There are two types of people in the world – the sort that feels award ceremonies, be it the Grammys or the Oscars, have all been tampered with and aren’t an actual gauge of excellence or the other sort, the ones we’d like to call normal people. Whichever camp you belong to, it’s hard not to recognise an award when a jury takes the time to debate amongst themselves what film, song or even football player deserves a prize. In the world of watches, the top award ceremony is without a doubt the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG for short).
The entrants for this year’s 12 different categories have been announced. Today, we take a closer look at the pre-selected watches in the Mechanical Exception category.
First up, is TAG Heuer’s Monaco V4 Tourbillon. Having seen the piece in Baselworld earlier this year, it came as no surprise that the V4 would appear on the list. Ten years on from its first V4 that employed patented belt drives, linear mass and ball bearings, TAG Heuer took the avant-garde in its name to a higher level by building transmission belts no thicker than a single hair using it to connect to a tourbillon. It’s a watch that doesn’t need to be held in the flesh to admire.
Jaquet Droz’s Bird Repeater out of its Ateliers d’Art collection is another stunning timepiece that is hard to look away from. Let’s talk about visuals first. The Bird Repeater depicts two blue tits (native to the Jura region where Pierre Jaquet-Droz resided) together over a nest with their younglings. Where the beauty of the watch comes in is the animation of these birds. While the tit on the left bends over to feeds its chick, the other spreads its wings. The egg in the middle also hatches revealing a chick looking for its first meal. Behind them, the Saut du Doubs waterfall cascades, adding more pizazz to the piece. If that hasn’t sold you already, the watch is fitted with a minute repeater for the aural fixation. Heck, we’re pretty sure we wouldn’t even care about the time at this point.
Just the look of the next piece is enough reason as to why it’s an entrant this year. The MP-05 LaFerrari is a specially designed and developed series by Hublot as a tribute to Ferrari and its supercar from last year, the LaFerrari. Built with 637 components (a record in itself for Hublot), the watch’s exceptional point comes from what powers it and how long it can be powered especially. Fifty hours, gents; 50 hours of power reserve for a hand-wound tourbillon wristwatch. The 11 barrels working to provide power are arranged in a vertical line and are interconnected such that they do not discharge in turn. Easiest summary? You’re wearing a damned Ferrari on your wrist.
Maximilian Büsser pays tributes to the watchmaking greats in his latest MB&F Legacy Machine No.2 and may just cement him as one of the greats himself. Celebrating Abraham Louis-Breguet, Ferdinand Berthoud and Antide Janvier, the watch boasts double balance wheels that have been elevated above the mainplate (which is incidentally the dial as well). The average rates of the different regulators are transmitted by a differential to a single gear train, a rarity if anything.
Urwerk’s EMC (Electro Mechanical Control) is touted as the world’s first precision mechanical watch where the timing can be monitored and adjusted by the user himself. Felix Baumgartner, one of the founders of Urwerk, has always insisted on the wearer of a watch being able to manually alter their timepieces and with the EMC, its precision indicator allows you to do just that.
Probably the only brand that may require some Googling, Andreas Strehler has built a reputation as a fine watchmaker and one of the most respected independents around. His list of companies he has worked for or collaborated with is endless and include some of the best – Harry Winston, H. Moser & Cie, Maurice Lacroix and Chronoswiss. His piece this year, the Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle, is definitely in the right league. Primarily a moon phase watch, the piece is enhanced by a unique constant force regulator (mounted on the seconds wheel instead of the escapement) that eliminates factors that disrupt precision such as fluctuations in the supply of energy, uneven discharges of the spring and variations in temperature.
Head over to the official GPHG website to discover more of the watches.