the exception of a Special Audience Prize, only a carefully selected jury of top industry professionals is eligible to vote. This year, the judging committee consists of such luminaries as legendary auctioneer Aurel Bacs, Philippe Dufour, considered the greatest watchmaker working today and Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, the vice chairman of luxury Dubai retailer Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons and organizer of the Dubai Watch Week.
The shortlisted entrants, and the winners themselves go on to form an international traveling exhibition of countries with a particular interest in the watch market. Starting on October 2nd, they will be shown in Milan, Mexico City and Taipei before returning to Switzerland to be displayed for the public in Geneva’s Cité de Temps.
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Categories and Preselected Pieces at GPHG 2017
Each of the twelve categories has six shortlisted, or preselected, watches for the jury to deliberate over, each with its own set of rules.
In addition to the main prizes, there are additional awards for watches the adjudicating panel feels are especially innovative or that best reinterpret an iconic design from the past.
And, of course, the most prestigious honor of the evening, the Aiguille d’Or Grand Prix, is presented to the best overall watch for 2017.
Ladies’ women’s watches adorned with a maximum of eight Karats of gemstones and no more than two indications from: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, second timezone.
Some familiar names from the shortlist in this category include the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Frosted Gold and the Première Camélia Skeleton from Chanel.
women’s watches featuring mechanical complications of particular creativity or complexity.
The beautiful Little Lange 1 Moonphase from A. Lange & Söhne and the flamboyant Lady Arpels Papillon Automate from Van Cleef & Arpels make up two of the contenders.
Men’s watches adorned with a maximum of five Karats of gemstones and no more than two indications from: date, power reserve, classic moon phase, digital or retrograde time display.
Look out for the ultra-masculine Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic and the recreation of the first Grand Seiko.
Chronograph mechanical watches containing at least one chronograph complication.
A fiercely contended category with some surprising names, among them Fabergé’s Visionnaire Chronograph Ceramic and the Singer Track 1 from Singer Reimagined.
Tourbillon and Escapement
Tourbillon and Escapement mechanical watches comprising at least one tourbillon and/or a special escapement.
Another big category for both Audemars Piguet and Bvlgari, with the Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph and the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton in contention.
Calendar mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g. annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon-phase display, etc.)
The transparent sapphire dial of the Zenith Chronomaster El Primero Grande Date Full Open and the extraordinary complexity of the Krayon Everywhere-Universal Sunrise & Sunset, with its 595-piece caliber, are shortlisted.
Travel Time mechanical watches displaying several time zones (e.g. world time, dual-time or other types of model).
The bold minimalism of the ADN Jumping Disk from Manufacture Royale and the warm classic styling of the Classic Worldtimer Manufacture by Frédérique Constant are two very different but equally impressive nominees.
Mechanical Exception watches featuring a special mechanism, such as an innovative or sophisticated display, an automaton, a striking or any other acoustic function, a belt-driven movement or any other original and/or exceptional horological concept.
The category that really lets manufacturers let loose is one of the most fiercely fought prizes. This year, the extraordinary, customizable Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 from Vacheron Constantine and the incredibly detailed L.U.C Full Strike from Chopard represent the pinnacle of the watchmaker’s art.
Petite Aiguille watches with a retail price of under CHF 8,000.
Rolex sub-brand Tudor has the Black Bay Chrono in the competition at 4,167 CHF, alongside, among others, the Louis Vuitton Tambour Moon GMT Black, at 3,882 CHF.
Sports watches linked to the field of sports, whose functions, materials and design are suited to physical activities.
Montblanc’s Timewalker Chronograph Rally Timer Counter Limited Edition 100, inspired by the famous Minerva rally stopwatch competes alongside Hublot’s Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the legendary car marque.
Jewelry watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewelry and gem setting, and also distinguished by the choice of stones.
Some of the most prodigiously ornate timepieces you’ll ever see face off in the jewelry category. The Frise Divine from Chaumet required more than 1250 hours of work from some of the world’s best stone-setters, while the aptly named Diamond Outrage from Audemars Piguet boasts hundreds of brilliant-cut gems and a 1,238,000 CHF price tag.
Artistic Crafts watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enameling, lacquering, engraving, guilloche (engine-turning), skeleton working, etc.
The Joker from Konstantin Chaykin brings a bit of pop-art lightheartedness to the proceedings, and the Hermès Slim D’Hermes Promenade de Longchamp reproduces a Philippe Ledoux motif on the dial using a centuries-old Oriental technique.
As well as recognizing the finest watches of the year, the Special Jury Prize from the GPHG is awarded to a person or institution that has played a fundamental role in advancing the cause of high-quality watchmaking. Past recipients have included Walter Lange, the man who resurrected A. Lange & Söhne in 1990 and who sadly passed away this year, and The George Daniels’ Educational Trust, a fund set up to financially assist apprentices and students of horology.
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is the most respected award in the watchmaking industry, and the star-studded red carpet event on November 8th is sure to throw up some surprises. Check out the official website for the complete list of nominees, and look out for our special report on all the winners following the ceremony.