Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Exclusive First Look at the Contenders for Watch of the Year

Almost 200 watches are going head-to-head for this year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, watchmaking’s top competition. Here’s what to watch

The Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) is the most prestigious award ceremony in watchmaking—and we have an early first look at this year's nominees.

Makers big and small submit their latest creations to a jury of experts (including celebrity guest judges who also happen to be watch nerds, like Kiss drummer Eric Singer) to be considered across 12 categories. At this stage there are 193 watches from 84 different brands that meet the criteria worth judging. Before the Oct. 29 ceremony, a short list of finalists will be announced, clarifying things a little. Then the jury will huddle for two days in a Geneva hotel to debate each and every detail before voting on winners and crowning the watches of the year.

For now, the almost 200-strong list presents a macro look at the state of the industry in all its quirky glory. Here are this year's entries in alphabetical order and my thoughts on what to, well, watch.

 

Artistic Crafts

Clockwise from top left: Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds "Ode to the week" - Tuesday(Planet Mars), Louis Vuitton "Cruise" Jewelry Watch, Piaget Altiplano Scrimshaw, Chanel Mademoiselle Privé 1932 Comète, Blancpain Villeret Cadran Shakudo, DeLaneau Rondo 42 Elements
Clockwise from top left: Schwarz Etienne La Chaux-de-Fonds "Ode to the week" - Tuesday(Planet Mars), Louis Vuitton "Cruise" Jewelry Watch, Piaget Altiplano Scrimshaw, Chanel Mademoiselle Privé 1932 Comète, Blancpain Villeret Cadran Shakudo, DeLaneau Rondo 42 Elements
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

These are watches where the mechanism inside is less important than the ornate work put into the cases, dials, and jewels—they grab your attention immediately. Enamel work and gem setting are in the field every year, but the layered metal Shakudo dial from Blancpain is truly unusual, and the sort of thing you could imagine yourself staring at for hours. It strikes the right balance between being a little over the top without going totally crazy.

ArtyA — Arabesque Tourbillon
Blancpain — Villeret, Cadran Shakudo
Chanel — Mademoiselle Privé 1932 Comète
Chaumet — Attrape-moi... si tu m'aimes
Chopard — Happy Fish
Christophe Claret — Aventicum
DeLaneau — Rondo 42 Elements
Girard-Perregaux — The Chambers of Wonders - The New World
Harry Winston — Premier Precious Butterfly Automatic 36mm
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès Koma Kurabé
HYT — Skull Red Eye
Longio — Mi Time Art-Winter
Louis Vuitton — "Cruise" Jewelry Watch
Piaget — Altiplano Scrimshaw
Ralph Lauren — RL Automotive Timepiece Skeleton
Romain Gauthier — Logical One Secret Kakau Höfke
Schwarz Etienne — La Chaux-de-Fonds "Ode to the week" Tuesday (Planet Mars)

 

Calendar

Clockwise from top left: Hermès Slim d'Hermès QP, Claude Meylan Full Calendar, Blancpain Villeret Quantième Complet, Hublot Classic Fusion Aeromoon, Carl F. Bucherer Manero ChronoPerpetual Only Watch 2015, Ulysse Nardin FreakLab
Clockwise from top left: Hermès Slim d'Hermès QP, Claude Meylan Full Calendar, Blancpain Villeret Quantième Complet, Hublot Classic Fusion Aeromoon, Carl F. Bucherer Manero ChronoPerpetual Only Watch 2015, Ulysse Nardin FreakLab
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Calendar watches come in many incarnations, and this is a tough field to judge. The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab isn't a full perpetual calendar, but it does have a unique setting mechanism that makes it a real contender here. However, for my money, it's all about that Hermès Slim d'Hermès perpetual calendar. It's slim (duh), really easy to wear, and tracks a second time zone, too. It was one of my favorites at Baselworld 2015, and I'm still not over it.

