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GPHG 2021 Awards – My Winners

The Oscars of the Watch World

Last week saw the announcement of the shortlisted watches for the GPHG 2021 Awards.

Every year, the GPHG (or Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève), celebrates the watch industry with a series of awards, presented to the best watches released over the course of the previous year. Think of it like the Oscars of watchmaking.

The way that this works, is that the GPHG Academy (just over 500 individuals within the watch industry, such as Aurel Bacs, Jean-Claude Biver, Jack Forster, and Pietro Tomajer) will vote for between 1 and 12 watches for at least 8 of the 14 categories, which is then followed by a round of voting to whittle down these nominees to the shortlist. Then, a jury comprising 30 of the GPHG Academy members will assess and deliberate the watches in person before casting their votes, which are combined with votes cast by the remaining members of the Academy – the weighting of the votes is such that the jury’s votes count for two thirds to the remainder of the academy’s votes counting for the remaining third.

Each of the 14 categories has an award presented to the team behind the winning watch at the ceremony in Geneva, which this year takes place on 4th November.

I have listed out each category and the shortlist for these below, including the official GPHG description for each award, and then picked my winner from each category so we can see how my eye compares with that of the GPHG 2021 Jury and Academy when they announce their results later this year!

There’s 14 categories to get through, so let’s get stuck in.

GPHG 2021 Awards – Shortlists and My Winners

Ladies’ Award

Officially described as “women’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases – and potentially adorned with a maximum 9-carat gemsetting.”

Ladies Award Shortlist 2021

All screengrabs - GPHG.org

My winner: Bovet, Miss Audrey Sweet Art. There are two things I really like about this watch – firstly, the shaped hands which come together once every hour and 5 minutes or so to form a heart, and secondly the fact that the dial is made entirely of sugar – hence the name. This new technique from the artisans of Bovet ensures that not only is every piece in essence a piece unique, but is something that has never before been seen in watchmaking, and so for me this deserves the GPHG Ladies’ Award for 2021.

Ladies’ Complication Award

Officially described as “women’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These watches may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications (e.g. annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases, tourbillon, digital or retrograde time display, world time, dual time or other types of model) and do not fit the definition of the Ladies’ category.”

Ladies complication shortlist

My winner: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Lady Féerie watch. One of the things I find appealing about this piece is the way in which it uses a hallmark of the brand with the fairy to almost tell a never-ending story, the beautifully finished fairy on the dial hovering elegantly over a mother of pearl dial, casting a magic spell as her arm – acting as a retrograde minutes indication – moves up and down the dial, each hour changing the jumping hour display. This fanciful concept is why, for me, it would win this year’s GPHG Ladies’ Complication award.

Men’s Award

Officially described as “men’s watches comprising the following indications only – hours, minutes, seconds, simple date (day of the month), power reserve, classic moon phases – and potentially adorned with a maximum 5-carat gemsetting.”

GPHG Awards 2021 Mens shortlist

My winner: Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein La Semaine. Distinctively an Alain Silberstein design, my favourite thing about this watch is the concept of using emoji faces instead of days – a range of expressions between happy and smiley, presumably Saturday, through to a sad look which most of us would most definitely associate with Mondays! The great thing about this is that the wearer can choose to associate whichever expression to whichever day, making it a truly unique experience for them! The case shape and the way it connects with the strap, as well as an incredibly practical conical shaped crown are why for me, this year’s GPHG Men’s award would go to Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein.

Men’s Complication Award

Officially described as “men’s watches that are remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These watches may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications (e.g. world time, dual time or other types of model) and do not fit the definition of the Men’s and Mechanical Exception categories.”

GPHG Awards 2021 Mens Complication shortlist

My winner: MB&F LMX Titanium. I am a huge fan of Max Büsser and his brand MB&F (read my interview with Max here), and when this piece was launched as a celebration of 10 years of the MB&F Legacy Machine, you knew it was going to be something special. The LMX did not disappoint, with a dual time display across two tilted dials, and a three-dimensional, 7-day power reserve indicator which allows you to indicate with the remaining number of days 1 through 7, or set it to use as a day indication by rotating the display to show the days of the week instead. This is why, in my mind, the Men’s Complication award would go to MB&F’s LMX.

