Christmas is just around the corner – but there’s one more thing to look forward to in the watch world before Santa season officially hits.
The annual Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Genève (or GPHG) takes place this year in Geneva on November 9, where some of the world’s best and most innovative timepieces compete across 12 categories. The categories range from Ladies’ Complication to Mechanical Exception, and Artistic Crafts to Chronograph.
Often referred to as the Oscars of the watchmaking industry, its prizes – of which there are 16 in total – are coveted. Apart from the 12 category prizes (where six shortlisted watches compete per category), the other four prizes are: Revival Watch, Special Jury, Public, and the “Aiguille D’or” Grand Prix.
All 72 of the shortlisted timepieces embarked on a travelling exhibition that kick-started on September 28 in Venice, stopping by Hong Kong and Singapore before going back home to Geneva.
We stopped by the Liang Yi Museum, where the exhibition (hosted by LGT private bank and Wine’s Link company) took place in Hong Kong on October 10 and 11, for a quick look.
While all the watches are gorgeous, we picked out a few highlights to share with you.
Van Cleef & Arpels, Lady Arpels Planetarium
Category: Ladies’ Complication
Van Cleef & Arpels created the men’s Midnight Planetarium four years ago, and this year at SIHH it created one for women as part of its Poetic Astronomy collection. On the dial, you can see the sun and its three closest planets, Mercury, Venus and Earth. Earth is special, because its moon is also included. All of these orbit around the sun accurate to its actual speed: 88 days for Mercury, 224 days for Venus and 365 days for Earth. The moon, of course, rotates around the earth in 29.5 days. So you have this beautiful celestial dance happening on your wrist, every single day.
It is powered by a self-winding mechanic movement with the Planetarium module, which comes with a 40-hour power reserve.
Bulgari, Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
Category: Men’s Complication
This timepiece made headlines earlier this year at Baselworld, when it was launched, as the world’s thinnest automatic timepiece with a tourbillon at just 3.95mm thick. This timepiece comes with a new movement, the calibre BVL 288, which only measures 1.95mm thick and yet boasts 52 hours of power reserve. The 42mm case comes in sandblasted titanium, which gives the watch a very sexy matte look, and also houses a flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock. I remember seeing this at Baselworld and it blew my mind.
Seeing it again just reminds me how this doesn’t even register to the naked eye as a real watch – it’s so slim, and so very light, that it almost tricks you into thinking you’re holding a toy watch. The engineering behind is really amazing. This watch is limited to 50 pieces.
Bovet 1822, Récital 22 Grand Récital
Category: Mechanical Exception
The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s very 3D – and that’s the beauty of it.
There are so many things happening on the dial and case back, but a couple we want to highlight include the tellurium orrery and the retrograde perpetual calendar.
An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system that shows the movement of the planets, while tellurium refers to the sun, Earth and moon. Here, on the dial, the sun is represented by a double-sided 9-day flying tourbillon, located at 6 o’clock. You also find the Earth as a 3D hemisphere, where land and ocean have been hand-painted. Some of the paint incorporates luminescent elements, which means the watch glows in the dark. The same luminescent quality can also be seen as accents on other parts of the dial. There is also a spherical moonphase, which makes a complete orbit every 29.53 days. It’s really cool, because the Earth literally twirls around in real time, as does the moon orbiting around it.
And when we turn it to reveal the case back, we see a retrograde perpetual calendar, with a leap-year function, a rotating date-disk with a big date function that is shown on both the dial and case back. This watch took more than three years to develop – and you can see why. The movement is made up of 472 components and is powerful enough to support nine days of power reserve. Only 60 pieces will ever be made.
Straight up, it’s an elegant dress watch with a really great colour palette. The most interesting and notable part of the watch is its retrograde date mechanism. When a new month begins, you’ll see the date hand moving backwards, making an arch, in a smooth, sweeping motion. It is driven by a manual-winding mechanical movement with 65 hours of power reserve, and is limited to just 10 pieces.
Vacheron Constantin, Les Aérostiers
Category: Artistic Crafts
This year at SIHH, Vacheron Constantin unveiled its Les Aérostiers collection, made up of five timepieces inspired by hot air balloons. The watches pay tribute to five air balloon adventures – or “aerostatic experiments” as they were called then – that took place in France from 1783 to 1785. This one depicts a scene in Bagnols in 1785.
These dial demonstrates two notable craftsmanship skills: plique-a-jour enamelling and pounced ornament engraving technique.
This is the first time the maison is using plique-a-jour enamelling, which is used for the translucent background to create an effect similar to stained glass. A multitude of different shades of blue are brought together, creating a depth and an almost 3D effect. Through it, you can read the hour, minute, day and date.
The pounced ornament engraving technique refers to the art of removing material when fashioning relief effects. This requires a high level of expertise as once you remove something, you can’t simply stick it back on. This technique is used to fashion the hot air balloon, which is made of white and yellow gold.