Audemars Piguet wins the Best Watch award

Last night, the great and good of the watchmaking world gathered in the watch-obsessed city of Geneva for the annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie awards ceremony.

The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is one of the world’s most important watchmaking events, celebrating craftsmanship, innovation and art since the event was first held in 2001.

The ceremony, organized by Canton, City and Geneva and held at the city’s Lehman Theater, saw a host of CEOs from various watchmakers take to the red carpet, including Bulgari’s Jean-Christophe Babin and Britain’s Mike France. Manufacturer Christopher Ward.

Spear Columnist Nicholas Foulkes chaired the 2023 judging panel, where 19 award winners were selected from a selection of 90 nominees. Audemars Piguet was honored with the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” award for its technically demanding Code 11.59 watch, while Piaget won awards in two of the main categories.

Last night’s ‘Oscars of Watchmaking’, a hotly contested and highly coveted award for any watchmaker, saw some notable winners:

Sports Watch Award: Theodor Pelagos 39

Since the launch of the Black Bay in 2012, the modern Tudor brand has been powered by crowd-pleasing dive watches. With its titanium case, COSC-certified movement and reduced dimensions, the Pelagos 39 is a glimpse into Rolex’s future.

The Pelagos 39 titanium watch was awarded Best Sports Watch at the Geneva ceremony / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

(See also: The Evolution of Blancpain’s Fifty Fathoms Dive Watch)

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Petite Aiguille Award: Christopher Ward London, C1 Bel Canto

As the first of the two categories to take into account retail prices by the jury, the winner of the “Petite Aiguille” award must have a price point between 3,500 and 10,000 Swiss francs. An elegant Bel Canto watch by Christopher Ward featured as a recipient.

Featuring the Sonnerie au Passage complication, the watch reimagines its jumping watch caliber to sound on the hour, every hour – a deserved winner for bringing a chiming complication to the accessible end of watchmaking.

Featuring a dark blue hue on its elegant dial, this Bel Canto watch by Christopher Ward features the Sonnerie au Passage complication / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

(See also: Independent Watchmakers You Need to Know)

Challenge Prize: Raymond Weil, Millesime Automatic Small Seconds

In a highly competitive category where a nominee’s retail price must be either equal to or less than CHF 3,500, Raymond Weil’s Millésime was honored with the evening’s prestigious ‘Challenge’ Award.

Beautifully monochromatic with respectful touches of traditional design, the Millésime watch is arguably the most subdued of the nominated pieces, but a worthy winner nonetheless. The Challenge category continues to prove something that many of us in the industry think about daily: price points do not dictate compelling watchmaking.

The monochrome, traditionally designed Millésime watch by Raymond Weil wins the Challenge Award / Image: GPHG Awards 2023
A group of watch industry CEOs, including Christopher Ward’s Mike France, took to the red carpet for the Geneva ceremony / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Iconic Award: Ulysse Nardin, Freak One

Always a category ripe for debate, the winner of the Iconic Watch award was the Ulysse Nardin Freak One. Often seen as a visionary innovator of groundbreaking technology, the Freak One is linked to the inception of the model through its hands, dial, and crownless execution.

The entire movement rotates, with the gear system and escapement serving as the minute and hour hands. Its departure from tradition is both progressive and bold, making Freak One a deserving winner of the iconic award.

Ulysse Nardin, the iconic Grand Prix winner, is seen by some as a visionary innovator / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

(See also: Has Nicholas Foulkes finally realized his brand ambassador ambitions?)

Chronograph Award: Petermann Bedat, Rattrapante Chronograph

With a split-second mechanism operated by a single pusher, a jumping minute counter, and a mastery of the visual language of “old meets new,” it’s no wonder the Petermann Bédat Chronographe Rattrapante won the chronograph award.

As one of the most talked-about independent watchmakers of recent times, many expected Bédat to win, even in a highly competitive field.

Award-winning watchmaker Petermann Bedat has grown in popularity as an independent brand / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Women’s Watch Prize: Piaget, Hidden Treasures

The first of two categories dedicated to traditional feminine watches, the 2023 Ladies’ Watch Award goes to Piaget for its hidden treasures.

Reviving the popular cuff watches of the 1960s and 1970s, Piaget pursued an organic design. Hand-carvings with delicate patterns resembling tree bark demonstrate their Métiers d’Or expertise. The dial also evokes Piaget’s colorful stone dials of the late 20th century.

Women’s Complications Award: Dior Watches, Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior

Mastering multiples can cover a wide range of purposes. The Dior Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior, which won the Ladies’ Complicated Watch Award, used watchmaking techniques to tell a story.