Iconic Award

Officially described as “watches from an emblematic collection that has been exercising a lasting influence on watchmaking history and the watch market for more than 20 years.”

GPHG 2021 Iconic Award Shortlist

My winner: Grand Seiko’s Recreation of the first Grand Seiko. This was a really close call for me, between the Grand Seiko and the Zenith Chronomaster Revival. I decided to go with the Grand Seiko though, as whilst I personally find some of their watches and limited edition releases a little repetitive at times, this recreation of the first Grand Seiko watch from 1960 comes at a time where the brand’s popularity is certainly on the rise. My hope is that this release would encourage collectors to delve a little deeper into the context and the history of the brand (I did a write up Grand Seiko previously here) to learn there is more to Grand Seiko than perhaps meets the eye, which is why I would give Grand Seiko the GPHG Iconic category award this year.

Tourbillon Award

Officially described as “men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one tourbillon. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.”

GPHG 2021 Tourbillon shortlist

My winner: Girard-Perregaux, Tourbillon with Three Flying Bridges, Aston Martin edition. My choice for the GPHG Tourbillon award would be Girard-Perregaux’s entry. As a brand, I feel Girard-Perregaux is somewhat underappreciated – broadly speaking – and the watches that they make or of incredible quality. For me this is personified with this incredible skeletonised watch, built around their traditional three bridges concept and a minimalist-looking tourbillon movement appearing to ‘fly’ within the watch. A difficult choice amongst some great competition but I would be truly happy to see Girard-Perregaux pick up this year’s Tourbillon award.

Calendar and Astronomy Award

Officially described as “men’s mechanical watches comprising at least one calendar and/or astronomical complication (e.g. date, annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, complex moon phases display, etc.). Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.”

GPHG 2021 calendar and astronomy

My winner: Arnold & Son Luna Magna. In a category which I thought would be really difficult to find a winner from, full of incredible watches, the struggle for me ended up being to look past this entry from Arnold & Son (the brand named after the great John Arnold) with the Luna Magna. There is something that really appeals to me about the use of ‘negative space’ on a watch dial, and in this instance, the large spherical moon (the largest rotating moon ever included in a wristwatch) made from aventurine and marble just looks spectacular against the aventurine dial. Objectively, this is a magnificent piece, and my pick for the winner of the Calendar and Astronomy category award.

Mechanical Exception Award

Officially described as “watches featuring a special mechanism, such as an innovative or sophisticated display, an automaton, a striking or any other acoustic function, a special escapement, a belt-driven movement or any other original and/or exceptional horological concept.”

GPHG 2021 mechanical exception

My winner: Miki Eleta’ Svernir. The name Svernir means universe, and perhaps a clock is a more suitable canvas for the universe than a wristwatch, much better able to convey the sense of scale. So far as my reason for picking this as my winner of the Mechanical Exception category, it’s hard to look past this incredible clock, which includes hours, minutes, day, date, month, year, moon phase, power reserve, jumping hours, worldtime, perpetual calendar, equation of time, a special escapement, a day-night indicator, signs of the Zodiac, seasons, tides, equinoxes, solstices, and two astronomical models. If that doesn’t grab you as a mechanical exception, I’m honestly not sure what would!

Chronograph Award

Officially described as “mechanical watches comprising at least one chronograph indication. Additional indications and/or complications are admissible.”

GPHG 2021 chronograph shortlist

My winner: Angelus U30 Black Tourbillon, Flyback and Split-Second Chronograph. This category was another that for me was between two winners, but ultimately, I picked the Angelus U30 over the Zenith Chronomaster Sport (apologies to Zenith as that is two runners-up positions I have given them now!). My reason being though that I found it difficult to have not given the award to Angelus given the chronograph movement has both a split-second chronograph and has a flyback mechanism, both of which are extraordinarily complex mechanisms. It also features a skeletonised movement, and a tourbillon to boot. So far as chronographs go, this movement having both split-second and flyback function means it would be a worthy winner of the award for my vote.

