Each year the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève – or GPHG, as the majority of non-french speaking folks prefer to call it – turns into the sparkling celebration of the hottest watchmaking techniques and designs. Being the closest watchmaking equivalent to the Oscars, it really shows where are we now in terms of trends, creativity, and innovations. And while only the few of short-listed pieces are destined to win on November 7, they all deserve a closer look, for – just like with the Oscars – the ensemble of the nominees can tell you much more about the here-and-now industry conditions, than the winners alone.

Table of contents

Ladies’

The category meant for the watches bearing only a handful of indications and a maximum of 8-carat gem-setting looks extremely promising starting with Bvlgari Serpenti Seduttori, this years’ grand premier for the Roman brand, reimagining the trademark snake-design, and followed by the new version of the Chanel J12 going all-white with one-piece ceramic case. The Hermès Galop d’Hermès – another huge 2019 premier – follows the form of a stirrup, just like the namesake perfume bottle. Then we have the funky Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski Titanium Alternative Pavé, a cool example of how to gem-set a watch in half, and get a 100% result, and Moritz Grossmann Tefnut Arabian Nights Milanaise, a very feminine and a very mechanically satisfying timepiece by the German brand better known for their men’s watches. And finally there’s the Van Cleef & Arpels Perlée – a stunning secret watch pretending to be a bracelet.

Men’s

The category of not too complicated men’s watches is clearly ruled by the independents this year. To make things even more crazy, there’s just one big brand nominated! A cool-looking newcomer the Alchemists Mechanical Healing Cu29 is actually the very first watch by the Swiss boutique brand. Apart from the original architecture and top-level finishings, it utilizes an interesting metal alloy Cuprum 479 for the case, positively effecting your body. Then we have the mighty De BethuneDB28 Yellow Tones made from a temperature treated titanium, the anniversary flagship Grand Seiko Spring Drive Manual-winding Platinum with a new caliber and a rare type of finishings of the dial and the case. The Grönefeld 1941 Principia Automatic is a relatively simple watch with an proprietary caliber and top level finishings by the horological brothers Bart and Tim Grönefeld. The same can said about the Bridge One by the living watchmaking legend Laurent Ferrier, with one but important addition, – it’s the first time his namesake brand went after the rectangular case and caliber. The last, but certainly not least here is Kari Voutilainen with his 28ti – a watch that has its indications right on the movement side. Voutilainen mechanics are so breathtaking, that fans have been craving for such a version for years.

Ladies’ Complication

The gorgeous Bvlgari Divas' Dream The Roman Night indicate hours and minutes via two rotating aventurine discs with diamond pointers and a star map, and of course there’s no shortage of diamonds and sapphires. Chaumet Soleil de Minuit Flying Tourbillon could easily compete in Jewelry category, but thanks to the originally decorated flying tourbillon and a 100-hour power reserve it feels quite a solid option in any complication-full category. Jacob&Co. Fleurs de Jardin seems to be a rare feminine take on a trademark Astronomia concept. Every object seen under this miniature showcase rotates around the dial, including the main time register, the gemstone flower, and the double axis flying tourbillon. Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Paved uses the already familiar principle of showing the jumping hour with the help of rotating cubes. This time there’s a lot of diamonds involved though. MB&F Legacy Machine FlyingT – easily one of the most talked-about Baselworld pieces – was the first ever watch designed by the brand with ladies in mind with its slightly inclined off-centered time sub-dial and a flying tourbillon towering in the center. Finally, we’ve got the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Zodiac Lumineux Aries watch with a gorgeous astronomical dial and a trademark electro-mechanical complication able to lit it up for a few seconds for the bigger effect.