Blancpain — Villeret Quantième Complet
Carl F. Bucherer — Manero ChronoPerpetual OnlyWatch 2015
Claude Meylan — Full Calendar
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès QP
Hublot — Classic Fusion Aeromoon
Tiffany & Co — CT60 Annual Calendar
Ulysse Nardin — FreakLab

 

Chronograph

Clockwise from top left: Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold, Eberhard & Co Contograf, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher, Longines Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph, Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18
Clockwise from top left: Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold, Eberhard & Co Contograf, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher, Longines Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph, Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Chronographs are extremely popular with collectors, so no matter which watches I tell you to pay attention to, someone is going to tell you I'm 100 percent wrong and have terrible taste. But here goes anyway: The TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 18 isn't the most mechanically impressive chronograph, but it's the watch from this field I'd most want to wear, followed by the Piaget Altiplano Chrono, which is razor thin and incredibly made. The winner here, though, is an easy pick: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher. It's one of the most flat-out impressive watches I've ever seen and a totally new vision of what a modern chronograph can be. I'll be shocked if it doesn't take this category easily.

ArtyA — Son of Sound "Guitar Race"
Audemars Piguet — Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher
Bell & Ross — BR-X1 Tourbillon Chronograph
Clerc — Hydroscaph H140 Carbon Limited Edition Chronograph
Eberhard & Co — Contograf
Hautlence — INVICTUS, Morphos limited edition by Eric Cantona
Hublot — Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold
Longines — Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph
Louis Moinet — Memoris
Montblanc — Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Vasco da Gama
Piaget — Altiplano Chrono
Ralph Lauren — Automotive Chronograph
Snyper — IRONCLAD Titanium G5
TAG Heuer — Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph

 

Jewellery

From left: Fabergé Summer in Provence, Hublot Big Bang Unico "10 Years" Haute Joaillerie, Piaget Extremely Piaget Double Sided Cuff Watch, Champs Elysées Rive Blanche Nymphéas, Chaumet Joséphine Aigrette Impériale
From left: Fabergé Summer in Provence, Hublot Big Bang Unico "10 Years" Haute Joaillerie, Piaget Extremely Piaget Double Sided Cuff Watch, Champs Elysées Rive Blanche Nymphéas, Chaumet Joséphine Aigrette Impériale
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

I mean, just look at what we're dealing with here ... if you asked me to judge this category, I think I'd struggle. It's more about the creative ways that gems are set and strung together, the ways that mechanisms are miniaturized to fit the delicate bracelets, and the originality of the designs. I think Piaget's large, multi-tier cuff and Fabergé's colorful bracelet watch are both finalists, but beyond that I'm stumped.

Audemars Piguet — Diamond Punk
Bulgari — Mvsa High Jewellery Watch
Champs Elysées — Rive Blanche - Nymphéas
Chaumet — Joséphine Aigrette Impériale
Chopard — Green Carpet Collection Watch
de Grisogono — Grappoli
Dewitt — Princesse Marie Clotilde High Jewellery
Fabergé — Summer in Provence Multicoloured Sapphire
Hublot — Big Bang Unico "10 Years" Haute Joaillerie
Luxius Suisse — Smart Fashion Tourbillon
Piaget — Extremely Piaget Double Sided Cuff Watch
Ralph Lauren — 867 Diamond Timepiece

 

Ladies’

Clockwise from top left: Hermès Arceau Petite Lune with diamonds, Audemars Piguet Millenary, Claude Meylan Lionne Sheherazade, Chopard Imperiale 36mm Joaillerie, Chanel Boy∙Friend Beige Gold, TAG Heuer Carrera Cara Delevigne
Clockwise from top left: Hermès Arceau Petite Lune with diamonds, Audemars Piguet Millenary, Claude Meylan Lionne Sheherazade, Chopard Imperiale 36mm Joaillerie, Chanel Boy∙Friend Beige Gold, TAG Heuer Carrera Cara Delevigne
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

The diversity here is staggering. I think it might be a more diverse field overall than the men's category. Sure, there are the usual suspects—adaptations of a men's watch, only a few millimeters smaller and covered in diamonds—but there are also some truly ambitious pieces. The Chanel Boy∙Friend in beige gold is striking and elegant, while the Audemars Piguet Millenary shows off the escapement. Whatever watch ultimately takes the day, you can count on it being something interesting.

