The 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève marked the first-ever major post-Covid event of the watchmaking industry. It was held earlier in the month of November at the Théâtre du Léman in Geneva with great fanfare. With 84 finalists competing for the biggest watchmaking awards, the night saw the coming together of all major players of the industry. We bring you a rundown of the best watches of the year 2021.
BVLGARI OCTO FINISSIMO PERPETUAL CALENDAR
After so many record-breaking models, it comes as no surprise that Bulgari took home the coveted “Aiguille d’Or” prize for the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar. It is currently the world’s thinnest perpetual calendar, and the seventh in an unbroken line of world records for Bulgari since 2014. The award also marked the first time an Italian-born brand received the prestigious prize. “This is the first time an Italianborn brand has won a GPHG. It is an example of Italian genius and obsession for details,” Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin said, when accepting the award.
The slimmest perpetual calendar watch on the market features a 40mm case with a total thickness of just 5.80 mm. The lightweight titanium case houses the automatic movement BVL 305 caliber, which is just 2.75mm thick. Apart from the apparent thinness of the watch, the Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar is a watch that features so much more. The timepiece gains brownie points for its striking Octo design, a retrograde date, day, month, leap year, 60 hours of power reserve, and an angular slim bracelet.
MEN’S WATCH PRIZE:
GRAND SEIKO HI-BEAT 36000 80 HOURS CALIBER 9SA5
Grand Seiko won the Men’s Watch category for its well-deserved Hi-Beat 36000 80-Hours 9SA5. This win marks the Japanese watch brand’s first award since participating in the GPHG in 2014. As one of the standout timepieces representing the brand’s new philosophy of The Nature of Time, the watch captures the beauty and watchmaking expertise of the Shizukuishi Studio with its textured dial and revolutionary 9SA5 calibre. The watch houses a manufactured dial inspired by the slender and gorgeous white birch tree forests that grow at Shizukuishi, near the Grand Seiko studio. Complimenting the dial are the powerful hands and grooved, prominent markers that offer perfect legibility. The entire watch is treated with the signature Zaratsu polishing technique that gives a distortion-free mirror finish that is harmonious and attractive. Beating at the heart of the watch is the innovative Hi-beat Caliber 9SA5, which oscillates at 36000 vph, and clocks in a power reserve of 80 hours.
MEN’S COMPLICATION WATCH PRIZE:
MB&F LMX TITANIUM
According to the GPHG description for the Men’s Complication prize, the category entails men’s timepieces that are “remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity”. And who better to represent this category than MB&F. The seriously impressive MB&F LMX Titanium that celebrates 10 years of the brand’s Legacy Machines collection is the watch that won this year’s Men’s Complication Watch Prize.
Like its earlier iterations, the LMX features a central flying balance wheel and two tilted dials (made of stretched white lacquer) that each displays the hours and minutes. The watch also pays homage to the LM1’s world-first vertical power reserve indicator by inculcating a completely new three-dimensional rotating display that presents an impressive seven-day power reserve. These complicated complications are powered by MB&F’s profoundly symmetrical engine visible via the front and back of the watch case.
ICONIC WATCH PRIZE:
AUDEMARS PIGUET ROYAL OAK “JUMBO” EXTRA-THIN
Audemars Piguet took home the Iconic Watch Award for the recently launched Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin. Designed by Gerald Genta and presented to the world at the 1972 Baselworld fair, the Royal Oak has been an icon in the watchmaking world for many decades.
Ticking many boxes of an iconic watch, the Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-Thin also marks the first time the brand has released the Royal Oak in a slender appearance. Despite the word “Jumbo” attached to the name, the watch has a thickness of just 8.1mm, and offers a slim build on the wrist. It is presented in a 39mm full 950 platinum case and bracelet, and features a smoked green dial decorated with a sunburst pattern. The watch is powered by the self-winding Manufacture Calibre 2121, which offers simple functions like hours, minutes, and dates.
TOURBILLON WATCH PRIZE:
DE BETHUNE DB KIND OF TWO TOURBILLON
A fan favourite from the beginning, the De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon is famous for its two dials showcasing two distinctive identities. While one opens up a whole world of sleek and modern design and technical supremacy, the other lets the wearer explore a more traditional watchmaking style. One side of the dial houses a central hours-and-minutes hand with a tourbillon sitting comfortably at 6 o’clock and a 30-second indication. The reverse features a more traditional display of time decorated with a finely hand-guilloché central part, encircled by numerals that we have seen on the dials of earlier models like DB8 and DB10.
Providing two different watches for the price of one, the De Bethune DB Kind of Two Tourbillon is perfectly reversible, and can be worn on either side depending on the mood of the day.
