Like most Sunday mornings, Geneva slept in this weekend. Even the sun was sporting a hangover after Europe fell back to Standard Time on Saturday night at the stroke of midnight. But time stands still for no one. At 8:15 AM, a select group of watch collectors, journalists, and retailers made their way to the Cité Du Temps to debate the merits of this year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève finalists.
72 watches, carefully divided into 12 categories, from which to pick a single champion, as well as the winner of the most coveted prize, the “Aiguille d’Or”. The annual competition is one of the highlights of the watch industry. A gala held in Geneva celebrating the craft’s greatest achievements, “and the vitality of watchmaking culture around the world,” according to Mr. Carlo Lamprecht, President of the GPHG Foundation.
Not for the first time, the debate lasted the entire day, the hour and minute hands returning slowly to their original position: 8:15 PM. But no one, not even the members of the jury, know the results yet. For that, we will have to wait for the official ceremony of the GPHG, which takes place on October 29, at the Grand Théâtre of Geneva, a stone’s throw away from the Cité Du Temps.
Over the years, the competition has drawn comparisons to the Oscars. Because of the ceremony’s format – the celebrity hosts, the nominations, the acceptance speeches – and because of its international appeal. Celebrities who have also found their way into the international jury.
This year, Kiss drummer Eric Singer is lending his knowledge as a passionate collector, as well as his ear in the “Striking” category, to the Grand Prix.
“I’m loving the experience,” said Singer. “I’m known as a Chatty Cathy, but when the members of the jury talk about watches, I almost want to just sit back and listen to them.”
For the first time, the media had the opportunity to do just that, meeting the jury during an unprecedented panel – moderated by yours truly – last night at the Cité Du Temps.
And while they put up their usual facade when asked about the results of Sunday’s deliberation, they did not hold back when asked about their methods, the exhaustion from their 12 hour-long session making way for their obvious passion for the subject.
In turn, they jostled for the microphone to add their say, counter one another, and throw themselves back into the debate that occurred 24 hours prior, showing glimpses of the unity they have formed over the past few months.
“It’s human nature to judge,” said Michael Tay, managing director of The Hour Glass. “But the Grand Prix makes us, members of the jury, very humble. When you have someone like Philippe Dufour in front of you, you leave the conversation knowing more than you did at the start of it. It’s the quality of the debate which allows us to make a final decision.”
In the end the Grand Prix is much more than a competition. It is a platform for many of the brands, especially the small independents, who are able to travel around the world and meet with clients through the Grand Prix’s annual traveling exhibition.
Many of the jury members present yesterday were already together last week, in Dubai, for Dubai Watch Week, where the Grand Prix presented the final pre-selection. It was Mr. Dufour’s first trip to the UAE, “an unbelievable moment, and a joy,” he said.
Each rendez-vous is a new opportunity for members of the jury to pick apart the watches and form their opinions. And do they sometimes change their minds? “Absolutely,” said William Rohr, collector and watch expert at Bonhams Auctioneers. “Only stupid people do not.”
At this point in the competition, all of the participants are winners. Narrowing it down to one is an unenviable task. We’ll have to wait until Thursday to know how the debate ended.
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Photo Credit: Haute Time. For more information, please visit the official Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève website. Follow Haute Time on Instagram to catch all of the new releases as they happen.