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Time to make a statement
WHICH will be the top 15 watch creations in the 2017 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG)? From 181 competitors, judges have narrowed down the list to 72 which will vie for the watch industry's equivalent of the Oscars, especially the prestigious "Aiguille d'Or" Grand Prix - the Watch of the Year.
The GPHG jury has picked six timepieces for each of the 12 categories.
Two smart watches hoping to make a breakthrough in the GPHG were eliminated in the pre-selections. They were submitted by TAG Heuer and Montblanc, which nonetheless made it to the finals in the Chronograph category - TAG's Autavia and Montblanc's 1858 Chronograph Tachymeter. The latter's TimeWalker Chronograph Rally Timer also made it to the Sports category.
In an earlier report, BTWeekend highlighted 13 of the 181 competing watches, eight of which made it to the finals. They include Audemars Piguet's Royal Oak Frosted Gold (Ladies); Konstantin Chaykin's Joker (Artistic Crafts); Vacheron Constantin's Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 (Mechanical Exception); and Greubel Forsey's QP a Equation in the Calendar category.
Not surprisingly, most of the women's watch finalists feature diamonds or other precious stones. A Lange & Sohne's Little Lange 1 Moonphase and Claude Meylan's Tortue "Petite Fleur" in the Ladies High-Mech category are exceptions.
Even so, bling is in and such timepieces stood out, and they are not necessarily dominated by the big names. Standing tall next to Chanel's Premiere Camelia Skeleton are creations by lesser-known players in luxury timepieces: Fiona Kruger's Petit Skull (Celebration) "Eternity" and Urwerk's UR-106 Flower Power, for instance. All three are in the Ladies' category.
The most striking feature of Chanel's timepiece is its skeletal movement - its second in-house mechanism - which is shaped like a camellia flower. Fiona Kruger's "Eternity" catches your eye with its skull case and colourful hand-painting on the watch.
The UR-106 Flower Power is distinctively Urwerk, but it is the unfamiliar petiteness of it that you can't take your eyes off.
In the Jewellery section, those that sparkle the most don't get all the attention. Chaumet's Frise Divine, inspired by nature, appeals with its understatement. Set in diamonds and sapphires, the timepiece is nestled in a flowering plant that is a demure mix of lavender, blue, white precious stones and yellow gold thread.
In the men's arena, the GPHG finalists are just as attractive in a masculine way, but given the wider field, it is the ingenuity of watchmaking that is more prominent.
It's also clear that despite the dominance of the big players, the small boys - most of them independent watchmakers - also have a chance to prove themselves. In the Tourbillon and Escapement category, half of the finalists are from independent watchmakers: the 1740 - The First by D Candaux; Central Balance Pure H12 by Haldimann; and Mobilis by Louis Moinet.
GPHG 2015 overall winner Greubel Forsey now has two watches in the finals: Signature 1 in the Men's category; and QP a Equation in the Calendar category.
Names not normally linked with watches or luxury timepieces also have a noticeable presence in this year's GPHG final round. Hermes, better known for its Birkin bags, has an elegant slim dress watch - Slim D'Hermes L'Heure Impatiente - in the Men's category. In the "Petite Aiguille", or affordable and excellent, category, there's Hermes' Arceau TGM Manufacture which is distinguished by its asymmetrical lugs and font, inspired by the elegance of a prancing horse.
There's also Hermes' Slim d'Hermes Promenade De Longchamp in the Artistic Crafts category.
Japan's Grand Seiko's recreation of the first Grand Seiko watch is among the Men's finalists and its Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver's is one of the last six vying for the Sports watch title. Its sister brand, Seiko, is also in the final with First Diver's Recreation in the "Petite Aiguille" category.
And of course, the GPHG veterans are still going strong. A Lange & Sohne, which is already in the Ladies' finals, boasts of three other competing watches which are frontrunners in the men's section: The Lange 1 Moonphase in the Men's category; the 1815 Annual Calendar in the Calendar category; and the Tourbograph Perpetual "Pour le Merite" in the Mechanical Exception category.
Bvlgari has three ultra-thin timepieces in three categories: the Octo Finissimo Automatic in the Men's; the Octo Tourbillon Skeleton in Tourbillon and Escapement; and Octo Roma in "Petite Aiguille".
Among other established names which still command a presence in the final lap of the GPHG race are Audemars Piguet (Royal Oak Offshore Tourbillon Chronograph in the Tourbillon and Escapement category and Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in Calendar); last year's grand-prize winner Chopard (LUC Full Strike in the Mechanical Exception category); Vacheron Constantin (the astronomical grand complication mentioned above and Metiers d' Art Copernicus celestial spheres 2460RT in Artistic Crafts); and Tudor (Black Bay Chrono in the "Petite Aiguille" category and Pelagos LHD in the Sports category).