Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Which of These Watches Will Be Named Best of 2015?

Announcing the finalists for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, the “Oscars” of watchmaking

Preliminary votes are in, and the field for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) has narrowed to just six watches per category.

When we first showed you the nominees in July, nearly 200 watches were competing across 12 categories ranging from sturdy sport watches to mechanical exceptions. Pretty much every nook and cranny of the watch world is represented in some way, and you get a real sense of the vast diversity of what's being designed and created in workshops across Europe and Asia. (Not just Switzerland can participate.)

While we have to wait until October for the winners to be announced, here are all 72 of the finalists. 

Artistic Crafts 

What goes into making these cases and dial is just as impressive as what it takes to make a mechanical watch movement.
What goes into making these cases and dial is just as impressive as what it takes to make a mechanical watch movement.

The crafts focus this year is clearly on intricate dials, like Blancpain's highly involved, layered Japanese shakudo engraving or Piaget's traditional scrimshaw art on a tiny scale. The Romain Gauthier is an outlier here, since he's usually known for his engineering-centric designs.

Top Row (left to right):
Blancpain — Villeret, Cadran Shakudo
Girard-Perregaux — The Chambers of Wonders - The New World
Harry Winston — Premier Precious Butterfly Automatic 36mm

Bottom Row:
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès Koma Kurabé
Piaget — Altiplano Scrimshaw
Romain Gauthier — Logical One Secret Kakau Höfke

 

Calendar 

The calendar watches range from the simple to the highly complex.
The calendar watches range from the simple to the highly complex.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Stylistically, these watches have little in common, which makes for a super interesting field—we definitely didn't need six traditional perpetual calendars up against one another. The FreakLab is, as the name would suggest, a crazy looking watch with incredible guts. Even though the Hermès QP would likely get my vote, I think the Ulysse Nardin might take the cake here.

Top Row (left to right):
Blancpain — Villeret Quantième Complet
Claude Meylan — Full Calendar
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès QP

Bottom Row:
Hublot — Classic Fusion Aeromoon
Tiffany & Co — CT60 Annual Calendar
Ulysse Nardin — FreakLab 

 

Chronograph 

Many of this year's chronograph finalists utilize innovative new mechanisms.
Many of this year's chronograph finalists utilize innovative new mechanisms.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

This category could easily be a sleeper, but this year's finalists include a number of really innovative watches: The Audemars Piguet Laptimer is the first chrono of its kind (and one of the most impressive watches I've ever seen), the Longines brings a monopusher into an accessible price bracket, and the Piaget adds complication to the ultrathin category. The vintage-styled TAG Heuer is a pure classic, though, and may very well beat out the big boys.

Top Row (left to right):
Audemars Piguet — Royal Oak Concept Laptimer Michael Schumacher
Longines — Column-Wheel Single Push-Piece Chronograph
Louis Moinet — Memoris

Bottom Row:
Montblanc — Heritage Chronométrie ExoTourbillon Minute Chronograph Vasco da Gama 
Piaget — Altiplano Chrono
TAG Heuer — Carrera Calibre 18 Chronograph

 

Jewellery

Sometimes it really is all about diamonds.
Sometimes it really is all about diamonds.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Sometimes the mechanics take a back seat to what holds them. These gem-studded marvels are all truly over-the-top, yet with sophisticated mechanics within the eye-catching trappings.  My taste? Not quite. But the pedigrees alone make this a stumper of a category to predict.

Top Row (left to right):
Audemars Piguet — Diamond Punk
Bulgari — Mvsa High Jewellery Watch
Chaumet — Joséphine Aigrette Impériale

Bottom Row:
de Grisogono — Grappoli
Fabergé — Summer in Provence Multicoloured Sapphire
Piaget — Extremely Piaget Double Sided Cuff Watch

 

Ladies' 

Even in the simpler ladies' category, the finalists are all top-notch competitors.
Even in the simpler ladies' category, the finalists are all top-notch competitors.

The key to the ladies' category is that the glitziest watch often isn't the winner. (This isn't the jewellery category, after all.) The Millenary is the outlier here, though Hublot's ornately embroidered watch isn't far from it. To my mind, something more understated like the Jaeger-LeCoultre or the Piaget are the real frontrunners. 

Top Row (left to right):
Audemars Piguet — Millenary
DeLaneau — Rondo 42 Peony
Hermès — Arceau Petite Lune with diamonds

Bottom Row:
Hublot — Big Bang Broderie
Piaget — Limelight Gala
Ulysse Nardin — Jade

 

Ladies' High-Mechanical

Super-complicated watches aren't just for men.
Super-complicated watches aren't just for men.

Complications for women don't get enough attention. There are some creative watchmakers doing great things specifically designed for women instead of being ported over from the men's collection. These are those watches. Having seen the Jaquet Droz back at Baselworld in March, I can say its opening-and-closing mechanical flower is nothing short of unbelievable, and the Piaget highly skeletonized and diamond-studded movement is hard to argue with, too.

