Editor’s note: Like you, we are also excited for the GPHG 2021 awards. Here’s our list of predictions and picks. May the best watch win. For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
GPHG 2021 is Back Baby!
There is a quote by Robert McNamara that reads: “Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated”.
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) awards for this year are to be announced tomorrow. The shortlisted watches have gone on a short world tour, and are now ready to face the moment of truth.
With a great variety this year, and some of the brands raising the ante, a number of horological marvels are born. But whatever the result, honestly, whether they win or lose, all these shortlisted timepieces deserve all the recognition they can get.
To be honest though, our favourite category every year is the Challenge category, as that blends our personal collecting interest and watch reviewing interest into one.
This is also one of the toughest in our opinion as there really is no upper ceiling for how much watches can sell (or should sell for), but when it comes to producing an exceptional timepiece for a minimum amount — in this case the criteria is watches with a retail price equal to or under CHF 3’500 which is roughly 5’100 AUD — things can get really challenging.
We reckon this is where the brands come out of their comfort zones and experiment with timepieces that the ordinary watch enthusiast can dream of collecting.
The other category we really like is the Iconic one, simply because what’s the watch industry without some of its icons?
Last but not the last, it is affirming to notice the (mechanical) quality and design of some of the ladies watches in recent years.
Here’s a list of our picks (and runner ups) from all of the 14 categories from the prestigious GPHG 2021 awards.
Ladies’, Ladies’ Complication, Men’s, Men’s Complication, Iconic, Tourbillon, Calendar and Astronomy, Mechanical Exception, Chronograph, Diver’s, Jewellery, Artistic Crafts, ’Petite Aiguille’, and Challenge
GPHG 2021 – ‘Petite Aiguille’
This is the category with price ranging from CHF 3’500 to CHF 10’000. An interesting category, one where the larger brands have the freedom to express their horological prowess but within a not-so-heavy-on-the-pocket price range.
The Contenders: Breitling Top Time Deus Limited Edition, Garrick S4, Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Vianney Halter, Seiko Re-creation of King Seiko KSK, Trilobe Nuit Fantastique, Grained Black, and Tudor Black Bay Ceramic
Our Pick: The Garrick S4
When we reviewed it earlier this year, we remember calling it the best foot forward of modern British watchmaking. Retailing for a measly 7’397 CHF, the Garrick S4 in ‘Plum’ dial colour is an exceptional follow-up to 2020’s S3 that we reviewed here.
It is from a young British brand that is getting to be known for its engine-turned dials, exclusive movements, skeleton or guilloché dials, use of thermally blued screws instead of chemically treated screws, collaborations with UhrTeil AG and Andreas Strehler, use of emblematic anchor-like (Maritime) hour and minute hands on dials, and the success of models such as Norfolk, Portsmouth and the Regulator.
The main calling card, the hand-craftsmanship at such an affordable cost is what’s special about this, and one aspect that makes it a worthy addition to any collection. It may be Breguet inspired, but it’s got enough charm to simply be considered one of the finest looking timepieces around Aussie 10K mark we have seen in a very long time.
Special Mention: The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic ‘Darth Vader’ which we went hands-on with here.
It is a great value offering from the shortlisted watches from GPHG 2021, especially considering the ceramic material and decently decorated case-back.
The ref. M79210CNU-0001 retails for 6’440 AUD, comes with an additional strap, and most importantly, provides your wrists with an iconic aesthetic, a slimmer wrist-friendly 41mm diameter, a strap change friendly 20mm lug interhorn spacing, and from a daily wear perspective resistance to magnetic fields of 15,000 gauss.
The black and white aesthetics are very moody on this one, providing exceptional legibility yet a ‘smokey’ film-noir inspired effect.
GPHG 2021 – Challenge
The Contenders: AnOrdain Model 1 – Payne’s grey fumé, Ciga Design Blue Planet, Doxa SUB 200 C-GRAPH Caribbean, Furlan Marri MR. Grey Ref. 1041-A, Massena Lab Uni-Racer, and Oris Divers Sixty-Five Cotton Candy
Our Pick: Ciga Design Blue Planet
The ref. P001-BLOG-35ET is a limited edition release of only 50-pieces, is cased inside a titanium body, offers a 40-hour power reserve and 30m water resistance, and retails for only 1’800 CHF (~2’700 AUD).