Men’s Complication

The brand new Code 11.59 collection by Audemars Piguet is present with its flagship reference – the Minute Repeater Supersonnerie, providing the new looks with tons of mechanical prowess and a 300+ thousand price tag. The elegant Czapek Genève Place Vendôme ‘Ombres’ lays down a second time zone, a tourbillon, and a day/night complication in a traditional pocket-watch-style symmetry, yet embodies some modern feel thanks to the titanium case. The DC6-Solstice by the independent watchmaker David Candaux rocks not only the beautifully unconventional case but also the flying tourbillon slightly inclined from the horizontal axis. The stealthy Ulysse Nardin Freak X brings the winding crown into the game for the first time in almost 20-year series, and thus making this trademark flying carrousel more affordable, relatively speaking of course, considering its 21'000 CHF price tag. The Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon is a perfect example of the hottest steel sporty watch on an integrated bracelet with a breathtaking tourbillon at 6 o’clock. And as you can guess from the name, the Zenith Defy El Primero Double Tourbillon has two tourbillons – a traditional one-minute tourbillon for the regular time duties, and a five-seconds tourbillon for the chronograph function. Needless to say, it’s pretty wild to witness them in action.

Iconic

The special category praising this year’s heirs to the emblematic watch collections is super fun because everyone seems to have long term favorites here. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-thin is all about the rarity of colors: this 39 mm white gold watch comes with the pink gold-toned ‘Petite Tapisserie’ dial that only appeared for the Royal Oak’s 20th anniversary in 1992. Entirely made of sapphire crystal, Girard-Perregaux Quasar is a totally different beast. Its Black PVD titanium movement basically has no mainplate, but still follows the 150-year tradition of the trademark golden bridges architecture. Hamilton Intra-Matic Automatic Chronograph is a relatively inexpensive blue-creamy panda dial sport watch, owing its style to the chronographs’ golden age of the late 60-s. IWC Schaffhausen Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years” first introduced at the 2018 SIHH reimagines the renowned jumping hour and minute pocket watch from 1884. TAG Heuer Monaco Eighties is one of five anniversary Monacos released this year, and the Zenith El Primero A384 Revival is the faithful recreation of one of three original El Primeros.

Chronometry

While the GPHG rules on this category may sound a bit cheeky – we all know, the tourbillon doesn’t really help the functional performance in a wristwatch – putting the tourbillons against ‘special escapements and/or another development improving chronometry’ actually makes a lot of sense. This years’ draft starts with absolutely insane Antoine Preziuso TTR3 Blue Equalizer Frequencies – a unique 24 carat sapphire-set version of a watch with three tourbillons sitting atop the carousel. Next comes a tour-de-force in symmetrical mechanics Armin Strom Pure Resonance Rose Gold, with its two regulating organs mirroring each other and counterbalancing each other’s potential micro flaws. The mighty Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud Carburised Steel Regulator features a direct-drive centre seconds tourbillon paired with the beautiful antique constant force principle – the fusee-and-chain transmission. IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition ‘Le Petit Prince’ also features a tourbillon paired with a constant force mechanism, but in a form of a traditional wristwatch. Moreover, this 10-piece edition is the first Big Pilot’s tourbillon watch ever. Finally we’ve got two pieces featuring some ultra modern technology: the TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph with its carbon-composite hairspring and the Zenith Defy Inventor – a serially produced model following several concept mechanical watches beating at the crazy frequency of 129600 variations per hours.

Calendar and Astronomy

Here we’ve got the second contender from the new Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 collection, a perpetual calendar with a stunning aventurine dial, and a second Ferdinand Berthoud piece – the Chronométrie Far Side Of The Moon. This feature-packed powerhouse by the boutique brand gives the spotlight to the Moon, and hides the tourbillon on the caseback side. The Girard-Perregaux Cosmos rocks two rotating hemispheres next to the tourbillon – one with the Earth’s image, the other – with the constellations. Hermès Arceau L'heure de la Lune uses the time and date sub-dials as the traditional moonphase discs, proving that sometimes a rather simple and elegant technical solution can have an enormous aesthetic impact. Ulysse Nardin Marine Mega Yacht features some top complications including a tourbillon and a 3-D Moon in a form of the essential sailing-vessel parts. Finally, we have the Sarpaneva Lunations, a truly unique approach to the moonphase by the Finnish independent watchmaker, this time utilizing an optical fibre.

