GPHG 2023: Who won what, and more importantly, why
Revolution’s West Coast Editor-at-Large Stephen Pulvirent shares his thoughts and reactions on all the winning watches of the 2023 GPHG.
Before the curtain had fully closed on this year’s GPHG awards ceremony in Geneva, I sat down and recorded a short video with some of my first thoughts on the results. But now that the dust has settled a bit, I thought it would be worth walking through the GPHG 2023 winners, watch by watch, to see what we can learn from the results. I’m going to go in the order in which the prizes were awarded, so buckle up and let’s go.
Ladies’ Prize – Piaget Hidden Treasures
Other nominees include Arnold & Son Perpetual Moon 38 Mintnight, Beauregard Lili Bouton, Hermès Arceau Petite lune, Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret watch, XRby La Montre d’Art Espressione Romantica
I was very happy to see that none of the watches in this year’s Ladies’ category fell into the dreaded “shrink it and pink it” class of watches. All six watches were intentionally designed and have something to say.
That said, I was thrilled to see the Piaget win. There are few watchmakers with a history of making high jewelry watches that rival Piaget’s and the Hidden Treasures’ combination of gold work, stone craft, and gem setting really stood out to me. I would imagine that the Hermès and the Van Cleef also received a number of first place votes and I wouldn’t be surprised if the final tally was tight.
Ladies’ Complication Prize – Dior Montres Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior
Other nominees include Andersen Genève Arctic Sunrise Andersen Genève x BCHH, Chopard Imperiale Jumping Hour, Gucci Timepieces G-Timeless Planetarium with diamond-studded stars, IWC Schaffhausen Portofino Perpetual Calendar, Louis Vuitton Tambour Fiery Heart Automata
Talk about a strange final field of watches. The six shortlisted pieces ranged from understated to garish and each appeared to be more mechanically complicated than the next (no surprise, given the category), and more than one would fall under a more “gender neutral” heading if I were asked to weigh in.
Along with Van Cleef & Arpels, Dior is one of the more underappreciated watchmakers when it comes to creative, poetic complications. Hopefully an award like this shines some light on Dior as a watchmaker and encourages others to think outside the box.
Men’s Complication Prize – Voutilainen World Timer
Other nominees include ArtyA Tiny Purity Tourbillon Chameleon, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Split-Seconds Chronograph GMT Large Date, Bovet 1822 Récital 27, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante, Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, Voutilainen World Timer
Some categories have obvious winners. And then there’s this category. The problem here (if you can call it a problem) is that each of the six watches here takes a completely different approach to creating a “complicated” watch. So what will the jury reward? Is it pure mechanical insanity? Is it the quality of watchmaking and craftsmanship? Is it wearability in the face of complexity?
It seems that the jury decided to weigh these factors and reward the watch that best balanced them. The square-ish case of Voutilainen’s World Time is non-traditional, but the level of craftsmanship in the watch is next-to-none and the ability to create something artistic but not over-the-top has long been a strength of Kari Voutilainen and his team.
Iconic Prize – Ulysse Nardin Freak One
Other nominees include Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Chronograph, Breitling Navitimer 01 Chronograph 41, Chopard L.U.C 1860, IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur Automatic 40, TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph, Ulysse Nardin Freak One
Talk about another crowded field. Offshore, Navitimer, L.U.C, Ingenieur, Carrera, Freak. That’s a murderers’ row of all-time greats. I don’t envy the jury on this one. I’m not too shocked to see Ulysse Nardin take home the trophy for the Freak One, given its impact on the last two decades of watchmaking, but I’d be willing to bet that the voting was close.
In my opinion, this generation of TAG Heuer Carrera is the best since the pre-TAG days and the latest Ingenieur is a masterclass from IWC of how to design a watch inspired by the past without making a straight-up reissue of a piece from the archive. And then the ceramic Beast? I could keep going…
Tourbillon Prize – Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit
Other nominees include Arnold & Son Ultrathin Tourbillon Gold, Bovet 1822 Virtuoso XI, Bulgari Octo Roma Striking Papillon Tourbillon, HYT Conical Tourbillon Infinity Sapphires, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon
Years ago, when I got a preview of the very first Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon, I’ll admit I didn’t get it at all. The design wasn’t for me and I didn’t feel the connection between the watch and the rest of the brand. It just didn’t click and I kind of moved on mentally, rarely thinking about the watch in the years that followed.