We chose this because it features a unique dial, unique execution of telling the time, and a praise-worthy concept behind the entire watch. It’s different, quirky, interesting, and treads along a path less chosen.
Special Mention: The Oris Divers Sixty-Five Cotton Candy for enthusing a rather dull year with some much needed colourful vibes.
GPHG 2021 – Diver’s
This category needs no introduction – the popular choice of our times, these make for excellent daily drivers and of course, don’t shy away from touching water.
The Contenders: Doxa SUB 300 carbon COSC Aquamarine, Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver Skyline Blue, Archimèdes by Milus – Orange Coral, Oris Aquis Date Calibre 400 41.5 mm, Reservoir Hydrosphere Bronze “The Greg Lecoeur Edition”, and Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton
Our Pick: Doxa SUB 300 carbon COSC Aquamarine
Go back in time a bit. Picture it is 1967. And like every year, it had its moments too And like any year, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Beatles released their famous “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” album. Hollywood wooed the younger audiences with “The Graduate”. The recreational diving industry experienced a boom. Muhammad Ali was no longer the ‘official’ champion. And the American troops were still in Vietnam. The year also had a lot of firsts. NASA launched the Lunar Orbiter 3. The Rolling Stone magazine released its first issue. Boeing 737 made its maiden flight. Carrol Shelby released the iconic Mustang GT-500 Fastback.
And smack in the middle of all this, Doxa released their now-iconic diver, the Sub300t.
Now 54 years later, the icon returns, encased inside a modern-day body. The body has had an overhaul, but the spirit remains.
In the annals of diving watch history, Doxa is no small name. It is a brand that challenged Blancpain, collaborated with Rolex, and had family ties with Ulysses Nardin. These new colourful, lightweight, distinctive divers continue their legacy.
We love this from GPHG 2021 because not only is this fresh faced, colourful, fun, but is also seeped in rich history of dive watches.
Special Mention: Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton. Announced at Watches & Wonders 2021, sports meets transparency meets high-tech with the new Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton. There is enough watchmaking cred and stylish aesthetic for watch connoisseurs and marine enthusiasts to soak in the splash the new diver from Ulysse Nardin makes. This is one bad-ass horological MF.
GPHG 2021 – Ladies’
The Contenders: Armin Strom Lady Beat Manufacture Edition White, Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey Sweet Art, Chanel Mademoiselle J12 Acte II watch, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Sélène Rose Gold White Mop 33 mm, Piaget Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow, and Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra secret pendant watch
Our Pick: Bovet 1822 Miss Audrey Sweet Art
We tend to gravitate towards blue dials so this piece caught our eye from the get-go. The dial is not only a gorgeous gradient of blues, but is also made of sugar (and sugar makes everything better)!
Extra points because it is not only a watch but can be a little table side clock or pendant as is common with Bovet’s pieces.
Special Mention: Armin Strom for consulting women in the design of their Lady Beat Manufacture Edition White.
GPHG 2021 – Jewellery
This next category deals with jewels and gems heavy timepieces. It marries the art of watchmaking with bling succinctly.
The Contenders: Bulgari Serpenti Barocko, Chanel Mademoiselle Privé Bouton décor Byzantin, Chopard Flower Power, Hermès Kelly Joaillerie, Piaget Exquisite Moments watch, and Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo secret watch
Our Pick: Piaget Exquisite Moments
If we were to be turned into a quartz watch we think we would want to be this one. Hidden amongst an ocean of 99.164 carats of diamonds set in a white gold bracelet this little watch hides cozily away from prying eyes – only to be seen when the wearer quickly wants to check the time.
Two shining yellow diamonds catch your attention with their sought-after colour grade of “Fancy Vivid Yellow”, the brand tells us that only one in every 10 thousand diamonds are classified as “Fancy” and of those only 6% are granted the title of “Vivid”
Special Mention: As a sole exception, we have two here: Hermès Kelly Joaillerie and Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Watch. Both for having the ability to be worn either on the wrist or as a necklace – we love adaptable pieces!
GPHG 2021 – Artistic Crafts
This next category deals with watches that have that extra wow factor; whether be it thanks to artistic techniques such as enamelling and lacquering, or the use of our favourite dial treatment, guilloché.
