Seen any good watches lately? The jury for the 14th edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie, (which this year includes Hodinkee’s Ben Clymer), have been locked away sustained only by Espressos, Perrier or Pellegrino for liquid sustenance as they debate, deliberate and determine the pick of the crop for 2014. It’s been a hard fought summer but they have now delivered their initial verdict on what the runners and riders will be. They have whittled down a myriad of ambitious and pertinent timepieces to just 72 pre-selected choices which will now go forward to be considered for the coveted Aiguille d’Or, or Golden Arrow Grand Prix, the Oscars of the watch world which this year have seen more entries than ever before with strength in depth in each and every category.
But unlike the Oscars, where the selection panel makes often curious and sometimes perplexing decisions, the Foundation of the GPHG invites you, the consumer, to visit its www.gphg.org site in to discover the watches in the running. In addition to the “Aiguille d’Or” there are 16 other prestigious prizes up for grabs, each of which create excellent publicity for the winning watch brands.
Very much in evidence this year is the growth in independent companies vying for contention with ambitious new watches. Brands both large and small are given equal consideration, because judging criteria is not about the marketing power of the product, but the creativity and ingenuity of the design concept.
The travelling exhibition, which displays the watches to an appreciative global audience of connoisseurs and collectors, reflects the way in which up and coming BRICS countries have become vitally important new markets for luxury watches and so subsequently destinations which would not have been considered just ten years ago are now very much on the schedule, these include stopovers such as New Delhi and Beijing, in addition to the more usual venues of Geneva and London.
The tour will get under way in late September, stopping first in New Delhi on September 26th and 27th, where the exhibition will be on show at the Swiss Embassy and then at the Imperial Hotel. For the second year running, the Maison des Arts – Yishu 8 in Beijing will be presenting the pre-selected watches from October 10th to 12th 2014; while Geneva will as per tradition, host the exhibition’s third stop-over in the Cité du Temps from October 23rd to November 2nd. For the last stage of the roadshow, the winning watches in all the many 2014 categories will be on display in London following the prize-giving ceremony at the SalonQP.
So which brands and which models have made it through to the final 72? For the most part, it’s no surprise to reveal that it’s a pretty exclusive and rarefied field. Under the Men’s section there is strong representation from the upper echelons of the mighty House of Swatch including the Breguet Classique Chronométrie, and the OMEGA Seamaster 300. But some fiercely independent brands are also up for consideration such as MB&F’s Legacy Machine 101, and the Central Second from Danish/Swiss brand Urban Jürgensen & Sønner, a company owned by passionate and knowledgeable watch connoisseur Dr. Helmut Crott.
The watches are divided by complications. Under Chronometers this year there is the likes of the Chopard LUC 1963, the Zenith El Primero 410, and the much admired OMEGA Dark Side of the Moon.
For Tourbillons one has to wonder whether Jean-Claude Biver was on the jury (he’s not). Many of the brands have had, or continue to have, the benefit of his input. This includes the Blancpain 12 Day One Minute Tourbillon, (Biver sold the brand prior to Hublot) the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon (LVMH), and the TAG Heuer Carrera MikroPendulum Tourbillon (LVMH). Other contenders include clever Dutch independents Bart and Tim Gronefeld, Montblanc and Breguet.
Among the Sports watches category are Bell & Ross’ BR126 Vintage Sport Heritage GMT Flyback, the Hublot Aerofusion Chronograph Pele which the legendary footballer wore throughout the World Cup in the summer, and a surprise contender from the Swatch Group’s Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar – good to see representation from at least one watch which the average punter can afford.
You can decide upon your favourites by visiting the website and eyeing the form. When or if you decide to cast your vote for the Public Prize, bear in mind that you only get one vote for one watch out of all the categories, not each category, so take time to decide on your true overall favourite.
GPHG 2014: The Jury for this year
- Aurel Bacs, watchmaking and vintage watches expert / Switzerland
- Carlos Alonso, publisher and editor-in-chief of Tiempo de Relojes and director of the SIAR / Mexico
- Jean-Philippe Arm, editor-in-chief of Watch Around / Switzerland
- René Beyer, co-owner and CEO of Beyer Chronometrie AG and of the Watch and Clock Museum in Zurich / Switzerland
- Benjamin Clymer, founder and editor-in-chief of Hodinkee / USA
- Zhixiang Ding, publisher and editor-in-chief of Chronos China / China
- Elizabeth Doerr, freelance specialised watch journalist / Germany
- Philippe Dufour, watchmaker / Switzerland
- Moritz Elsaesser, watchmaker CW 21, president and owner of Mainly Watches, collector / USA
- Dominique Fléchon, historian and expert with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie / Switzerland-France
- Nick Foulkes, historian, author, contributor to the Financial Times / United Kingdom
- John Goldberger, watch collector, author and publisher of books on vintage watches / Italy
- Nazanin Lankarani, independent art writer, contributor to the International Herald Tribune and NY Times / France-Iran
- Sean Li, watch collector, editor in chief of Revolution Hong Kong and editorial director of watches of Tatler Asia / China
- Takeshi Matsuyama, author, history of watch, contributor to the Men’s EX /Japan
- John Mayer, musician, singer, producer and collector / USA
- Paola Pujia, editor-in-chief of Orologi-Le Misure del Tempo / Italy
- William Massena, collector, managing director TimeZone.com, watch expert at Bonhams Auctioneers / Unites States
- Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, vice-president of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons / Dubai
- Claude Sfeir, collector, gemologist, jeweler / Lebanon
- Antoine Simonin, watchmaker, teacher, former director of Worstep / Switzerland
- Michael Tay, Executive director of The Hour Glass Limited / Singapore
- Patrick Wehrli, expert, Passion for Watchmaking / Switzerland
- Jean-Michel Wilmotte, architect, town-planner, designer / France
And Michele Sofisti, CEO of Girard-Perregaux, brand laureate of the 2013 “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix, out of competition in 2014. The brand that wins the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix is automatically ineligible for the competition the following year, and its founder or CEO is invited to sit on the jury for one year.