Mechanical Exception

This category traditionally gets the biggest wow-factor of all the GPHG nominees, and this time is no different. The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin with the movement of 2.89 mm and a case of 6.3 mm thick is officially the thinnest automatic perpetual calendar on the market. The Bvlgari Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar combines a perpetual calendar with several striking functions in an unconventional carbon case and transparent hi-tech appearance. Genus, a new kid on the block comes waving the mighty GNS1.2 – a super complicated time-only watch featuring, among other things, the tens-of-minutes pointer that constantly changes the orbit of its spin. The new Ulysse Nardin flagship Freak NeXt introduces the new silicon ‘flying oscillator’, as the brand calls it. The absolutely crazy Urwerk AMC is a mechanical watch able to synchronize with the portable atomic clock when docked together for nighttime. And finally, there’s the Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat perpetual calendar, a watch with switchable regulating organs – a traditional one beating at 5 hertz for wearing the watch on your wrist and a slow one beating at 1.2 hertz for what can be called a stand-by mode. The latter provides the piece with the unbelievable 65-day power reserve.

Chronograph

This category perfectly illustrates what GPHG is actually about: all contenders come from the totally different aesthetic paths, yet they’re very convincing when put in context next to each other. The Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic is the current holder of three world-thinnest records and a great modern everyday watch all around. Chopard L.U.C Chrono One Flyback, on the contrary, reaches for a lot more classic appearance with a stylish touch of a rare dark-green color. The Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT 3D Carbon praises the 90-year Ferrari anniversary with a nice and fresh automotive-inspired design. Louis Moinet Chronosphère evokes some classy antique designs by a 46-mm statement piece with a very attractive 10-second retrograde chrono counter. TAG Heuer Carrera Tourbillon Nanograph combines a tourbillon, a chronograph, and a new trademark carbon-composite hairspring in one ultra-hi-tech package going for under CHF 25,000. And talking of hi-tech designs, there’s also a stunningly futuristic Zenith Defy El Primero 21 Carbon here, featuring a carbon case and a 50Hz chronograph.

Divers’

Let’s just say the name of the category is more about genre aesthetics than the actual range of use. And still, some may be shocked seeing De Bethune here. Fear not, the DB28GS Grand Bleu is officially the brand’s first sport watch. Sure, it has got all the trademark looks and haute horlogerie finishings, but this time with the addition of a 100 meter water resistance and a unidirectional diving bezel. Оh, and there’s also a mechanical lighting system onboard. Longines HydroConquest is a no-fuss automatic diver with three hands and a date, now rocking a matt-black ceramic case. A relatively lesser known French brand Reservoir makes quite an entrance with a Hydrosphere Blackfin – a steel diver featuring jumping hours, retrograde minutes and a unconventional power reserve indication. Instead of traditional hands, the stealthy Type 5 uses oil and magnets to tell the time, just like all Ressence watches do. The funny thing is, it can be perfectly read under water! And in combination with the 100 meter water resistance this slim titanium watch suddenly becomes a diver’s darling. In case of Seiko Prospex LX there’s not much to be surprised about: combining a rich diving heritage of the brand, the premium execution and price a little south of 7 grand. The same pretty much goes to the Ulysse Nardin Diver Great White – a proper luxury diver by the respected brand. The colors are strikingly nice though, with the grey titanium case standing next to the dark grey dial and creamy accents as well as the rubber strap.