The Contenders: ANDERSEN Genève Jumping Hours 40th Anniversary, Bvlgari Divas Dream Peacock Collection, Hermès Arceau Toucan de Paradis, Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem, MB&F Legacy Machine SE Eddy Jaquet ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, and Voutilainen Duluth Bridge
Our Pick: MB&F Legacy Machine SE Eddy Jaquet ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’
Maximilian Büsser and Friends have been extremely busy this year, hitting one home run after another. The new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE series of watches are watches extraordinaire; they are after all, inspired by Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires series.
Our pick here was released earlier this year as part of the eight Jules Verne stories inspired timepieces, illustrated based on: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, From The Earth To The Moon, Around The World In Eighty Days, Five Weeks In A Balloon, The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Michael Strogoff, and Robur The Conqueror.
The movement — developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell — used is manual winding with double mainspring barrel and features a bespoke 14mm balance wheel with traditional regulating screws. The split escapement with the balance wheel is suspended above the dial, while the anchor and escapement wheel are under the movement.
You can read our detailed review here.
Special Mention: ANDERSEN Genève Jumping Hours 40th Anniversary in Platinum. That 21ct BlueGold “magic losange” hand guilloché work is the stuff dreams are made of.
GPHG 2021 – Chronograph
Ready, Set, Go. Time. Repeat.
The Contenders: Angelus U30 Black Tourbillon, Flyback and Split-second Chronograph, Breitling Premier B09 Chronograph 40, IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “Tribute to 3705”, Le Chrono Monopoussoir Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein, Tudor Black Bay Chrono, and Zenith Chronomaster Sport
Our Pick: Breitling Premier B09 Chronograph 40
Green dials have somewhat been a theme this year with W&W 2021. So not only is the new Breitling Premier B09 Chronograph 40 in trend but also the particular shade of green that is so unique that I personally haven’t seen that on any other dial.
The mesmerising pistachio is definitely the aesthetic star, but these chronographs shine thanks to a hell of an amazing package: in-house movement, COSC-certification, heritage but without fauxtina, decently decorated movement displayed through a case-back, offers an impressive 70-hour power reserve, pristine dial with beautiful azurage counters, and water-resistance of 100m.
Special Mention: Le Chrono Monopoussoir Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein. This 40×13.9mm titanium beauty is colourful, quirky, and in a year that’s been not the best thanks to Covid, it’s a well needed respite from the ‘same old timepieces’.
GPHG 2021 – Mechanical Exception
The GPHG website describes this as “watches featuring a special mechanism, such as an innovative or sophisticated display, an automaton, a striking or any other acoustic function, a special escapement, a belt-driven movement or any other original and/or exceptional horological concept”.
In short, watches that make your mind travel to a destination unknown, your heart to a happy place like no other, and your wallet to wail.
The Contenders: Bernhard Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer, Christophe Claret Napoleon, Jacob & Co Opera Godfather Minute Repeater, Miki Eleta Svemir, Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, and Ulysse Nardin UFO
Our Pick: Christophe Claret Napoleon
This mammoth 47×16.78mm titanium watch is not only sweet music to the ears, but its life-inspired-by-Napoleon-era theme is brought alive with vivid imagery thanks to the engraved and hand painted and automated dial.
This is history and art combined with exceptional horological skills to provide a pièce de résistance among the GPHG 2021 shortlists.
Special Mention: Jacob & Co Opera Godfather Minute Repeater. It makes watch lovers an offer they simply can’t refuse.
GPHG 2021 – Calendar and Astronomy
The Contenders: Arnold & Son Luna Magna, Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42, Bulgari Octo Finissimo, CVDK Planetarium Eise Eisinga, IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”, and Konstantin Chaykin Minotaur
Our Pick: Arnold & Son Luna Magna
Watch the sun go down, the sky burning bright, raging an amber war against the fading blue. Close you eyes. Feel the soothing spring breeze softly caressing your face. Wait a moment for the darkness of the night to envelop you. Gently open your eyes, and bask in the glory of the soft light of the moon, set against a glitter of a thousand stars, shooting its romantic beauty straight to your soul.
Now imagine having this poetic feeling everyday of your life, at every moment you choose, at your beck and call, only dictated by the boundaries of your own time.
Meet the new Arnold & Son Luna Magna, a wristwatch for the watch connoisseur who not only wants something unique but whose heart houses the light of celestial power.