Diver’s Award

Officially described as “watches linked to the world of diving, whose functions, materials and design are suited to this activity.”

GPHG 2021 divers

My winner: Doxa Sub 300 Carbon COSC Aquamarine. Dive watches for me personally aren’t really my cup of tea but looking at the shortlist for this category there was one standout – the Doxa. I think this is a piece which is both fun and practical, and packs a lot of punch given it’s an eminently wearable watch with carbon case, a COSC certified automatic movement with just shy of 2 days power reserve, and 300 metres of water resistance, all with a clear link to the history of the Doxa Sub 300.

Jewellery Award

Officially described as “watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of the art of jewellery and gemsetting, and also distinguished by the choice of stones.”

GPHG jewellery 2021

My winner: Piaget Exquisite Moments Watch. If I were a GPHG Academy member, I have to confess this is probably a category I might refrain from voting in, as high jewellery isn’t really something I know a great deal about at all. My thinking behind this pick is that, in my opinion, this particular piece is the most beautiful piece of jewellery amongst those on the shortlist, and the one which I would wear, if high jewellery watches designed for ladies were my thing!

Artistic Crafts Award

Officially described as “watches demonstrating exceptional mastery of one or several artistic techniques such as enamelling, lacquering, engraving, guilloché (engine-turning), skeleton-working, etc.”

GPHG artistic crafts 2021

My winner: Bulgari Divas’ Dream Peacock Collection. With all due respect to the incredible pieces in this shortlist, I found this to be quite an easy choice for me personally; I was fortunate enough to see the Divas’ Dream up close earlier this year, and it both blew my mind and also opened my eyes to an entire artistic craft that I didn’t even know existed in feather marquetry – the dial of this watch is made from around 500 peacock feathers! The other pieces in the shortlist are exceptional, but given they are crafts I was previously aware of, I decided to go for the Divas’ Dream as for me it also served to both amaze and educate.

GPHG 2021 “Petite Aiguille” Award

Officially described as “watches with a retail price between CHF 3,500 and CHF 10,000. Smartwatches are admissible in this category.”

GPHG petite aiguille 2021

My winner: Tudor Black Bay Ceramic. Again, this category was a tough pick for me between this and the Louis Erard x Vianney Halter Le Régulateur, but in the end I had to go for the Tudor. Given the criteria for this award is predominantly the price, my thinking is that in terms of bang for your buck I think this watch will take some serious beating. For a retail price of CHF 4,500 you get: a ceramic case which offers 200 metres water resistance, an automatic movement with 70 hours power reserve and silicon escapement, which is both COSC and Master Chronometer certified, and a five-year guarantee. Factor in the brand and the quality associated with them and parent brand Rolex, I simply wouldn’t be able to look past the Black Bay Ceramic for the Petite Aiguille award.

GPHG 2021 Challenge Award

Officially described as “watches with a retail price equal to or under CHF 3,500. Smartwatches are admissible in this category.”

GPHG 2021 Challenge shortlist

My winner: AnOrdain Model 1 – Payne’s Grey Fumé. My final award would go to AnOrdain, a small independent brand in Scotland producing wonderful, enamel dial watches which I think look fantastic. Enamelling is an incredibly difficult skill, and for me this is what makes them stand out amongst the others in this category shortlist as offering something that wouldn’t commonly be associated with the price band of the Challenge category. Having seen one of these in person as well I can attest to the quality of the work, and would love to see AnOrdain win a GPHG Challenge award in November.

In Summary

There you have it, a whistle-stop tour through the GPHG 2021 Shortlist, and my picks for who would the GPHG 2021 Award winners. I am quite looking forward to watching the awards on November 4th to see how my picks fare!

For more information, check out GPHG.org.

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