Top Row (left to right):
Bulgari — Il Giardino Notturno
Chaumet — Hortensia Creative Complication
Fabergé — Lady Compliquée Peacock

Bottom Row:
Jaquet Droz — Lady 8 Flower
Montblanc — Bohème Perpetual Calendar Jewellery
Piaget — Altiplano 1200S

 

Mechanical Exception

Fluid-based indicators, wandering hours, and new escapement are at home in this category.
Fluid-based indicators, wandering hours, and new escapement are at home in this category.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

These are the big guns, the oddballs, the hyper technical virtuosity. You might not even think some of them look like watches, and I wouldn't blame you for saying so. HYT incorporates liquid into its watches (normally anything close to water is enemy number one), and Emmanuel Bouchet has concocted a special escapement that he shows off to great effect.  

Top Row (left to right):
Christophe Claret — Maestoso
Dewitt — Academia Mathematical
Emmanuel Bouchet — Complication One

Bottom Row:
Hautlence — Vortex
HYT — H3
Jaquet Droz — The Charming Bird 

 

Men's

The men's finalists are extremely diverse and show a good range of what's being made today.
The men's finalists are extremely diverse and show a good range of what's being made today.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

This category had the biggest starting field—nominees just had to be targeted towards men—so its impossible to not think a few more watches should have been finalists from the initial batch of 32. I'm particularly shocked that the Credor Eichi II didn't make it through the first round, nor did the Moser Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept. Yet from this group of six, there are no real losers. Judging here will be tight.

Top Row (left to right):
Bulgari — Octo Finissimo Small Seconds
Laurent Ferrier — Galet Square
Louis Vuitton — Escale Time Zone

Bottom Row:
MB&F — HMX
Piaget — Altiplano 900P
Voutilainen — GMR

 

‘Petite Aiguille’

Proof that you don't have to spend Ferrari money to get a great watch.
Proof that you don't have to spend Ferrari money to get a great watch.

You don't need to look further than these six watches to know that you can get a good watch for a relatively modest sum of money—"little hand" finalists must retail for less than 8,000 CHF (about $8,500). Montblanc's worldtimer is a personal favorite, but Tudor's North Flag is another great category-killer. You could proudly wear any of these watches every day, but I'm temped to throw my hat in the ring for independent brand Habring2, a husband and wife team out of Austria.

Top Row (left to right):
Bulgari — Diagono Magnesium
Habring2 — Felix
Hermès — Slim d'Hermès

Bottom Row:
Montblanc — Heritage Spirit Orbis Terrarum
Tudor — North Flag
Zenith — Elite 6150

 

Sports

Dive watches and rugged chronographs go head-to-head.
Dive watches and rugged chronographs go head-to-head.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

This is essentially the duel of the chronograph versus the dive watch. There are three of each here, and they span a massive price bracket, from just a few thousand dollars to well over a hundred thousand dollars. Sure, the Audemars Piguet is an incredible tourbillon chronograph, but if you're looking for something to knock around, both the Pelegos and Marinemaster are bulletproof.

Top Row (left to right):
Audemars Piguet — Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph
Blancpain — Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Harry Winston — Project Z9

Bottom Row:
Seiko — Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver's 1000m Hi-Beat 36000
Tudor — Pelagos
Zenith — El Primero Sport 

 

Striking

Repeaters and alarms, some with tourbillons, others alone.
Repeaters and alarms, some with tourbillons, others alone.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

Six nominated, six remain—in the striking watches category the herd hasn't thinned at all. These chiming watches take years of R&D to create, so it's no surprise the category is narrow. The A. Lange & Söhne is straight up stunning, but there's a lot of complexity hiding in the other watches that could give one of them the leg up in the end.

Top Row (left to right):
A. Lange & Söhne — Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
Akrivia — Tourbillon Chiming Jump Hour
Christophe Claret — Allegro

Bottom Row:
Franc Vila — Inaccessible Tourbillon Minute Repeater
Girard-Perregaux — Minute Repeater Tourbillon with Gold Bridges
Hublot — Big Bang Alarm Repeater

 

Tourbillon

One of the most traditional complications, in some of its least traditional incarnations.
One of the most traditional complications, in some of its least traditional incarnations.
Source: GPHG via Bloomberg

The tourbillon is one of the original complications, really the complication in high-end horology, and there's no shortage of watchmakers trying to breathe new life into it. You couldn't get six more diverse takes on it than these watches. We know how I feel about the L-evolution C, yet I think this is down to a battle between Ulysse Nardin and Greubel Forsey, two of the modern masters in this arena.

Top Row (left to right):
Antoine Preziuso — Tourbillon of Tourbillons
Blancpain — L-evolution C Tourbillon Carrousel
Bovet 1822 — Braveheart

Bottom Row:
Greubel Forsey — Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision
MB&F — Horological Machine N°6
Ulysse Nardin — Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon

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