Special Mention: Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42
This modern sized watch — the original was 38mm — is technically a mixture of two classic and stunning Breitling watches: it is a mixture of two other watches: the 1950 Datora ref. 785 VENUS 191 35mm with peripheral date, twin apertures for month and day at 12, and tri-compax chrono, and the 1945 Datora ref. 799 VENUS 187 35mm with moonphase and date at 12’o clock.
Busy on the dial yet with enough legibility, it showcases the functions of: central hours and minutes, small second’s at 9’o clock, central chronograph second’s hand, day, date, month, chronograph counter, peripheral tachymetre scale, and moon-phase display.
GPHG 2021 – Ladies’ Complication
The Contenders: Bovet 1822 Récital 23, Chopard L.U.C Flying T Twin Ladies, Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Vivienne, Montres KF KF-09-01, Piaget Altiplano Tourbillon, and Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie watch
Our Pick: Louis Vuitton Tambour Spin Time Air Vivienne
Truth be told, as a luggage company they are awesome, and whilst we are not the biggest fans of Louis Vuitton when it comes to their watches, this timepiece is so unique with it’s unique way of telling the time that it has turned us into a convert.
Using their mascot Vivienne as the 12 hour markers, as the hours change two of these little characters spin to indicate the new hour. It’s as if they dance into the next hour (which is a great reminder to do so in life too!)
Special Mention: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Féerie for the retrograde minutes and jumping hours atop a beautiful range of blues portraying the sky made out of guilloché mother-of-pearl, and their tasteful use of diamonds.
GPHG 2021 – Tourbillon
The Contenders: ArtyA Purity Tourbillon, Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, DB Kind of Two Tourbillon, GP Tourbillon with Three Flying Bridges – Aston Martin Edition, IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “IWC Racing”, and LM Space Revolution
Our Pick: De Bethune Kind of Two Tourbillon
A Tourbillon watch isn’t complicated enough for De Bethune, they have to go and make it reversible!
Two very distinctly different watch faces depending on how the wearer feels. On one side there’s the very De Bethune design language featuring the Tourbillon with a 30-second indication and polished, curved, matt and glossy components with different thicknesses and levels that all somehow come together very harmoniously.
And on the other side a more traditional watch face with a finely hand-guilloched centre.
Talk about best of both worlds.
Special Mention: Louis Moinet’s Space Revolution for bringing two Tourbillons into space alongside two spaceships. Just is honestly the prefect watch for the child who never grew up. If you a fascinated by space, and/or mechanical objects, this is one of the best shortlisted watches coming out of GPHG 2021.
GPHG 2021 – Men’s Complication
The Contenders: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42, Bulgari Octo Roma Worldtimer, Chanel Monsieur. Superleggera Edition, Chopard L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25, and MB&F LMX Titanium
Our Pick: MB&F LMX Titanium.
This is the second first pick from MB&F in our selection, and justifiably so. The architect in me sees the new MB&F LMX as a mini-universe self-sufficient in itself, a sort of mechanical ecosystem that uses kinetic energy to power the very rhythm that it beats to.
Given the rarity of such design language and availability, combined with the mastery that’s evidently gone into bringing the futuristic and whimsical timepieces to life, I reckon the new MB&F LMX would be an excellent addition for any serious watch collector.
The presence of the first-ever rotating 3D power-reserve indicator has got be my favourite takeaway from this release. That, and the inclusion of the three barrels at the back and the three-dimensional dial on the front.
It is best suited for those who know how to play the horological game. Well.
Special Mention: Breitling Premier B15 Duograph 42.
Just like the Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 and B09 Chronograph 40, the B15 Duograph 42 is yet another masterstroke from Georges Kern’s lab of watch wonders for 2021.
Again digging to their expansive archives, Breitling has managed to bring back the soul of watches like the 1943 Premier ref. 734 Venus 178 38mm tri-compax and the 1945 Premier ref. 777 Venus 175 38mm bi-compax.
Tastefully recreating something iconic from the past can always be a challenge and kudos to the brand for sticking to the foundations and still building a modern-day structure.
It is is serious watchmaking served in a dish of aesthetic allure.
GPHG 2021 – Iconic
Now here’s a category after my own heart. And one of the toughest to pick and select from.