This creative complication is an automated mechanical device, depicting the story of the founding of the House of Dior with sliding stars when the monomotor is engaged.

(See also: The best luxury gifts for her in 2023)

Jewelry Award: Bvlgari, Serpenti Cleopatra

As the only award dedicated to gemstones and setting, the “Jewellery” category sets aside the art of technical watchmaking.

Crowned this year’s winner, the Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra watch is made of topaz, rubellite, tanzanite, amethyst and diamonds. It recalls the Roman house’s iconic Serpenti bracelet, while at the same time conveying the story of Cleopatra’s passion for wearing jewelry and the city of Rome itself.

Bvlgari’s diamond-encrusted watch brings to mind the story of Cleopatra / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Artistic Crafts Prize: Piaget, Highland Crafts – Undulata

Watchmaking strangely reflects the artistic world, and the Piaget Prize-winning Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata is the reason why. This evocative timepiece has several abstract layers of wood, rattan and leather applied by hand to the dial.

This win marks Piaget’s second win, reinforcing the shared vision of their renewed potential for the future.

Men’s Complications Award: Voutilainen, Worldtimer

Although it remains a signature Voutilainen creation due to its hand-decorated dial, Kari Voutilainen’s Worldtimer that bears her name stands out among the nominees in the Men’s Complications Award category.

Its cushion-shaped cover and execution of great historical complexity made Carey’s rendition of the Worldtimer a welcome surprise to the judges.

(See also: $44 million Bleu Royal Diamond is the most expensive gem sold at auction in 2023)

Prize for Calendar and Astronomy: Bovet 1822, Récital 20 Astérium

In perhaps the most unique category shrouded in wonder, Beauvais took to the stage to accept the “Calendar and Astronomy” award. Full of technology, craftsmanship and function, the winning Récital 20 Astérium features celestial indicators, a tri-function hour hand indicating the time, pointing to the north, and the night sky, all finished in exquisite finishes. Surprisingly, with ten days of autonomy, this level of craftsmanship is typical of BOVET.

Bovet’s Récital 20 Astérium, which has a three-function hour hand, received the ‘Calendar and Astronomy’ bell / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Tourbillon Award: Laurent Ferrer, Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit

More than 200 years after the inception of this complication, Laurent Ferrer was awarded the Tourbillon Prize for his Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit. The salmon dial evokes the sky at dawn, and the sports watch with integrated titanium bracelet is truly special, as it was the only nominated watch not to display the tourbillon dial side.

Mechanical watch award: L’Epée 1839, Time Fast II Chrome

Taking a break from wristwatches, the L’Epée 1839 Time Fast II Chrome took home the mechanical watch award last night. A far cry from our grandfathers’ watches, the Time Fast II is based on 1960s sports cars and features two movements: one for keeping the time, and one for the “engine.” It even has a functional gear stick that switches between rear-wheel time-shift, piston-time, and neutral.

Designed after a 1960s sports car, the Time Fast II Chrome mechanical watch has come a long way from traditional grandfather clocks / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Men’s Award: Simon Brett, Chronométrie Artisans

This year saw the men’s category dominated by independents with varying annual production numbers, but Simon Brett took home the coveted prize.

Having first launched his brand via a traditional subscription method, the award-winning Chronomètre Artisans is a fine example of true heritage that pays homage to innovation, commended by the judging panel for its impeccable finishing on the front and back of the piece.

Innovation Award: Hautlence, Sphere Series 1

The first of two awards that exemplify the excellence that GPHG stands for, Hautlence won the Innovation category with its Sphere 1 Series. Nominees require a special mechanism in the form of a display, audio function, mechanical marvel or original concept.

An evolutionary advance of the leap watch, the Sphere Series 1 watch has a 3D rotating globe and a regressing vertical minute counter. The caliber’s gearing is also revealed, enhancing its dynamism.

(See also: Raise a glass to sherry: This underrated drink is finally gaining ground in the luxury market)

The most prestigious Aiguille d’Or of the GPHG Awards: Audemars Piguet, Code 11.59

Perhaps the most coveted award of the evening is the “Aiguille d’Or” which is presented to “the best overall watch among all categories.” This year, Audemars Piguet took first place with its Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4.

Part of a collection launched just four years ago, the gold-lined Code 11.59 is one of the most complex wristwatches the house has ever produced. It has 40 functions, 23 complications and dimensions of only 42mm x 15.5mm.

Audemars Piguet received the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” award for its Code 11.59 watch / Image: GPHG Awards 2023

Other noteworthy winners were the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 3SPC for the Chronometry Award, and the Maison Alcée Persée Azur for the Audacity Award. Meanwhile, the Special Jury Prize went to Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese from AHCI.

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