Top Winners And Takeaways From The 2023 GPHG Watch Awards
With 90 nominees and 19 winners, this year’s GPHG Awards celebrated the ingenuity of emerging talents and the dynamic evolution of the luxury watch industry
After a world tour that showcased nominees for the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Awards 2023 in Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur and New York, the anticipation and excitement reached a crescendo with the grand finale in Geneva on November 9.
The ceremony recognized outstanding achievements for exceptional watches in various categories, such as Men's and Women's Complications, Chronometry, Artistic Crafts, and more. The selection process involved hundreds of GPHG members, including some of our colleagues at Wristcheck and a jury of 30 members who evaluated the final nominations based on details like technical innovation, design aesthetics, and overall performance.
Popularly known as the ‘Oscars of the watch industry’, the GPHG is the largest annual awards show in the industry and it encourages all kinds of brands—big and small—to participate under 19 categories. While there were no contestants from the Swatch Group, Richemont and Rolex this year, these awards celebrated the ingenuity of emerging talents, reflecting the dynamic evolution of the watchmaking landscape.
Here’s our a quick look at the top winners and the takeaways from this year’s GPHG awards:
Aiguille d'Or - Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Universelle RD #4
The most prestigious award at GPHG—the Aiguille d'Or—went to Audemars Piguet’s Code 11.59 Universelle RD #4. The culmination of seven years of dedicated craftsmanship, this timepiece represents a fusion of traditional horology and cutting-edge engineering, showcasing AP’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of watchmaking excellence. Equipped with an impressive 23 complications, including a Grand Sonnerie Supersonnerie, minute repeater, perpetual calendar, split-seconds flyback chronograph, and a mesmerizing flying tourbillon, the timepiece pays homage to the historic L'Universelle pocket watch from 1899, displayed at the heart of the brand’s museum in Le Brassus.
In 2019, the Code 11.59 made its debut as one of the most hotly debated watches from Audemars Piguet. According to the brand, the CODE stands for Challenge, Own, Dare and Evolve; and 11.59 is that last minute before time flits to a new day. With the launch of the RD#4, it seems Bennahmias has finally driven his point home – the Code 11.59 is the new horological icon to showcase Audmears Piguet’s next gen watches in all their glory. The perfect parting gift!
Men’s Complication - Voutilainen World Timer TMZ CSW
The Men's Complication category was claimed by Voutilainen's World Timer, popularly known as the Cushion-Shaped Worldtimer. Besides its eye-catching silhouette and the stunning anthracite dial, it's the simplicity of use that distinguishes it among its competitors. The dial features two exquisite handmade patterns – a trivague wave motif at the center and an engine-turned guilloché pattern on the solid-silver dial base, divided into 24 sections. These sections align with the 24-hour indices and cities on the rotating inner ring, enabling the user to effortlessly track time across multiple global locations simultaneously.
Interestingly, Voutilainen had also contributed a unique rendition of the World Timer for the Only Watch auction, which has now been postponed.
Ladies' Complication - Dior Grand Soir Automate Etoile de Monsieur Dior
Renowned for its influence in the fashion world, Dior has seamlessly translated its distinctive style and elegance into the realm of watchmaking. The brand's watchmaking endeavors encompass a diverse range of styles, catering to different tastes and preferences. From the bold and contemporary designs of the Dior VIII collection to the delicate femininity of the La Mini D de Dior, each line reflects Dior's dedication to craftsmanship and innovation.
Marking a debut in creative complications, the Dior Grand Soir introduces a mechanical automaton set against a mesmerizing sky dotted with mother-of-pearl clouds and diamond-studded stars. The Grand Soir Automate is a testament to the artistry and innovation synonymous with the House of Dior.
We love the fact that a traditional jewelry and fashion house has been recognized for its efforts in mechanical watchmaking. We hope to see more of these in the coming years!
Horological Revelation - Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans
Believe it or not, we knew Simon Brette would take away this one! Earlier this year, we had a first look at the Chronomètre Artisans at Brette’s workshop in Geneva and were totally blown away by its exceptional finishing and symmetry in design. Inspired by horological geniuses like George Daniels and Derek Pratt, Simon Brette wanted his first watch to be something he would wear himself – light, small and beautifully finished. A limited and numbered edition of 12 pieces, the Chronomètre Artisans is undoubtedly a work of art.
A watch engineer by qualification, Brette is not new to the world of independents. He joined Jean-François Mojon in 2011 and developed some of the most ground-breaking calibers in recent years. He then worked with Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps and developed a watch for them with a digital mechanical display. Brette’s most rewarding years as a movement designer came through his stint with MB&F, where he created three movements, including the one for the HM10 Bulldog.
This award to Brette reinforces GPHG’s efforts in recognizing independents and micro watch brands, making it one of the few platforms that have set new standards for inspiring innovations in the watch world.
