The 2015 Gaïa Awards: Giulio Papi, Anita Porchet, And Jonathan Betts Honored
In 1993, the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds (MIH) created the Gaïa Award to honor the memory of one of the earliest partrons of the museum, Maurice Ditisheim. In sharp contrast to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, which can be seen more as the Academy Awards or Oscars, the Gaïa has often been called the Nobel Prize of the watch industry.
I am overjoyed to announce that a woman has finally won a prize in the category of artisanal creation: Anita Porchet.
The museum describes the artisanal creation category like this: “It is without doubt the desire of creative and audacious watchmakers operating within relative anonymity, whose names were discretely associated with great companies, that pushed the initiators of the prize to want to distinguish them above all. Rich, inventive and tenacious personalities, just ten years ago their work was never recognized by a non-specialized public not passionately involved in horology like it is today. It pleases us to believe that the Gaïa Award has at least modestly permitted people to discover the work of some of these genius artisans.”
The MIH announces that Porchet has won the prize “for her fundamental role, her perseverance, and her independence in the reinvigoration of a discipline that was in danger of becoming extinct: enameling.”
Porchet, of course, has been instrumental to the art of enameling and therefore the luxurious decoration of some of the most beautiful watches in creation, including many exquisite creations by Jaquet Droz, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, and of course Patek Philippe.
To learn more about one of her most recent collaborations with Patek Philippe, and a personal favorite of mine, please see Dawn On The Lake: Celebrating Patek Philippe’s Grandiose 175th Anniversary With Art And Collaboration.
In winning the 2015 Prix Gaïa For Artisanal Creation, Porchet joins 21 years’ worth of (male) winners that can be described as no less than technical virtuosos. Past laureates in this category include the likes of François-Paul Journe, Michel Parmigiani, Derek Pratt (who co-created many Urban Jürgensen recent-history works), George Daniels, Beat Haldimann, Swatch’s Jacques Müller and Elmar Mock, Corum’s René Bannwart, automaton maker François Junod, Eric Coudray of Cabestan and Jaeger-LeCoultre, and A.H.C. I. members Vincent Calabrese, Philippe Dufour, Paul Gerber, Andreas Strehler and (last year’s winner) Kari Voutilainen.
Spirit of Enterprise: Giulio Papi
Giulio Papi hardly needs any introduction to the dyed-in-the-wool watch enthusiast, and it was likely only a matter of time before the eminently likable Papi would take home this prize for his business, which represents a cornerstone of the high watchmaking microcosm in the modern era.
Born in 1956 in La Chaux-de-Fonds of Italian descent, Papi had watchmaking in his blood. After only two years working at Audemars Piguet, in 1989 Papi and Dominique Renaud struck out on their own. In 1996, Renaud left the fold and Papi continued to grow his business, supplying unique, high-end, complicated movements to various brands. Audemars Piguet became a major investor (now owning 78 percent), and the company’s name changed to Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi (APRP).
APRP is much more than “just” a supplier of complications and complicated movements. It is also responsible for a whole generation of creativity within the sphere of mechanical horology as well as primarily being responsible for the advent of wearable repeaters.
Papi’s open, honest manner and great deal of business acumen has attracted superb talents as employees (some of who have gone on to found their own brands and companies) and interesting, innovatively-minded brands as clients.
“I am fortunate to be able to make a living from my hobby. It isn’t a job, but a passion,” he humbly told me once over coffee, “I am proud of all the watches I have made because they are all perfect, but each one is different and has a story to tell. I am delighted to have always maintained a demanding, independent spirit.”
The MIH has awarded him this prize “for the major role he has played in the development of complications in wristwatches in founding Renaud et Papi.”
To find out about the very first watch that Papi ever made and see breathtaking photography of it, please see Exclusive: The Giulio Papi No. 1 Pocket Watch.
History and Research category: Jonathan Betts
“For his essential contribution to the history of measuring time within the domain of British horology and marine chronometers,” the MIH justifies the award presented to Jonathan Betts MBE on September 17, 2015.
Betts, a well-known figure in English watch circles, is an horological scholar and author and has been employed by the Royal Observatory (National Maritime Museum) in Greenwich, England since 1980. He is an absolute expert in the study of the first marine chronometers created by John Harrison, which are on display at the museum and wrote the biography of Rupert Gould, who restored the Harrison pieces. That work entitled Time Restored: The Harrison Timekeepers and RT Gould, the Man Who Knew (Almost) Everything was published in 2006 by Oxford University Press.
Betts has won many British awards recognizing his service and talent and was appointed to the Order of the British Empire (the order of chivalry of British democracy) in 2012.
Betts joins past winners Henry Louis Belmont, François Mercier, Ludwig Oechslin, Jean-Luc Mayaud, Jean-Claude Sabrier, Yves Droz, Joseph Flores, Estelle Fallet, Kathleen Pritschard, Catherine Cardinal, John H. Leopold, Pierre-Yves Donzé, Francesco Garufo, Günther Oestmann, and Pierre Thomann as a laureate in this category.
For more information on the Prix Gaïa, please visit www.chaux-de-fonds.ch/musees/mih/prix-gaia.