New Jury And Categories At The 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) has often been justifiably described as “Watchmaking’s Oscars.” It is the world’s premier horological event, honoring exceptional watches released in the last 12 months.
Its goal is to promote the art of watchmaking.
First launched in 2001 by Swiss publishing group Edipresse, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève was reestablished in 2011 as an independent public interest organization managed by five joint owners: the republic and canton of Geneva, the city of Geneva, the International Museum of Horology (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Timelab (an official timing certification laboratory), and Edipresse.
As the 14th edition of the GPHG gets underway with brands submitting their best pieces to the foundation, let’s take a look at some of the elements that are a little different from last year.
Since the 2012 edition, which marked the new constellation of owners, the GPHG has become very serious about inviting what I would call straight-shooters to participate in the jury: individuals with sterling reputations for “calling it as they see it.” (Disclosure: I have been a member of the jury for the last two years and will be again this year.)
At this same time, individuals involved in watch retail were removed from the jury.
The makeup of the 2013 jury was broadened to include collectors and a few celebrities such as pop star John Mayer (a serious watch collector), superstar designer Philippe Starck and luminary architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
The composition of the jury has changed once again for the 2014 edition. Retailers are once again included, which I find to be a very positive thing. They were taken out three years ago to prevent what could be seen as favoritism, but the reality is that there are few people in the world as knowledgeable about the realities of products on the market as really good retailers.
The 2014 edition of the GPHG has managed to recruit some of the world’s best watch retailers: René Beyer of Beyer Chronometrie, which is located on famed Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich; Abdul Hamied Seddiqi of Seddiqi and Sons in Dubai; and Michael Tay, executive director of the Hour Glass, which has 29 very high-quality shops throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
These are men of exquisite taste and refined clientele. They carry many kinds of watches – not only big brand names, but also independent makers as well – and in my opinion they make splendid, authoritative additions to the GPHG jury.
Collectors and tastemakers
Some of the celebrities are also back such as Wilmotte and Mayer, which should continue to make for entertaining conversation and points of view that industry insiders often neglect to take into consideration.
There has been a slight shift among the collectors, the most notable perhaps being the addition of William Rohr, which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the new and improved GPHG means business when it comes to honesty.
Rohr – who is also known as the managing director of TimeZone.com by his handle William Massena – has a distinct no-nonsense attitude. In fact, if you are a friend of Rohr’s then you are really a friend, for his brutally honest opinions have not made him necessarily popular.
Rohr always speaks his mind, and usually in a way that will either evoke hearty laughter or extreme dismay, depending on who you are and which side of the counter you are positioned. I personally enjoy his more-than-candid comments, but there are surely brand representatives who do not.
Another interesting addition is John Goldberger, a media-friendly collector from Italy, who has reached a sort of mythical status among collectors of Rolex, Patek Philippe and a few other brands. Have a look at this interesting interview that co-juror Ben Clymer of Hodinkee.com conducted with him.
Beside Clymer and myself, there are a few other journalists on the 2014 GPHG jury. These include Carlos Alonso (editor-in-chief Tiempo de Relojes, Mexico), Jean-Philippe Arm (editor-in-chief Watch Around, Switzerland), Zhixiang Ding (editor-in-chief Chronos, China), Nick Foulkes (freelance, specialized in history, fashion and watches), Nazanin Lankarani (freelance, specialized in art), Sean Li (editor-in-chief Revolution Hong Kong and director watches of Tatler Asia), and Paola Pujia (editor-in-chief Orologi Le Misure del Tempo, Italy).
Like last year, the jury of the 2014 GPHG includes watchmakers, a thing whose time had really come! At the 2013 edition it was Moritz Elsaesser who more or less represented the horologists along with his friend, former WOSTEP director Antoine Simonin. And this year the duo is joined by none other than Philippe Dufour.
This is nothing short of a revelation!
I’m not sure why it took so long for the GPHG foundation to recognize the popularity, knowledge, and easy-going contributions Dufour is bound to make. I’m just glad it finally happened!
Dufour won the special prize of the jury at the 2013 edition, a kind of tribute to his life’s work. This obviously touched him as he was often quoted after the event as being very proud to be recognized “in his own country.”
For more on Phillipe Dufour, please check out the article by GaryG, Why Philippe Dufour Matters. And It’s Not A Secret.
Headed up by veteran vintage watch expert Aurel Bacs and including the CEO of Girard-Perregaux, Michele Sofisti, whose Constant Escapement won the 2013 Aiguille d’Or (which means that Girard-Perregaux is out of the running for the 2014 edition), the jury comprising 24 members will vote on a number of categories.
Entries have closed for 2014 and the first round of voting will commence in July using a point system. Each jury member votes in secret, submitting ballots by mail, and the ten watches in each category with the most points advance to the next round of voting.
The second round of voting takes place during a personal meeting in Geneva in October, where the jury gathers to discuss the watches before each member votes for him- or herself, hand-submitting the ballots to a notary upon completion.
The top three watches out of each category will be honored on Friday, October 31 at Geneva’s Grand Théâtre during a glamorous red carpet ceremony.
There are a few new categories this year again as the foundation looks to refine the system and make it more interesting for the spectators.
Brands may enter watches in 12 categories including Ladies, Ladies High Mech (one of this year’s best new additions), Men’s, Sports and Jewelry, which are fairly self-explanatory.
Chronograph, Tourbillon, Calendar, and Striking replace the rather vague Complicated category of last year, which should prevent having to compare apples to oranges.
The Mechanical Exception category encompasses any other mechanical specialty that defies categorization as listed above.
I find the Petite Aiguille category very interesting as only watches retailing under 8,000 Swiss francs may be entered here. Though this is still a pretty large sum – it would be more interesting perhaps to make the category under 4,000 in my opinion – it will ensure that “good value” watches are prevalent here.
The Artistic Crafts category is one of my personal favorites as it encompasses many of the creative and rare arts used in the highest art of watchmaking today. These, of course, include (but are not exclusive to) engraving, guilloche, enamel, miniature painting, gem setting, marquetry, and mosaics.
The main event
The big prize of the evening is, of course, the Aiguille d’Or (the “Golden Hand”). This is decided by the jury members, who discuss the most impressive watches submitted during the meeting. The jury then votes separately, and I can say that when the announcement is being made, anticipation is always great and often surprising as well.
The jury also decides the prizes for Innovation (remarkable technical innovation), Horological Revelation (young brand less than five years old), Revival (contemporary re-edition or reinterpretation) and Special Jury Prize (not for a specific brand or watch model, but for a person, institution or initiative) in the same way.
If you would like to take part in the GPHG yourself, you can participate in the Public Prize voting, which you can do online or by attending one of the traveling exhibitions in the fall.
For more information, please visit http://www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/foundation.