And then this year’s version of the watch came out and now I think I get it. Will I be queuing up to order a piece? No, it’s still not for me, but I completely understand why people are so excited about it. In the face of everyone scrambling to create high complications in sport watch packages, Mr. Ferrier is looking very ahead of his time. With that in mind, I bet the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Flying Tourbillon is our runner-up here, but we’ll never know for sure.
Calendar & Astronomy Prize – Bovet 1822 Récital 20 Astérium
Other nominees include Felipe Pikullik Moon phase 1, IWC Schaffhausen Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Lake Tahoe, Habring2 x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Xiali Chinese Calendar, Piaget Polo Perpetual Calendar Obsidian
Bovet has quite the history in this category, and with these kinds of watches, so the win is no big surprise. In fact, I would kind of been shocked if anything else had won here.
But that doesn’t mean the other watches are undeserving. The Récital 20 Astérium is a serious feat of watchmaking, but personally I think I’d be more excited to wear any of the other five finalists myself. I’ve always loved how IWC makes perpetual calendars approachable to non-nerds with the Big Pilot’s QPs and the Habring² x Massena LAB Chrono Felix Perpetual has to be one of the best value-driven watches in the entire GPHG this year. And that 3D moon phase in the Felipe Pikullik? Don’t even get me started.
Chronograph Prize – Petermann Bédat Chronographe Rattrapante
Other nominees include Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon Chronograph, De Bethune DB Eight, Grand Seiko Tentagraph, Singer Reimagined 1969 Chrono, TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph Skipper
This is another one of those “what are we rewarding here” categories. Is this about creating the most innovative chronograph? The most complicated? The most wearable? Ultimately, I think the jury went the “go big or go home” route with the mind-blowing Petermann Bédat splitter, and I don’t know that I could have voted for anything else in good conscience had I been in the room with them. The watch is fantastic on nearly every level and I think it was a genuine contender for the Aiguille d’Or too. It seems my colleagues here at Revolution would agree, since the watch was also named Best Chronograph in the 2023 Revo Awards earlier last week.
But even as an avowed non-chronograph guy, there’s a lot to like here. Grand Seiko’s Tentagraph answered the decades-long prayers from collectors looking for a fully mechanical GS chronograph, and it answered them in style; De Bethune made a watch that hides a great deal of complexity in a simple, elegant design; and TAG Heuer revived a fan-favorite with a splash of color. I’d bet that the first place votes were pretty aligned across the jury, but down ballot I bet nearly every watch got some well-deserved attention.
Sports Prize – Tudor Pelagos 39
Other nominees include Chopard Alpine Eagle Cadence 8HF, Doxa Army, Grönefeld 1969 DeltaWorks, IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur Automatic 40, TAG Heuer Monza Flyback Chronometer
Tudor winning the sports watch category? Not exactly groundbreaking or shocking at first glance. But then you look at the watches. The Pelagos 39 was the second least expensive watch in the field, which was mostly populated by what I’d call “elevated” sport watches, such as the titanium Ingenieur from IWC, the Monza Flyback from TAG, and even the 1969 DeltaWorks from Grönefeld.
For a simple, closed-back, three-hand watch to take the prize here is a statement from the jury. It’s the watch cognoscenti saying “Sure, your luxury sport watches are great, but let’s get back to basics.” The Pelagos 39 is about as good an everyday watch as anyone could want, with its clean design, great quality, and classic nature. I was certainly happy to see it acknowledged as such.
Jewelry Prize – Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra
Other nominees include Chopard Pure Happiness, Damiani Margherita Watch, Gucci Timepieces G-Timeless Planetarium with colored stones, Piaget Swinging Sautoir, Van Cleef & Arpels Ludo Secret Mystery Set emeralds watch
I’ll acknowledge my own bias here – If there’s a Serpenti in a category, I’m going to have a hard time rooting for anything else. Sure, the Serpenti Cleopatra is more a snake-themed cuff vs. a zoological bangle with a watch concealed in the head, but I still love it and I’m still thrilled to see it take home this prize.
