Quill & Pad’s Predictions For The Sports Category Of The 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
by Ian Skellern
Welcome to the 2015 edition of Quill & Pad’s early Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) predictions in which we pick our favorites and explain why.
Our panelists are:
Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director
Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer
GaryG (GG), resident collector
Note: as a GPHG jury member, Quill & Pad editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr is excluded from these predictions.
According to the GPHG’s rules, the Sports watches linked to the field of sports, whose functions, materials and design are suited to physical activities.
IS: I’m going to take the category definition at its word, i.e. ” . . . functions, materials and design are suited to physical activities” and at the stroke of my virtual pen, rule out a couple of watches pre-selected here: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Tourbillon Chronograph because I don’t think that a tourbillon is particularly suited to physical activities and the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver’s 1000m Hi-Beat 36000 because it is a dedicated diver’s watch, not a general sports watch.
I’m also ruling out the Zenith El Primero Sport because it seems like I see at least one or more El Primeros pre-selected in every Grand Prix. They are great watches, but I’ve had my fill.
JM: The Sports category is filled with some watches that most watch wearers could own, and a few that many would love to own representing watch grails for many watch lovers.
IS: I’ve picked the Tudor Pelagos for the number one slot because it’s the sports watch I would buy for myself in this category; at around $4,500, it is easily the most affordable as well. With a stated water resistance of 500 meters, the Pelagos has the credentials of a dive watch, but unlike the 10,000-meter Seiko, the Pelagos is much more wearable because it is so much slimmer (though it would never be called svelte).
And there is so much more to like about this Tudor including a titanium case (low mass means more comfort in active sports); extreme legibility (again a big plus during active sports); in-house movement with silicon balance spring (low mass = less effect of shocks and energetic movement); and I quite like the idea of an auto-adjustable folding buckle.
For the price the Tudor Pelagos is unbeatable, but it would rank high in any price bracket.
JM: My first runner-up is the Tudor Pelagos. This watch is a stunner, especially considering it features a titanium-and-ceramic case, great style, and a price that should make anybody stand up and take notice. This watch really does not stand in anybody’s shadow, certainly not now that it features Tudor’s first in-house movement. This watch makes many ask, “Rolex who?”
GG: It’s my first runner-up too, Joshua. And it’s great to see Tudor using in-house movements with useful features such as a 70-hour power reserve. The watch is certainly fit-for-purpose for diving with a 500-meter water resistance rating and helium escape valve.
The all-matte design motif isn’t to my personal taste, but I understand the design choice related to low-reflectivity functionality and admire the coherence with which it is executed. At the end of the day, I’m still wondering a bit if we’d be so enthusiastic about this piece if it didn’t have the word “Tudor” on the dial, though.
Quick Facts Tudor Pelagos
Case: 42 x 14.3 mm, titanium and ceramic
Movement: automatic in-house Caliber MT5612 with official chronometer certification and 70 hours power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 4,200 Swiss francs
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
JM: For my second runner-up I went with the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe. It is a truly beautiful and simple dive watch with a half century (or more) of history behind it. I mean, it’s a Fifty Fathoms. For many, that is all they need to hear.
It’s also the most expensive watch I chose, which means my other two are even sweeter!
IS: My second choice (first runner-up) is the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe, Joshua, and I particularly like this model for the ceramic insert in the proprietary Sedna gold bezel. Active sports usually means lots of knocks and scratches, and a scratch-resistant ceramic bezel is likely to be a big plus. I also like the 300-meter (which is fifty fathoms) water resistance, matching black date ring with black dial, and longish 120-hour power reserve of the Fifty Fathoms.
Like my other two picks in this category, the Blancpain has a silicon hairspring (low mass = less effect from shocks and energetic movement), and the brand gets bonus points from me for using the term “non-magnetic” silicon balance-spring rather than the incorrect, but ubiquitous, “anti-magnetic.”
Quick Facts Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe
Case: 43 x 13.4 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber 1315 with silicon balance spring and 5 days power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Price: 25,000 Swiss francs
Harry Winston Project Z9
GG: This was a tough category for me to call. For instance, the Audemars Piguet is perhaps the best watch on the list, but for me it doesn’t meet the test of being “suited to sports activities” as set out by the category criteria.
The Harry Winston Z9 appeals to me as representing a happy medium between interesting features such as the flyback chronograph and a 5 Hz silicon balance, an attractive and masculine appearance, and enough sporting nature to make the grade in this class.
IS: The Harry Winston Project Z9 is my third pick, and I like this model for its zalium case, which is harder than steel (less scratches during rough use), but lighter (so more comfortable) than steel. The flyback chronograph is likely to be a useful feature for some sports, and the 100-meter water resistance is (just) enough to be a contender in this category.
But my particular interest in the Project Z9 is the high-speed silicon escapement because that seems ideally suited for a sports watch. The silicon balance spring for reasons we have already discussed, i.e. the low mass of the balance spring means that it will be less influenced by shocks, and the high balance frequency of five Hertz (36,000 vph) means that shocks will affect the balance spring for less time.
The Z9 is let down by its lower legibility than other pre-selected watches in this category (aside from the Audemars Piguet Tourbillon Chronograph) and the dial is a bit messy for my taste (which is sure to mean that everyone else will love it). But the Project Z9 has a lot going for it and should be a strong contender.
Quick Facts Harry Winston Project Z9
Case: 44.2 x 13.2 mm, zalium
Movement: automatic Caliber HW3304 with silicon balance spring and high-frequency 36,000 vph balance
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, flyback chronograph
Limitation: 300 pieces
Price: 23,000 Swiss francs
Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver’s 1000m Hi-Beat 36000
JM: As is my tendency, I chose my winner because I love what it stands for and the fact that it has the highest depth rating out of all the sports watches. My winner is the Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver’s 1000m Hi-Beat 36000 (whew, long name) because, gosh darnit, this Japanese company makes one heck of a watch.
As the name implies, this watch can go to a depth of 1,000 meters with an accuracy not found in many sports watches. Also, this thing just looks tough. It’s not dainty; it doesn’t feature a delicate tourbillon (I mean, come on, Audemars Piguet, really), and it stands as it is instead of what it could pretend to be.
This watch is for people who truly need a watch to perform under serious conditions. That is why it’s a winner to me.
Quick Facts Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver’s 1000m Hi-Beat 36000
Case: 48.2 x 19.7 mm, titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber 8L55 beating at high frequency of 36,000 vph with Spron 530 mainspring, Spron 610 balance spring, and LIGA/MEMS escape wheel and pallet fork
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Limitation: 700 pieces
Price: 6,700 Swiss francs
Zenith El Primero Sport
GG: This is an attractive watch with a classic movement, to be sure, and that was enough to lift the Zenith to my third pick in a category in which the entries are more diverse in type than first meets the eye.
At the same time, there wasn’t enough “new news” with this latest variant of the venerable El Primero to lift it to the top of my list.
Quick Facts Zenith El Primero Sport
Case: 45 x 14.05 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber El Primero 400 B beating at high frequency of 36,000 vph, power reserve 50 hours
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, chronograph
Price: 9,900 Swiss francs
Ian: Tudor Pelagos
Joshua: Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Professional Diver’s 1000m Hi-Beat 36000
GaryG: Harry Winston Project Z9