MECHANICAL EXCEPTION WATCH PRIZE:
PIAGET ALTIPLANO ULTIMATE AUTOMATIC
Last year, Piaget had won the “Aiguille d’Or” for its Altiplano Ultimate Concept watch that had an overall height of just 2 mm. This year, an almost similar example — the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic took home the Best Mechanical Exception Watch Prize.
The brand’s history with ultra-thin movements goes back to 1957, when it first launched its 2mm manual-winding 9P caliber. Since then, Piaget’s mastery of ultra-thin movements has been unquestionable. The Altiplano Ultimate Automatic, released at the 2021 Watches and Wonders, is no exception. As the second thinnest automatic watch in the market with an overall thickness of 4.3mm, it is interesting to understand the process behind the intricate design and construction of the case and the movement. One can find no distinction between the movement (the revolutionary Calibre 910P) and the exterior elements of the watch.
The architecture fits the bridges on the dial side and makes the mainplate its caseback, consisting of 219 parts. The watch is available in a combination of white gold and Piaget’s signature blue colours.
The dial is home to alternating double and simple indexes, accompanied by an off-centre hour and minute display.
CHRONOGRAPH WATCH PRIZE:
ZENITH CHRONOMASTER SPORT
After the “Aiguille d’Or”, the Chronograph Watch Prize category is the most prestigious and contested award of the GPHG. This year, Zenith won the honour with its sporty Chronomaster Sport. This new chronograph watch from Zenith has been a top contender in many watch collectors’ list of must-have watches.
Steeped in Zenith’s tradition of producing exceptional automatic chronographs, the Chronomaster Sport is a modern version of the 1960s icon— the El Primero. A heartfelt moment during the GPHG award night was when Zenith CEO Julien Tornare took a moment while receiving the award to thank the men and women responsible for creating the original back in the 1960s.
The 2021 version comes in a 41mm robust steel case with pump-style pushers and a distinctive polished black ceramic bezel. The black or white dial features signature El Primero tricolour chronograph counters in blue, anthracite, and light grey. Each of the chronograph counters is graduated to 60 for easy and intuitive readings. The watch houses the newest version of the legendary El Primero 3600 calibre, which can measure and display elapsed time to 1/10th of a second.
DIVER’S WATCH PRIZE:
LOUIS VUITTON TAMBOUR STREET DIVER SKYLINE BLUE
When Louis Vuitton unveiled its first Tambour timepiece back in 2002, little did we know that the collection would go on to become one of its most popular watches. The newly released Tambour Street Diver Skyline Blue has just won the annual GPHG award for the Best Diver Watch.
Sporty in its design, the watch combines the traditional functions of a typical diver watch with the modern aesthetic of a contemporary sports timepiece. It comes in a 44mm two-tone stainless steel drum-shaped case with a large base and slender top. Twelve letters forming “Louis Vuitton” are engraved on the side of the steel bezel and filled with blue colour to match the dark-blue PVD coated case middle. It features two screw-down crowns (at 1:30 for the dive bezel and another winding crown at 3 o’clock), 100m of water-resistance, Super-LumiNova on the dial, an inner rotating bezel, and a quick-change strap system.
The watch also offers the popular “Align the V” concept, which means the letter V present on the diving scale can rotate to align with the matching V present at the tip of the minute hand. This alignment of the two Vs forms an X that marks the beginning of a dive.
ARTISTIC CRAFTS WATCH PRIZE:
MB&F LM SE EDDY JAQUET ‘AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS’
One of the highlights of the night was MB&F being honoured with the Artistic Crafts Watch Prize for the exceptional LM SE Eddy Jaquet ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ watch.
This watch brings to light the exceptional imagination and skill of the talented and master engraver Eddy Jaquet. It is a part of a series of eight unique pieces that features an intricate dial that has been hand-engraved, and depicts the novels of Jules Verne, including Around the World in Eighty Days.
A perfect example of the power of storytelling through engraving, the LM SE Eddy Jaquet ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ is unique in its approach of representing the well-known story by the French novelist. For each piece, Jaquet read and re-read (in some cases) the original work of Verne. He then reimagined it onto the mainplate of the watch that also acts as the dial. The extensive use of different engraving finishing techniques has given the illustration numerous elements that enhance a scene’s dramatic rendering. For the watch to accommodate Jaquet’s idea, the original design of the LM had to undergo many changes. These included creating a new openworked date, power reserve sundials with wider plates, slimmer bezels, and a new crystal dome.
The LM SE Eddy Jaquet ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ is available in an 18K red gold case equipped with LM SE movement that clocks in a power reserve of 72 hours.