Setting my own proclivities for snake-diamonds aside, Piaget and Van Cleef both had incredible contenders and ones that I’d happily have cheered for under other circumstances. As with the Ladies’ and Ladies’ Complications categories, the creativity seems to be getting better year-over-year and I’m excited to see where the industry continues to go with watches like these.
Artistic Crafts Prize – Piaget Altiplano Métier d’Art Undulata
Other nominees include Andersen Genève Jumping Hours Rising Sun Edition, Louis Moinet Savanna Tourbillon Tiger, Rudis Sylva Hymne d’Orient, Sarpaneva Watches Näkki, Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Duo de Lions watch
For someone like myself, for whom three hands is almost too much on a watch, this category is always a tough one to assess. But, as with the brand’s other win, I think Piaget made a very strong case here, with a watch combining multiple crafts and complicated watchmaking, all in a piece that you could wear for a night out without attracting too much attention. It’s a case of a brand playing to its strengths, having the conviction to employ traditional crafts in non-traditional ways, and really going for it. I’ll always applaud that.
Petite Aiguille – Christopher Ward London C1 Bel Canto
Other nominees include Bulgari Octo Roma Automatic, Habring2 Chrono-Felix Top-Second, Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin, Magraph by Massena LAB x Raúl Pagès, Tudor Black Bay
I remember when this watch was released, the online watch community seemed almost dumbfounded. A chiming watch at that price? From an independent brand? What’s the catch? (Spoiler alert: It turns out there isn’t one.) This award seems a fitting way to acknowledge the Bel Canto and the fervor it stirred up on Instagram and elsewhere.
It might sound a bit wishy-washy, but this is one of the few categories where I legitimately think any of the six watches could have won. That’s not to take away from Christopher Ward’s victory, but this is an outstanding collection of watches that shows the variety available to collectors, even with a budget in mind. You want to feel optimistic about the future of watches? Look no further than this short list.
Challenge Prize – Raymond Weil Millésime Automatic Small Seconds
Other nominees include Kurono Tokyo GMT 1, Nomos Glashütte Club Campus 38 electric green, Seiko 1968 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation GMT, Studio Underd0g Watermel0n (Perpétual Limited Edition), Timeless Swiss Watch HMS 003
Further restricting the price ceiling is the Challenge category, and this is where things start to get really funky. The Raymond Weil makes perfect sense to me as the jury’s selection, with its classic good looks and vintage-style charm. It’s not a watch I’ve seen in person, but it looks every bit the part of a Challenge winner and it’s the sort of watch I’m instantly drawn to.
However, personally, I think both of the Japanese GMT watches in this field are worth another look. The 1968 Diver from Seiko and the GMT 1 from Kurono Tokyo are both watches I find extremely compelling and pieces where the price tag offers reverse sticker-shock. I’d love to see the Challenge category evolve, adding some kind of design component in addition to the price requirement, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Mechanical Clock – L’Epée 1839 Time Fast II Chrome
Other nominees include Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman, Maison Alcée Persée Azur, Matthew Norman Diaphane, The Unnamed Society The Champion Macassar, Van Cleef & Arpels Éveil du Cyclamen Automaton
A mechanical clock that looks like a chrome race car with an idiosyncratic time display? Sure. I’m not at all surprised that this won the category. L’Epée makes absolutely incredible clocks and their ability to tap into the things that watch collectors love is unmatched. Talk about a crowd pleaser.
But for me, the Alain Silberstein Travel Alarm Clock iZman is something truly epic. It’s less flashy, it has a narrower appeal, and it’s much less commercial. But I’m not sure I could have voted for anything else with this on the ticket. Now to start saving those pennies…
Chronometry Prize – Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2SPC
There were no other nominees from this category; This watch was originally a nominee for Best Men’s Watch.
Similar to seeing a Bovet in the Astronomical category, you can’t sleep on a Ferdinand Berthoud when it comes to the Chronometry Prize. The brand took home the award in both 2019 and 2020, and was the odds-on favorite again this year. You might need a degree from WOSTEP to fully understand the Chronomètre FB 3SPC, but I think here that’s a feature and not a bug.