ArtyA — Butterfly Set
Audemars Piguet — Millenary
Baume & Mercier — Promesse 10166 diamond
Blancpain —  Ladybird
Bulgari — Lvcea
Carl F. Bucherer — Pathos Diva Rosegold
Chanel — Boy∙Friend Beige Gold
Charriol — St-Tropez 35 Eclipse
Chaumet — Liens
Chopard — Imperiale 36mm Joaillerie
Claude Meylan — Lionne Sheherazade
DeLaneau — Rondo 42 Peony
Fabergé — Lady Fabergé
Hermès — Arceau Petite Lune with diamonds
Hublot — Big Bang Broderie
Piaget — Limelight Gala
Ralph Lauren — 867 Tuxedo Timepiece
Speake-Marin — Shenandoah
TAG Heuer — Carrera Cara Delevingne
Tiffany & Co — CT60 3-Hand 34mm
Ulysse Nardin — Jade

 

Ladies’ High-Mechanical

From left: Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery, Piaget Altiplano 1200S, Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower, Chaumet Hortensia Creative Complication
From left: Montblanc Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery, Piaget Altiplano 1200S, Jaquet Droz Lady 8 Flower, Chaumet Hortensia Creative Complication
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Watchmakers used to largely ignore the super high end of the women's watch market, preferring to inflate price tags with sparkles instead of extra engineering. Those days are long gone. Piaget's highly skeletonized Altiplano has diamonds integrated into the structure of the movement, but Jaquet Droz's Lady 8 Flower has a tiny bubble above the main watch dial that houses a mechanical flower that opens and closes on demand. It's awesome, and when I first saw the watch a few months ago, I couldn't stop playing with it.

Bulgari — Il Giardino Notturno
Chaumet — Hortensia Creative Complication
CIGA Design — The Flying Apsaras
Fabergé — Lady Compliquée Peacock
HYT — H1 Iceberg
Jaquet Droz — Lady 8 Flower
Montblanc — Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery
Piaget — Altiplano 1200S
Pierre DeRoche — TNT Royal Retro 43 "Bonnie"

 

Mechanical Exception

From left: Jaquet Droz The Charming Bird, Hublot MP-12 Key of Time Skeleton, TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Phantom, Oris Calibre 111
From left: Jaquet Droz The Charming Bird, Hublot MP-12 Key of Time Skeleton, TAG Heuer Monaco V4 Phantom, Oris Calibre 111
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

If you're looking for the crazy stuff, the "Mechanical Exception" category is it. The Breva Génie 03 Anemometer has a wind speed calculator built in (that uses tiny metal cups that pop up from the dial), and the Hublot Key of Time lets you speed up or slow down the movement at will. Independent watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet's Complication One is beyond incredible with its oversized escapement on the dial, while the Jaquet Droz Charming Bird has a miniature bird perched inside that simulates the sound of chirping when you activate it. These are all serious competitors, and I can't wait to see the short list for this category.

Breva — Génie 03 Anemometer
Carl F. Bucherer — Patravi TravelTec II
Christophe Claret — Maestoso
CIGA Design — Single Hand Wristwatch
Dewitt — Academia Mathematical
Emmanuel Bouchet — Complication One
Hautlence — Vortex
Hublot — MP-12 Key of Time Skeleton
HYT — H3
Jaquet Droz — The Charming Bird
MCT — Sequential One S110 EVO
Olivier Orth — Défi
Oris — Calibre 111
TAG Heuer — Monaco V4 Phantom

 

Men’s

Clockwise from top left: Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige, Tiffany & Co CT60 3-Hand 40mm, Laurent Ferrier Galet Square, Leroy Chronomètre Observatoire, Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time
Clockwise from top left: Manufacture Royale 1770 Voltige, Tiffany & Co CT60 3-Hand 40mm, Laurent Ferrier Galet Square, Leroy Chronomètre Observatoire, Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

We might as well just call this category "watch." The only requirement is that the watch be targeted toward men. That's it. So there is a time-only watch made from fair-mined gold (thanks Chopard), the car engine-inspired MB&F HMX, a technicolor worldtimer from Louis Vuitton, and an everyday army green chronograph from Tudor. See what I mean? But for me, there's a clear standout. It has a plain white dial, slim blue hands, and it's not even Swiss. The Credor Eichi II comes from Seiko's most prestigious workshop and might well be one of the best-finished watches of all time.