Iconic - Ulysse Nardin Freak One
For over two decades, the Freak, a visionary creation conceived by the late Ulysse Nardin owner Rolf Schnyder and ingenious watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin, has been a revolutionary force in the world of horology. The inaugural Freak, introduced in 2001, was a pioneering marvel that defied traditional watchmaking norms, challenging perceptions with its groundbreaking ideas.
Since its inception, the Freak has undergone multiple transformations, each pushing the boundaries of innovation. The latest iteration, the Freak One, maintains the essence of its predecessors while introducing new elements. The 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case, featuring a satin finish and a rose gold notched bezel, echoes the design cues of the previous Freak S model unveiled the year before. Reminiscent of the Freak Cruiser from 2013, the open-gear train is a nod to the timepiece's heritage, while the design philosophy of the Freak Vision is evident in the enhanced legibility of the Freak One. This ongoing evolution reflects Ulysse Nardin's commitment to pushing the limits of watchmaking, seamlessly blending tradition with cutting-edge design to create a timepiece that continues to captivate and redefine the horological landscape. “We're not masters of marketing, but we know how to make watches...the Freak is a UFO," said Patrick Pruniaux, Ulysse Nardin CEO, when accepting the GPHG award.
Innovation - Hautlence Sphere Series 1
Released at Baselworld 2019 and limited to 28 pieces, the HL SPHERE 01 carries Hautlence's playful and innovative sense of self through the entirety of its construction and design in what can only be described as the epitome of Hautlence. A uniquely distinctive watch in just about every way possible—right from a spherical jumping hour and retrograde minute display design to its famous ‘TV Screen Case’ —it truly deserves the accolades in ‘Innovation’.
Petite Aiguille - Christopher Ward Bel Canto
One of the interesting award categories at GPHG is the Petite Aiguille, designated for watches in the price range of 2,000 to 8,000 Swiss francs. This year, the honor was claimed by the British brand Christopher Ward for its C1 Bel Canto, a remarkable timepiece retailing at just 3,350 Swiss francs. What sets this watch apart is its distinctive complication called the sonnerie au passage, where a hammer audibly strikes the time with each passing hour. Christopher Ward's achievement of developing a visually striking timepiece for under $5,000 resonated strongly in the watch industry, sending ripples of surprise and admiration when it was unveiled in late 2022.
It’s wonderful to witness British watchmaking getting the well-deserved recognition for its legacy and historical innovation in horology.
Sports - Tudor Pelagos 39
The introduction of the "Sports" category in 2023 brought a fresh dimension to the GPHG, and for its first-ever recipient, the award favored the nominee with the highest commercial appeal – Tudor’s Pelagos 39. Representing a scaled-down, more lightweight iteration of the brand's renowned titanium-clad professional dive watch, the Pelagos 39 is an exceptionally comfortable timepiece, and despite its 200m water resistance limit, it caters to the needs of the vast majority of individuals who seldom require greater water resistance. In terms of value for money, the Pelagos 39 stands out as an outstanding choice in the realm of dive watches, offering a compelling combination of performance and affordability.
Mechanical Clock - L'Epée 1839 Time Fast II Chrome
One of the very few Swiss manufacturers dedicated to high-end clocks, L’Epée 1839 is best known for its retro-modern design language expressed through kinetic sculptures in all shapes and sizes—rockets, robots, starships and more. The company’s history dates back to over 180 years when its founder, Auguste L’Epée, set shop in France and started manufacturing music boxes, escapements and regulators for clocks—all entirely made by hand.
Now based in Delémont, the brand still makes all its movements in-house – be it for its range of classic carriage clocks or exceptionally modern timepieces equipped with striking mechanisms, retrograde seconds, perpetual calendars and tourbillons.
The Time Fast II pays homage to the racing cars of yesteryear, constructed on an aluminum H-chassis reminiscent of those used in vintage racing cars. Its three-spoke steering wheel, functioning as a time-setting mechanism, mirrors the design of authentic sports cars from that era. The meticulously crafted spoked stainless wheels, complete with soft compound rubber tires filled with special foam, faithfully replicate the pressure and appearance of their full-sized racing counterparts, even resting slightly flat on the bottom for added authenticity.
The dual air filters feeding the V8's two banks of carburetors serve a dual purpose as the display for hours and minutes on the manufacture 8-day movement. Underneath the driver's helmet, a perpetually animated 2.5 Hz escapement adds a dynamic touch, while turning the ignition key initiates the realistic up-and-down movement of the V8 engine's pistons. The immersive experience extends beyond visuals, almost allowing you to sense the scent of high-octane fuel in the air as the pistons come to life.
Here’s the complete list of the winners:
Audacity prize: Maison Alcée, Persée Azur
Chronometry prize: Ferdinand Berthoud, Chronomètre FB 3SPC
Ladies’ watch prize: Piaget, Hidden Treasures
Artistic Crafts: Piaget Altiplano Métiers d'Art - Undulata
Jewelry: Bulgari Serpenti Cleopatra
Calendar & Astronomy: Bovet 1822 Récital 20 Astérium
Tourbillon: Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon
Best Young Student: Killian Douglas
Special Jury Prize: Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese