In the lead up to the awards ceremony of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève on Thursday 4 November, WorldTempus takes you through the categories and their finalists, with a serving of comment and analysis. This is the second article of an ongoing limited series, delving into the categories Diver’s, Petite Aiguille and Challenge.
Category: Petite Aiguille
Comprised of timpieces between 3,500 and 10,000 CHF, the Petite Aiguille is the most consumer-oriented category in the GPHG. This is the sweet spot where the best watchmaking for your money is to be found. No suprise then that we find a Tudor timepiece. The Black Bay Ceramic may be near the top of the brand's price range, but that is easily explained : it's got the look that kills of a full black watch, a ceramic case and a Master Chronometer and COSC, in-house, 70-hour, automatic movement with silicon hairsping that comes with a 5-year warranty.
Breitling is another big player in the category, but they were smart about it and entered a colourful, fun to look at and to wear chronograph. It's got that 1960's and 70's look and a cool colorway devised in association with Australilan apparel outfit Deus Ex Machina.
Last massive player in the category, Seiko is reissuing what used to be their flagship, high-end timepiece. The Recreation of King Seiko KSK (now, that is a name that should not be held against this watch) is a very solid 1960's timepiece with a very sharp sense of detail, the kind that's really appreciated on a wrist rather than on a screen.
2021 Nominated Watches
Garrick is not your average watch brand. They work hard at manufacturing a great-looking movement (a highly modified ETA 6498), great-looking guilloché dials and hands that look like nothing else out there. The S4 with a red and silver dial stands out by its design, its craft and the exclusivity that comes with a limited-output brand. Oh, and they're based in East Anglia if you can believe that : just like home-grown wine, English watchmaking is making a comeback.
Speaking of non-Swiss brands, Paris-based Trilobe is competing with their second model, Nuit Fantastique, which preserves the brand's signature display with off-centered rings. This new one is cleaner, leaner and the finishings, on the 8-shaped applique and the rest of the dial, are just beautiful.
Did anyone say off-centered ? Well, Louis Erard did. Their collab with watchmaking legend Vianney Halter is an all-graphic reinterpretation of their Régulateur, and it is all about the font, the hand-shape, the dial, the detail.
Along with the Petite Aiguille category, this one matters especially as it features timepieces that are most likely to be bought, down the road, by not-so-rich customers. It's also a launching pad for several new players looking for legitimacy in a field where that is generally bought with high-end movements and/or complications. The definition of this category is simple : it's all about price, which should be kept under the 3,500 CHF mark.
It should come as no surprise that most of the contestants here are up and coming. Two exceptions on that front, Oris and Doxa, both longstanding players, show that there's room for what one might call “the usual suspects” and that affordability doesn't necessarily equal crowdfunding. Case in point with Oris and the Divers Sixty-Five Cotton Candy. Check out that full bronze automatic timepiece with a pink dial (and I do mean full-blown pink). There's something to be said about audacity, a term that's so often misused, but not in this instance.
Doxa is in the midst of a rebirth. Consistent in delivering flashy-colored diver timepieces in the US for a long time, it's now back on a larger scale, both geographical and horological, as testified by the SUB 200 C-GRAPH Caribbean. It still has that diver's touch, with the unidirectional 60 minute bezel and 200 m water-resistance. But the thing that sets it apart is its size : there are not that many 45 mm wide and 14 mm thick pieces out there. Especially when it's a mechanical chronograph. And that should count for something.
2021 Nominated Watches
The much-discussed Furlan Marri is in the fight, and that's no surprise since it's managed to garner such support from the watch enthusiasts community. Just bear in mind that this is a low-priced quartz timepiece with a mechanical chronograph module, even though it looks, on paper, like a 1950's chronograph from Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin.
Speaking of mimicking the classics, the Massena Lab Uni-Racer is closer to the upper limit of the category, which is easily explained by its fully mechanical nature. William Rohr is a pillar of the worldwide watch community and has managed to deliver a perfectly good-looking 1970's chronograph, with every single en vogue detail present, such as a Big Eye counter and sector dial.
You didn't know Anordain? Neither did I, I must confess. But there's a story there : the Model 1 is a Scottish-made watch, with a Scottish-made enamel dial. The variations in colour come from the difference in depth on the hammered, silver dial. The deeper the pocket, the more enamel it contains, the darker the grey. Isn't that clever ?
Ciga Design is an outlier on many counts. They're almot the only contestant with an environment-minded agenda in the GPHG. Witness the Blue Planet's dial, which is a representation of the Earth. Plus they managed to modify a generic mechanical movement and remain affordable. The point was to display time with a wind rose acting as an hour hand and having the minute track move along so that the hour hand doubles as the minute hand.
Diving watches are the stuff these days. They combine versatility in an informal age, sturdy design and life-proof construction (since, you know, they're waterproof). So this is both a specialists' domain and one where a brand can show they can do anyhting. Case in point with Louis Vuitton. The Tambour Street Diver is not their first venture in the diving field. In fact, their return was sort of anticipated. They went for a high legibility, coloured piece with solid technical credentials.
Same with Ulysse Nardin. As a brand intimately associated with everything oceanic, they've been a long standing provider of diving watches. The Diver X Skeleton, though, is a new, energetic take on their more tame Diver collection : an X-shaped movement on a blue titanium and carbon case with orange accents, that's a statement !
Orange is the way Milus went for their Achimédes. The reborn again brand is all about the vintage these days and it's frankly a surprise this one is the only 60's-inspired diver in the category. It's also a sign of the times that many of the watches competing here feature out-of-the-ordinary colors. Not a black one in sight, event though that's the go-to color for a deep-dive timepiece. Instead we have some green with the Aquis Date Calibre 400 from Oris, which features their new in-house movement in a smaller case, or a full-blown neon-blue dial and strap with the SUB 300 carbon COSC Aquamarine from Doxa. This one is at maximum contrast value thanks to a full forged carbon case.
So far, we have, steel, carbon, titanium cases, so all we're missing is a bronze one and that's provided by French brand Reservoir, which is applying their dashboard-looking, jumping hour, retrograde minute concept to a limited series designed with diver photographer Greg Lecoeur, wter-resistant to 25 bar.