Andersen Genève — Tempus Terrae "25th Anniversary" Scale BlueGold Dial
Armin Strom — Skeleton Pure Water
ArtyA — Son of a Gun "Roulette Russe Glasnost"
Blancpain — Villeret Grande Date
Bulgari — Octo Finissimo Small Seconds
Chopard — L.U.C XPS Fairmined
Chronoswiss — Sirius artist régulateur jumping hour
Clerc — Hydroscaph H1 Chronometer
Credor — Eichi II
de Grisogono — New Retro
Dewitt — Academia Out of Time
H. Moser & Cie — Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept
HYT — H2 Full Gun
Laurent Ferrier — Galet Square
Leroy — Chronomètre Observatoire
Louis Vuitton — Escale Time Zone
Manufacture Royale — 1770 Voltige
Maurice Lacroix — Gravity "40th anniversary" Limited
MB&F — HMX
Montblanc — Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time
Oris — Big Crown ProPilot Calibre 111
Piaget — Altiplano 900P
Ralph Lauren — RL Automotive Timepiece
RGM — 801 Corps of Engineers
Saint Honoré — Tour Eiffel
Sarpaneva — Korona K0 Northern Lights
Schwarz Etienne — Roswell Black
Tiffany & Co —CT60 3-Hand 40mm
Tissot — Chemin des Tourelles Powermatic 80 COSC
Tudor — Fastrider Chrono
Urban Jurgensen — Reference 1140 PT L
Voutilainen — GMR

 

‘Petite Aiguille’

Clockwise from top left: Claude Meylan Lac Tortue de Joux, Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, Tudor North Flag, Zenith Elite 6150, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Chronograph, Habring2 Felix
Clockwise from top left: Claude Meylan Lac Tortue de Joux, Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum, Tudor North Flag, Zenith Elite 6150, TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Chronograph, Habring2 Felix
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

The "little hand" award is limited to watches that retail for less than 8,000 CHF (about $8,500). The focus is on watches that offer a lot of value, which can come in a lot of different forms. Tudor's North Flag has an in-house movement and a case that's built like a tank, while the Montblanc Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum has a true worldtimer complication for a tiny fraction of the price of a comparable Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin. TAG Heuer's new Heuer 01 chronograph is another notable entry, as it's the first step in TAG's new strategy of modular construction to keep prices down.

ArtyA — Tobacco
Bell & Ross — BR01 10th Anniversary
Bonhoff — IP3.0B
Bulgari — Diagono Magnesium
Charriol — Gran Celtica SuperSportS
Chopard — Mille Miglia GTS Power Control
Claude Meylan — Lac Tortue De Joux
Emile Chouriet — Fair Lady
Frédérique Constant — Horological Smartwatch
Habring2 — Felix
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès
Montblanc — Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
Olivier Orth — Découverte
Ralph Lauren — RL67 Safari Chronometer Camouflage Dial
TAG Heuer — Carrera Calibre Heuer 01 Chronograph
Tudor — North Flag
WATCHe — WeX
Zenith — Elite 6150 

 

Sports

Clockwise from top left: Baume & Mercier Shelby Cobra, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, Tudor Pelagos, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph, Clerc Hydroscaph GMT Power-Reserve Chronometer, Tissot T-Touch Solaire Dame
Clockwise from top left: Baume & Mercier Shelby Cobra, Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, Tudor Pelagos, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph, Clerc Hydroscaph GMT Power-Reserve Chronometer, Tissot T-Touch Solaire Dame
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

What makes a good sport watch is very different from what makes a great complicated watch. The finishing on the movement and the use of precious materials are superfluous (though sometimes nice). Instead wearability, durability, and legibility are the real keys. The blue update to Tudor's Pelagos has all of the above, plus the added bonus of an in-house movement. The Alpina Manufacture Flyback Chronograph is the kind of watch you could throw down a mountain and not worry about. Montblanc's decision to enter the TimeWalker Urban Speed Chronograph with e-Strap (Montblanc's answer to the Apple Watch) might be the most interesting thing buried in this category and is worth keeping your eye on.