The Contenders: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin, GS Re-creation of the first Grand Seiko, IWC Big Pilot’s Watch 43, Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925, VC Historiques American 1921, Zenith Chronomaster Revival A386 Manufacture
Our Pick: Zenith Chronomaster Revival A386 Manufacture
The release of the Zenith Chronomaster Revival Manufacture Edition almost reads like a Hollywood script. It’s got all the ingredients for a crowd-pleasing blockbuster.
As the dramatic entrance made by the quartz crisis in 1970s got its grip around Zenith and the rest of the Swiss watch industry, narrowly escaping that was a prototype watch. We all know the story of Charles Vermot and its importance to the brand. Lots of watches or prototypes from the quartz crisis era had been presumed lost or missing for Zenith.
But recently discovered by the brand’s team hidden inside the famed secret walled-off attic where Charles Vermot had once hidden all the plans and parts necessary to produce the El Primero movement was the blueprint for this year’s GPHG nominated release, the new Zenith Chronomaster Revival A386 Manufacture Edition.
Making this edition more significant is that it will be the final version of the A386 available with the original “Revival” case.
Blue and sexy, and oozing oodles of charm and masculinity, this latest release is another feature in the chequered brand’s cap.
Special Mention: Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925. Bling and elegance without the price of gold defines the new BB58 925. It is perhaps the best value for money in the Swiss watch industry today.
The proportions of these 39mm diameter watches and the dial symmetry is the stuff they should teach about in horology schools.
It’s the no-fuss timepiece, and as iconic as they come. The taupe grey dial on a silver alloy body is extremely legible. And for those who like to play rough, these are also tough as nails. You pretty much can’t go wrong with a Tudor BB58.
GPHG 2021 – Men’s
This is perhaps the most hotly contested category for GPHG 2021.
The Contenders: Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours Caliber 9SA5, H. Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade, Hermès H08, La Semaine Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein, MB&F LM101 Double Hairspring, Piaget Piaget Polo Skeleton
Our Pick: Grand Seiko SLGH005 ‘Birch’
It has been refreshing to see that GS made it to this year’s shortlist. It is also our pick, though this was perhaps the hardest decision we made.
In the end we went with this because it’s different than the rest here, is actually available to buy, and doesn’t burn a whole in your pocket. Out of the selection, it’s also something if we owned we wouldn’t be too scared to beat it, and would happily wear it on a daily basis.
Ever since the first Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA211 from 2005 made landfall, the watch community has ‘woken’ to the Japanese luxury watch brand. Over the last 16 years, the brand has justly capitalised on the textured dial popularity (and the Spring Drive movement) of the SBGA211, presenting it as a definitive competitor to its competition.
Retailing for $13’600 AUD, the Grand Seiko SLGH005 ‘Birch’ features the rather recent in-house 9SA5 that also features a Hi-Beat movement beating at a frequency of 5Hz. The dual impulse calibre 9SA5 comprises of 47 jewels, an 80-hour power reserve, and a stated accuracy of +5/-3 seconds per day (mean daily rate).
Special Mention: H. Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade
Farewell, Adieu, Aufwiedersehen. The new H. Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade is the epic finale that wraps up the tale of the Swiss Alp Watch saga, a sage that thankfully countered the existence of dime-a-dozen connected or smart faux-watches.
The Vantablack® technology used in the new H. Moser & Cie Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade — as seen previously in the likes of the Endeavour Tourbillon Vantablack® Black Hands reference 1804-1206 — somewhat connives with a shape reminiscent of the Apple faux-watch to provide horological enthusiasts with a one-off timepiece that’s both daring and understated at the same time.
The H. Moser & Cie Vantablack® watches with their black hole like appearance are a true testament to the brand’s power to create something out of nothing. Clocking in a new level of stealth, these black watches go beyond merely telling the time, they are designed to elicit a personal bond between the wearer and the watch.
That’s All Folks!
We will wrap this up with another quote (this time by Ralph Waldo Emerson): “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm”.
In each one of the shortlisted timepieces from GPHG 2021, one can see and appreciate the artistry, skill and enthusiasm that’s gone behind producing them. Whatever the actual results may be, and even if our picks aren’t on the money, we truly appreciate the watches from this year; after all without them, we wouldn’t have this wonderful life soaked in the eccentric world of watches.
For more information on these watches and the GPHG 2021, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated © FONDATION DU GRAND PRIX D’HORLOGERIE DE GENÈVE and/or respective brands.