PETITE AIGUILLE PRIZE:
TUDOR BLACK BAY CERAMIC
For the uninitiated, the “Petite Aiguille” Prize honours a watch with a retail price between CHF 3,500 and CHF 10,000. It is also the only category in the entire GPHG that admits smartwatches.
This year, Tudor took home the “Petite Aiguille” Prize for its Black Bay Ceramic. This new timepiece is the brand’s first regular-production dive watch, and comes in a 41mm all-black matt ceramic case. It also marks the brand’s first timepiece to obtain METAS chronometer certification (a Master Chronometer).
In terms of the watch’s design, the Black Bay Ceramic features a domed matt black dial with applied hour markers and their hallmark “snowflake” hands filled with grade A Swiss Super-LumiNova® luminescent material. The monobloc ceramic case has sand-blasted surfaces with bevelled edges that are mirror polished for a perfect contrast. The hybrid black leather and rubber strap enhances the overall all-black look of the watch.
The Black Bay Ceramic runs on their in-house manufacture movement Calibre MT5602-1U that offers functions for hours, minutes, and seconds. Like the rest of the watch, the movement’s finishing is black, with the rotor crafted in black tungsten monobloc, and the bridges and mainplate finished with polished, laser, and sand-blasted decorations. The movement offers a power reserve of 70 hours, making it a “weekend-proof” watch. What is that? It is a watch that you can take off on Friday and wear on Monday without winding it.
LOUIS VUITTON TAMBOUR CARPE DIEM
As the name suggests, the GPHG Audacity prize celebrates a watch that features a non-conforming and offbeat design or approach to watchmaking. The extravagant and over the top (in a good way) Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem won the Audacity Prize for 2021, also famously called the 21stcentury “jacquemart”. What is a “jacquemart”? It is an automaton that tells time using a striking mechanism that indicates the hours and minutes.
The Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem dial features a skull and a snake that perform a decorative and functional purpose. It not only reflects a scenery of audacity and avant-garde design, but with just a push of a button, the dial comes to life, and indicates time as a jacquemart should. How does it work? Once you push the reptile-shaped push-piece on the side of the case, the central snake’s head lifts to reveal the hour aperture placed on the skull’s forehead, and the rattlesnake oscillates towards the minutes placed below the power reserve hourglass. Simultaneously, the Monogram Flower present in place of the skull’s eye emits a mocking laugh, and the words Carpe Diem, which mean “Seize the Day”. All of this spectacle, once turned on, lasts for a total of 16 seconds, and is perfectly synchronised.
This specific feature has been made possible by building the framework of the watch around two significant axes, allowing the automaton to tell the time on demand without hands. Apart from these extra features, the watch also houses a jumping hour, a retrograde minute repeater, and a power reserve indicator. The watch is available in a 46.8mm 18K pink gold case powered by the LV 525 movement that clocks in a power reserve of 100 hours.
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE:
DUBAI WATCH WEEK
What is the Special Jury Prize? It is an optional award that honours a personality, institution, and an initiative committed to promoting high-quality watchmaking. For 2021, the Jury decided to award Dubai Watch Week, particularly the Seddiqi & Sons retail chain of watch boutiques.
With its fifth edition last month, Dubai Watch Week has become one of the most popular, educational, and cultural platforms for all things horology. The four-day fair offered a place where the watch industry united, and created an opportunity to introduce crafts where generations of watch enthusiasts connected. “Along with leading watch brands, pre-eminent speakers, and guests from around the world — coupled with entertainment and homegrown & international food concepts — our objective is to create an educational, experiential, and networking event like no other,” said Hind Seddiqi, Director General of Dubai Watch Week.
The show, which took place from November 24 to 28, was bigger and grander than its earlier editions. It featured the participation of over 45 leading brands, several immersive and interactive panel discussions, hands-on workshops led by expert artisans, and a grand display of the many exclusive watches at the Brands Exhibition Hall.
BEST JEWELLERY WATCH:
CHOPARD FLOWER POWER
The Chopard Flower Power, which won the Best Jewellery Watch at the 2021 GPHG Awards, belongs to Chopard’s Paradise-themed emblematic Red Carpet collection. Exquisitely crafted by the Maison’s artisans and deeply inspired by Co-President and Artistic Director Caroline Scheufele’s idea of Paradise, the Flower Power pays tribute to exceptional gemstones. The jewellery watch, decorated with pink sapphires and pear-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds (totalling around 30 carats), forms a flower garland that is exquisite to witness on the wrist. The extensive use of these exceptional gemstones represents Caroline Scheufele’s interpretation of the Garden of Eden.
Additionally, the pink mother-of-pearl dial set with 12 sapphires and encircled by a diamond-encrusted bezel works perfectly with the rest of the watch. The entire watch is made from Fairmined-certified 18K white gold as a tribute to the Paradise of light.