Alpina — Manufacture Flyback Chronograph
Audemars Piguet — Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph
Baume & Mercier — Capeland Shelby Cobra
Bell & Ross — BR-X1 Carbone Forgé
Blancpain — Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Bulgari — Diagono Scuba
Carl F. Bucherer — Patravi ScubaTec
Clerc — Hydroscaph GMT Power-Reserve Chronometer
Franc Vila — Intrepido Diver Superligero
Harry Winston — Project Z9
HYT — H4 Alinghi
Meccaniche Veloci — Icon
Montblanc — TimeWalker Urban Speed Chronograph e-Strap
Oris — Aquis Depth Gauge
Seiko — Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver's 1000m Hi-Beat 36000
TAG Heuer — Aquaracer Calibre 16 Black Phantom Chronograph
Tissot — T-Touch Solaire Dame
Tudor — Pelagos
Zenith — El Primero Sport

 

Striking

From left: Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges, Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater, Franc Vila Inaccessible Tourbillon Minute Repeater, A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
From left: Girard-Perregaux Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges, Hublot Big Bang Alarm Repeater, Franc Vila Inaccessible Tourbillon Minute Repeater, A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Chiming watches are one of the toughest things a watchmaker can try to produce, so the number of brands that can really do it right is pretty small. The coolest thing about the field here is that it's not just jam-packed with traditional minute repeaters. Hublot's alarm repeater is present, as is the Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour from upstart Akrivia. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is actually a decimal repeater, meaning it chimes hours, 10 minutes, and minutes, instead of hours, quarter-hours, and minutes. It might be the most restrained-looking watch in this category, but it's my No. 1 pick.

A. Lange & Söhne — Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
Akrivia — Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour
Christophe Claret — Allegro
Franc Vila — Inaccessible Tourbillon Minute Repeater
Girard-Perregaux — Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges
Hublot — Big Bang Alarm Repeater

 

Tourbillon

Clockwise from top left: Blancpain L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel, Montblanc Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama, Fabergé Visionnaire, Carl F. Bucherer Manero Tourbillon, Raymond Weil Nabucco Cello Tourbillon, Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon
Clockwise from top left: Blancpain L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel, Montblanc Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama, Fabergé Visionnaire, Carl F. Bucherer Manero Tourbillon, Raymond Weil Nabucco Cello Tourbillon, Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

The tourbillon is essentially the complication when it comes to high-end watchmaking, even if the spinning cage isn't to everyone's taste (mine included). Making a fancy, visually striking tourbillon feels old hat, and I think the winner here is going to win on the merits of something more subtle. H. Moser & Cie's Venturer Tourbillon Dual Time has an interchangeable tourbillon module, making the watch much easier to service over time, and the Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon has a constant force escapement and a slew of silicium parts for durability and accuracy. That said, counting out Greubel Forsey in this category is always a big, big mistake.

Akrivia — Tourbillon Regulator
Antoine Preziuso — Tourbillon of Tourbillons
Blancpain — L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel
Bovet 1822 — Braveheart
Cabestan — Triple Axis Tourbillon
Carl F. Bucherer — Manero Tourbillon
Chanel — J12 Flying Tourbillon Skeleton
Chopard — L.U.C 1963 Tourbillon
CIGA Design — The Projective Wristwatch
Cvstos — Challenge Tourbillon Gustave Eiffel
de Grisogono — Instrumento N° Uno Tourbillon
Dewitt — Academia Grand Tourbillon
Fabergé — Visionnaire I
Greubel Forsey — Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision
H. Moser & Cie — Venturer Tourbillon Dual Time
Leroy —Chronomètre à Tourbillon
MB&F — Horological Machine N°6
Montblanc — Villeret Tourbillon Cylindrique Geosphères Vasco da Gama
Raymond Weil — Nabucco Cello Tourbillon
Roshan Martin —Légende Tourbillon
TAG Heuer — Carrera Calibre Heuer 02 T Chronograph Tourbillon COSC
Ulysse Nardin — Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon
Zenith — El Primero Tourbillon

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