Com­pe­ti­tion Time

WITH THE 14TH EDI­TION OF THE GRAND PRIX D’HOR­LOGERIE DE GENÈVE WELL UN­DER WAY, Sean Li TAKES A LOOK FROM WITHIN THE JURY AT THE RE­CENT EVO­LU­TIONS OF WATCH­MAK­ING’S UL­TI­MATE AWARDS

Hong Kong Tatler - - Watches -

Peo­ple are gen­er­ally com­pet­i­tive by na­ture. Even though we try to tell our­selves that it’s par­tic­i­pa­tion that counts, deep down it does feel good to win, and to be recog­nised for our abil­i­ties and ac­com­plish­ments, to know that our peers or an ed­u­cated pub­lic see us as stand­ing out from among the crowd. The same ap­plies to the watch world; sim­i­lar to many other in­dus­tries, var­i­ous award cer­e­monies are or­gan­ised around the world, gen­er­ally in the lat­ter part of the year. One of them is the Grand Prix d’hor­logerie de Genève, or GPHG.

It’s been my priv­i­lege for the past three years to sit on the jury of the GPHG, sur­rounded by a panel of il­lus­tri­ous peo­ple from all walks of life, all with a spe­cial in­ter­est in watch­mak­ing. There have been some sub­tle evo­lu­tions in the for­mat of the GPHG each time I’ve par­tic­i­pated. I’d like to share some of those changes and how I see them im­pact­ing the awards.

The jury it­self has seen the great­est change; in 2012, there were 12 of us, with the majority com­ing from the field of spe­cialised me­dia. Some felt that this rep­re­sented a too nar­row cross-sec­tion of jurors, a sen­ti­ment I would agree with in hind­sight. While the de­bate among the jurors in 2012 was ex­cel­lent, hav­ing 12 peo­ple who live and breathe watches on a daily ba­sis, pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally, did not al­low for the broader per­spec­tive that the in­dus­try and the gen­eral watch-buy­ing pub­lic rep­re­sents. In re­sponse, the foun­da­tion that or­gan­ises the GPHG

ex­panded the jury in 2013 to 23 mem­bers, and in­vited a much broader range of jurors to par­tic­i­pate—a true cross-sec­tion of ex­perts in their re­spec­tive do­mains (such as mu­sic, ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign, jew­ellery and his­tory) who were all pas­sion­ate about watches.

I had some trep­i­da­tion about how the jury meet­ing, which is held over just one day, would go, given that we had some 70 watches to ex­am­ine and eval­u­ate, and sub­se­quently dis­cuss with a much larger group than be­fore. My con­cerns were for naught, though; the day went very smoothly, and the new jury mem­bers fully par­tic­i­pated and added some very valu­able com­ments, aided by their par­tic­u­lar fields of ex­per­tise.

This year sees the jury re­main large, with 16 re­main­ing from 2013 and nine new jury mem­bers. How­ever, the evo­lu­tion of the GPHG con­tin­ues, as we now see the num­ber of cat­e­gories grow from 10 to 12, with the new ones be­ing de­vel­oped for spe­cific com­pli­ca­tions or func­tions of a watch, such as a tour­bil­lon or a chrono­graph. This has al­lowed the par­tic­i­pat­ing brands to be more pre­cise when they choose the spe­cific cat­e­gory in which their watch will com­pete. This is a very im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion, be­cause the for­mat of the GPHG calls for the brands to sub­mit their watches to the com­pe­ti­tion, mak­ing them the ones re­spon­si­ble for de­cid­ing which cat­e­gory the watch will be en­tered in. Also, no one brand can en­ter two dif­fer­ent watches in the same cat­e­gory, so the se­lec­tion must be done very care­fully in or­der to op­ti­mise their chances of win­ning. While it does give the jury some more work, I be­lieve this gran­u­lar­ity will be very wel­come. The term “com­pli­ca­tion” can en­com­pass a very broad range of watches and it be­comes par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing when watches of very dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal lev­els are grouped within the same cat­e­gory. This lev­el­ling of the play­ing field, as it were, has at­tracted quite a num­ber of en­tries too, with more than 200 watches pre­sented at the first round.

The jury has al­ready done its first round of vot­ing, which is where each jury mem­ber short­lists his or her se­lec­tion from the ini­tial en­tries. This pro­duces a pre-se­lec­tion, where slightly fewer than 70 watches will then en­ter the next round—first for a trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion that this year will visit New Delhi and Beijing—be­fore re­turn­ing to Geneva for the third week of Oc­to­ber. Ev­ery sin­gle watch in the pre-se­lec­tion round will have to be made avail­able for the jury’s meet­ing, so that we can han­dle and ex­am­ine them in­di­vid­u­ally as we make our fi­nal selections in each of the cat­e­gories and for the spe­cial prizes, in­clud­ing the cov­eted Aigu­ille d’or, with the pre­sen­ta­tion done at a very spe­cial gath­er­ing for the in­dus­try at Geneva’s Grand The­atre on Oc­to­ber 31.

The evo­lu­tions that I’ve wit­nessed in the three years that I’ve par­tic­i­pated as a judge, sub­tle as they may be, have def­i­nitely given the GPHG a broader ap­peal—and in a cer­tain way, more va­lid­ity within the in­dus­try. The num­ber of new brands that have cho­sen to par­tic­i­pate in 2014 proves this, and it’s im­por­tant to make this dis­tinc­tion; the jury can only eval­u­ate the watches that have been en­tered. The fact that this num­ber and va­ri­ety is grow­ing would in­di­cate that the GPHG is only grow­ing in its im­por­tance. For that, I’m thank­ful for the con­fi­dence that the par­tic­i­pat­ing brands have shown. I hope that in fu­ture, it will only lead to an even greater num­ber of watches en­tered—per­haps driven by that com­pet­i­tive na­ture in all of us—and ul­ti­mately driv­ing the con­tin­ual in­no­va­tions and im­prove­ments in the time­pieces we hold so dear.

FES­TIVE FLAIR

Last year’s edi­tion of the Grand Prix d’hor­logerie was held at the Grand The­atre de Genève

Bul­gari’s Am­mi­raglio del Tempo is one of the en­tries for best minute re­peater watch

Harry Win­ston’s Mid­night Di­a­mond Drops is one of the en­tries for best ladies’ watch

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