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GPHG 2021: Celebrating Horology’s Time-Honoured Virtues

Elevated basics and classics and vivacious women’s watches steal the show at Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2021.

The annual ‘horological Oscars’, which took place over the weekend, had been shaping up to be an interesting contest. Given that that hand of the watch industry was forced by an unprecedented global health crisis, in which commercial appeal and sales turnover pretty much took priority in shaping the roll-out of watches in the past two years, we were piqued to see the type of offerings that were put on the pedestal at the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

The winning watches of the 17 award categories (there were 18 awards, but the Special Jury Prize salutes a personality, institution or initiative, instead of a watch or brand) demonstrated the voting academy’s predilection towards creations that hark back to the basic, traditional tenets of horology – slimness, performance and beauty.

Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar Titanium (Aiguille d’Or 2021)

The evening’s top award, the Aiguille d’Or, went to Bvlgari for the Octo Finissimo Titanium Perpetual Calendar, the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar measuring just 5.8 mm in height. An ultra-slim, ultra-practical complication. The watch’s technical mastery and record-breaking achievement aside, this, in our books, is a deserving winner that echoes the watch industry’s creative sentiment in these unusual times.

Zenith Chronomaster Sport (Chronograph Watch Prize, 2021)

Elsewhere, winners like Zenith’s Chronomaster Sport, featuring its new in-house high-frequency chronograph movement (Chronograph Watch Prize); Tudor’s METAS-certified Black Bay Ceramic (Petite Aiguille Prize); Piaget’s Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, one of the world’s thinnest automatic watches at 4.30mm thick (Mechanical Exception Watch Prize); and Grand Seiko’s Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours Calibre 9SA5 (Men’s Watch Prize) all espouse similar objectives of superlative functionality and technical sophistication.

Of course, watches with imagination and outstanding decorative flair were also given their due. And for these, the jury went with colour and capriciousness – and lots of baubles – especially with women’s watches.

Van Cleef & Arpels won the Ladies’ Complication Watch Prize for its Lady Féerie Watch with an animated retrograde complication set against mother-of-pearl and diamonds. Other epic displays of bejewelled prowess include the likes of Chopard’s Flower Power, a red carpet-stunner resembling a flower garland for the wrist brimming with pink sapphires, pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds totalling around 30 carats, which won the Jewellery Watch Prize; and Piaget’s Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow, a retro-inspired yellow gold watch set with coloured stones that won the Ladies’ Watch Prize.

Chopard Flower Power (Jewellery Watch Prize 2021)

It is true that the watch trade has taken a scare, and needed to exercise careful pedal-control with its offerings in recent times. But even as brands manoeuvre unfamiliar business landscapes, the winners at GPHG 2021, ostensibly representing some of the best of modern watchmaking, demonstrate that there is no better time to realign for the business to take stock and reassess their values – and celebrate all that’s good about them.

Aiguille d’Or Grand Prix: BVLGARI, Octo Finissimo
Men’s Watch Prize: GRAND SEIKO, Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours Caliber 9SA5
Men’s Complication Watch Prize: MB&F, LMX Titanium
Ladies’ Watch Prize: PIAGET, Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow
Ladies’ Complication Watch Prize: VAN CLEEF & ARPELS, Lady Féerie Watch
Iconic Watch Prize: AUDEMARS PIGUET, Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin
Tourbillon Watch Prize: DE BETHUNE, DB Kind of Two Tourbillon
Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize: CHRISTIAAN VAN DER KLAAUW, CVDK Planetarium Eise Eisinga
Mechanical Exception Watch Prize: PIAGET, Altiplano Ultimate Automatic
Chronograph Watch Prize: ZENITH, Chronomaster Sport
Diver’s Watch Prize: LOUIS VUITTON, Tambour Street Diver Skyline Blue
Jewellery Watch Prize: CHOPARD, Flower Power
Artistic Crafts Watch Prize: MB&F, LM SE Eddy Jaquet Around the World in Eighty Days’
Petite Aiguille Prize: TUDOR, Black Bay Ceramic
Challenge Watch Prize: CIGA DESIGN, Blue Planet
Innovation Prize: BERNHARD LEDERER, Central Impulse Chronometer
Audacity Prize: LOUIS VUITTON, Tambour Carpe Diem
Horological Revelation Prize: FURLAN MARRI, MR. Grey Ref. 1041-A
Special Jury Prize: Dubai Watch Week


Ex Editor-In Chief

Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.