Jewellery

Ready for some serious bling? You’d better be, for we start with the Bvlgari Serpenti Misteriosi Romani – a breathtaking secret watch, set with baguette-cut diamond scales, sapphires and crowned by a large 10-carat Sri Lankan sapphire. The Chopard Waterlily continues the show with the 43 carats of diamonds covering the floral-themed case and bracelet. The dial of the Hermès Arceau H Déco shines with tons of tiny diamond-set arcs surrounding a double H twirls in the center. Hublot Big Bang One Click Rainbow brings some additional fun to the party with the help of 48 baguette-cut gems on the bezel and 425 brilliant-cut stones on the dial and case. We’re talking rubies, pink sapphires, amethysts, blue sapphires, blue topazes, tsavorites, yellow sapphires and orange sapphires. The Mystery Tourbillon by Jacob&Co is actually two linked central triple axis tourbillons spinning in the sea of baguette set diamonds. The time is shown via sapphire pointers sitting atop of the two rotating mystery disks. And finally, we’ve got the Van Cleef & Arpels Jardin de Glace Secret Watch, a full-blown jewelry masterpiece, crowned by the oval-cut 10.30-carat sapphire.

Artistic Crafts

Maybe the most tradition-packed category of the GPHG marks the best artisans following the centuries-old techniques. Bear in mind, the watchmaking prowess here is only optional to the stunning exteriors. Let’s start with the Andersen Genève Vita Vinum, with a month indication done via a large miniature painted rotating disc telling the story of fine vine making. The yellow gold Bereve Timepieces Numbers is all about that Champlevé Enamel version of the Numbers by Italian artist Ugo Nespolo. Each dial takes about 150 working hours. The flowers of the Chopard L.U.C XP Esprit de Fleurier Peony are all done in mother-of-pearl while the manually wound movement is hand-engraved with the corresponding floral motif. The scene on the Hermès Arceau Baobab Cat dial is inspired by a silk scarf and executed by the mother-of-pearl painting and engraving. The Jacob&Co Astronomia Dragon features, well, a dragon, hand sculptured, hand-engraved, and sitting right in the middle of the usual mechanical extravaganza full of double-axis tourbillons and satellites. And of course it wouldn’t be a GPHG Artistic Crafts category without a Voutilainen watch, right? His Starry Night Vine cleverly combines two different techniques with half of the dial decorated by the Japanese lacquer artists Tatsuo Kitamura – who previously had some wins in this category together with Kari – while the second half went to the enamel artist Anita Porchet.

Petite Aiguille

This category represents the most interesting watches with retail prices between 4,000 and 10,000 CHF, proving that GPHG recognizes the cool product regardless of it’s price segment. David Rutten Meteorite Watches Streamline worth some closer look for the eye-catchy, even if polarizing rectangular case and the art-deco in-window indication. IWC Schaffhausen Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire shows the military side of the brand’s DNA without even stripping off the gold. Kudoke Kudoke 2 is a rare value-for-money dress watch that actually looks like nothing else on the market. The centerpiece of the Maurice Lacroix Aikon Mercury is a trademark free-hand system that lets the hour and minute hands freely spin following the motion of your hand. But look for the time, and here they are, on their correct places. The Trilobe Les Matinaux Sunray Grey tells time with the help of three cleverly off-centered rings, while the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Silver is all about the brushed silver riveted dial, mimicking the texture of a vintage aircraft fuselage.

Challenge

This is where the competition gets even tougher, with the mandatory under CHF 4,000 price; the nominees are all over the place in terms of genre and purpose. For example a rather avant-garde CIGA Design Single-Hand Mechanical Wristwatch Series·Globe showing hours and minutes via a single red pointer and a huge rotating globe stands next to the Doxa SUB 200 – the most traditional diver you can imagine. For the second year in a row the guys from Gorilla Watches enter the shortlist with their relatively affordable version of the satellite hour complication – this time in Fastback GT Drift. Ming 17.06 Copper is all about bringing the modern vibe into an everyday watch concept, while the Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial successfully gets the opposite direction train. And finally there’s the Tudor Black Bay P01 – a rather unique take on vintage super-masculine diver aesthetics.