I know it’s not part of the criteria for this award, per se, but I have always loved the way Ferdinand Berthoud nods to historic chronometers and clocks in its designs. From the dial layouts to the finishing, there’s an air of history about these watches that I find very alluring.
Horological Revelation – Simone Brette Chronomètre Artisans
There were no other nominees from this category; This watch was originally a nominee for Best Men’s Watch.
There are few questions I get asked more than “Have you seen [Insert New Watch Name Here].” And there are few watches over the last couple of years that have elicited more such inquiries than the Chronomètre Artisans. From collectors who normally favor big brands to the indy nuts, everyone wanted to talk about this watch, Simon Brette’s approach to his brand, and what this might tell us about the future of watchmaking.
I don’t have answers to all of those questions right now, but what I can say is that the one time I was lucky enough to see one of these in the metal on a friend’s wrist, my jaw hit the floor. The Chronomètre Artisans is a stunning watch made to a very high level in an interesting way. What more could you want, really? (There’s a reason Simon Brette was also awarded the “Rising Star” prize in the 2023 Revo Awards too.)
To say I can’t wait to see Brette’s next creation is quite the understatement.
Audacity Prize – Maison Alcée Persée Azur
There were no other nominees from this category; This watch was originally a nominee for the Mechanical Clock Prize.
I’ll admit I had never heard of this clock until I went and did my voting for the GPHG Academy. But it captured my attention immediately. The idea of a fine mechanical clock delivered in a do-it-yourself kit is too cool of an idea to gloss over, especially in the finely controlled world of horology, where brands generally don’t even want a third-party watchmaker looking at your watch.
There were quite a few wristwatches that came to mind for the audacity prize, but nothing even comes close to the Persée Azur. Excellent job by the jury and I hope we see more creativity like this in the future.
Innovation Prize – Hautlence Sphere Series 1
There were no other nominees from this category
I was lucky enough to see a prototype of this sphere-based time display from Hautlence years ago on a visit to Switzerland and it gave me that “how the hell does this work” rush that only a really innovative watch can give. I sat there, closely examining the watch as I adjusted the retrograde minutes hand to give the sphere a spin and move to the next hour. Even after a chat with a watchmaker, I had to give myself over to it still feeling a bit like magic – and, honestly, I like it that way.
As with the Audacity Prize, there were multiple watches that could have competed here, but I can’t fault the jury one bit for selecting this watch. It shows us that we’re still just scratching the surface of mechanical timekeeping and that the future doesn’t have to look (or work) anything like the past.
Aiguille d’Or – Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4
And that brings us to the grand prize, the Aiguille d’Or. For those of you not familiar with how this award works (and who have miraculously made it this far into this story), this award can go to any watch from any of the categories, deemed to be the “best in show.”
There’s really nothing to quibble with when it comes to Audemars Piguet taking home top honors for the Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 (also named Best Grand Complication in the 2023 Revo Awards). It’s an insanely complicated watch, executed at a super high level, from one of the industry’s great historic watchmakers. It also comes just weeks before the departure of long-time CEO François-Henry Bennahmias, who has been one of the most important people in watchmaking during his tenure. So the timing couldn’t have been better.
We’ll never know for sure, but I’d bet that Simon Brette’s Chronomètre Artisans and Petermann Bédat’s Chronograph Rattrapante were both very high in the voting here. Going into the ceremony, these were my three top picks, though I’d love to know how close the voting was.
If you want to review all of the results for yourself, you can find the full list of shortlisted watches here and the winners right here.
|Movement||Self-winding caliber SW200-1b; 41-hour power reserve|
|Functions||Hours, minutes and seconds|
|Case||41.5mm; 316 steel with Cerulean blue stonewashed Cerakote coating, matte vintage navy aluminium bezel insert; water resistant to 300m|
|Dial||Matte vintage navy; hour markers outlined in Super-LumiNova|
|Strap||Vintage navy TPU-coated nylon; additional vintage navy nylon with fabric keepers|
|Limited Edition||Limited Edition of 200 pieces|