The Oscars Of The Watch Industry Unveils Its Shortlist

08 September 2019
Watches, Doxa, Longines, Bulgari, HUBLOT, TAG Heuer, Zenith, Audemars Piguet, Ulysse, Hermes, Tudor, Bvlgari
Audemars Piguet, Hublot, Seiko and Bulgari are all selected to compete in the annual Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève

The Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève might not trip off the tongue in quite the same way, but for those who work in – or live for – the watch industry, they are the highlight of their year: the moment a hand-picked jury comprising industry figures and specialist journalists pick their watches of the year.

That moment comes in November, but long before that – and ahead of an international tour of the short-listed pieces – the GPHG releases those lucky brands whose models have been chosen to compete.

In years past, the focus has inevitably been on Swiss-made mechanical wristwatches, and those displaying the most exquisite decoration or complex complication at that. But in recent years, the net has been cast wider and last year two new categories were introduced: "Icon" to celebrate those watches that have entered the cultural milieu, as it were, and "Challenge", focusing on those models that represent the more mainstream (ie, sub-$5000) element of the watch business.

Beyond that, the selection generally comprises a secret sauce of lesser-known brands deserving further or greater acclaim and recent releases that have harvested above-average interest from the non-cognoscenti. This year appears to be no different, with several below-the-radar nominees sharing space with avowed bread-winners.

Doxa SUB 200

One that's sure to please the purists is Doxa, nominated in the aforementioned Challenge category. Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, Doxa is credited with launching the first purpose-made diver's watch to the public in 1967. The Doxa SUB was tried and tested by Jacques Cousteau and his crew aboard the undersea research vessel Calpyso and has since become something of a cult item among dive watch aficionados. In recognition of this, and its status as an independent watchmaker, the all-steel Doxa SUB 200, created to commemorate the brand anniversary, has been short-listed alongside such stars of the sub-aquatic sector as Longines' all-ceramic Hydroconquest and Seiko's new line of Prospex LX dive pieces.

Longines Hydroconquest

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic

In the always hotly contested Chronograph category, some mainstays of the competition are represented, alongside some newly elevated names. Among them, Bulgari, which has recently gone on a “hot streak”, horologically speaking, by reducing the thickness of its Octo cases to create a new family of award-winning ultra-thin Finisimmo watches. This year, another record-breaking edition has been recognised: not only the world's thinnest automatic chronograph, but also one fitted with an ultra-useful second time zone (GMT) function. Expect it to give more storied names, including TAG Heuer, Zenith and Hublot, a run for their money.

Hublot Classic Fusion Ferrari GT

And if money is your thing, it might be worth putting a side bet on Hublot's Classic Fusion Ferrari GT in 3D Carbon, the first fruits of a highly anticipated wedding of Ferrari's Design Studio in Maranello and the Nyon-based watchmaker.

TAG Heuer Monaco Eighties

Featured in the Iconic category are a number of watches reflective of the bumper year 2019 has been for anniversaries, particularly golden ones. Chief among them has been the 50th birthday of the original water-resistant square-cased watch, created by TAG Heuer and later immortalised in Steve McQueen's epic Le Mans, and an even greater horological achievement for the time: the mighty El Primero movement, the world's first automatic fully integrated chronograph. Both pieces have been treated to special editions by their owners in 2019 – five decade-correct models in the case of TAG Heuer – and it's no surprise to see these lined up for further attention at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.

Zenith El Primero A384 Revival

Of the two, the "Eighties" Monaco is certainly handsome, with its trademark left-sided crown and "racing red" dial, but fans of uber-curation will no doubt admire the Zenith for its precise rendering of the original right down to its 37mm faceted steel case and the tachymeter dial lacquered with white and black. In some instances, original parts were digitised to enable accurate reproduction, a guide to the degree of fastidiousness required by collectors of such limited editions.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin

Mechanical exceptionalism gets its own category named – convincingly enough – "Mechanical Exception". Here, the dazzling new Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin stands guard for Audemars Piguet's loyal army of Royal Oak editions (there's another in running for Iconic) whilst acquiring a new accolade for the brand – the world’s thinnest automatic perpetual calendar. Achieved using its own self-winding calibre measuring a mere 2.89mm in height, the movement has been entirely re-engineered to operate on a single plane and uses a titanium-platinum alloy in its unmistakeable brushed and polished case.

Ulysse Nardin Freak NeXt

No less remarkable is the revolutionary flying oscillator used in the Freak Next. A showcase for Ulysse Nardin's technological expertise and the use of flexible silicium blade technology in particular, this piece features the brand's proprietary Anchor escapement and its sturdily named Grinder flexible winding system.

Hermes Arceau L’heure de la lune

Similarly ingenious – and no less remarkable to gaze upon – are the entries in the "Calendar And Astronomy" section. Here, Audemars Piguet's all-new Code 11.59 collection is recognised for the second time for its Perpetual Calendar in pink gold, but might find itself in stiff competition with Hermès' Arceau L'heure De La Lune, which offers the simultaneous display of moon phases in both northern and southern hemispheres, above which sit two mobile counters showing the time and date above a meteorite (or aventurine) dial.

As usual, Hermès seeks to subvert "classical" watchmaking tropes by upending the mother-of-pearl moons that display the lunar cycles in the northern and southern hemispheres so that the "south" reads from the top of the watch and the "north" from the bottom. It's an entirely reasonable aim (particularly if you live in the southern hemisphere) that's required a great deal of re-engineering of its Manufacture self-winding movement – which is sure to impress the jury at this year's Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.

De Bethune DB28 Yellow Tones

Finally, any round-up of 2019's nominated timepieces shouldn't forget to mention those pieces that perhaps wouldn't get their fair share of attention without the annual shindig in Geneva. Pieces such as De Bethune's DB28 Yellow Tones, which marks the watchmaker's move away from oxidising grade 5 titanium in ever more miraculous shades of blue to focus instead on the colour yellow. Or Bulgari's top-of-the-range Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar, launched this year to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Grande Sonnerie, created by the legendary designer Gerald Genta in 1994.

Bulgari Octo Roma Grande Sonnerie Perpetual Calendar

For those who like "the one that got away", back at the "agreeably priced" Challenge category there's Tudor's Black Bay P01, a watch based on a legendary prototype known as the Commando, which was developed by the Hans Wilsdorf-founded brand to be offered to the US Navy in the late Sixties. It was declined, leaving a prototype in the brand's archive to be unearthed half a century later. In the meantime, Tudor went about its business creating peerless tool watches until the launch of the neo-vintage Black Bay collection in 2012, to which the the P01 makes an interesting addendum.

Tudor Black Bay P01

The winners of the 2019 edition of the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève will be announced at the Théâtre du Léman in Geneva on November 7.


Via British GQ