They say that there are more book competitions than there are new books published, and though obviously an exaggeration, this sort of hyperbole could also be applied to the watch sector, in which there are a lot of awards ceremonies. The most important is GPHG which is held in watch capital Geneva, but which has one grave defect: watch brands themselves submit their watches for the various categories, and many brands decide simply not to take part. There are other events in which the jury simply reviews all the watches of the year and makes their own choice, and so these could provide a more representative view of the year’s highlights.
The Middle East Watch of the Year Awards, organized by the Arabian Watches & Jewellery magazine, is a good example. On 19 November 2015, prizes were awarded to 12 watches in as many categories, chosen by a panel of 16 experts comprising mainly Middle Eastern collectors, connoisseurs and industry professionals. Their choice was independently assessed by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, a legal company providing litigation, corporate, labour and intellectual property services. Curious.
Anyway, here are the winners of the twelve categories.
Best Multi-Time Zone Watch – Bovet 1822, Récital 17
This watch has a complex dial providing three time zones, with local time shown by the main hour and minute hands, and two subdials at 9 and 3 o’clock for two additional time zones, each of which is identified by the corresponding city in a window above, and with a day/night indicator at the centre of the subdial. In addition, there is a moon phase indicator providing the phase of the moon in Northern and Southern hemispheres, with a compass rose decoration that is not just decoration. The angle created by the position of the two moon phase windows corresponds to the Earth’s axial tilt with respect to the equator. The moon phase indicator has a high grade of precision, accurate to one day’s variation every 128 years. The open-worked dial revealing the two city discs gives it a look of both beauty and technical complication. The watch is 45.3 mm in diameter, 15.6 mm in thickness, with a case in red or white gold, water-resistant to 30 metres. The movement is the Virtuoso II 13DM033FPL calibre, a manually-wound movement running at 21,600 vph (3 Hertz) with a power reserve of 7 days shown on an indicator on the reverse side. The sapphire caseback reveals the intricacies of the in-house movement that seems to have a triple balance. Several recessed pushers on the caseband enable adjustment of time zones and moon phases.
Best Tourbillon Watch – Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon
This version of a Greubel Forsey classic has the double tourbillon cage asymmetrically positioned, with a window in the case side providing an alternative view of the complex balance. The inner cage is tilted at 30° and rotates in one minute, while the outer cage rotates in 4 minutes. The case is 43.5 mm in diameter, 16.13 mm thick, in white gold, with dial in shades of grey. The power reserve indicator is on the upper right-hand side of the dial, and the 72-hour power reserve is provided by two mainspring barrels. The sapphire caseback reveals just a few wheels of the movement.
Best Classical Watch – H. Moser & Cie Venturer Small Seconds
Heinrich Moser, founder of the brand which dates back to 1828, was particularly active in Russia and more specifically in St. Petersburg where he had important clients at the Imperial Court. The Venturer Small Seconds reflects something of this historical tradition: it is in a neo-vintage style with Roman numerals and a dial reflecting 1920s aesthetics, with small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. The case is in white gold, 38 mm in diameter and 12.5 mm thick. The watch is powered by the in-house hand-wound HMC 327 movement, providing 3 days (72 hours) power reserve, shown by a power reserve indicator on the movement side. It runs at 18,000 vph (2.5 Hertz) and has the stop-seconds function for precision time-setting.
Best High-End Jewelled Watch – Cartier Ronde Louis Cartier XL Watch, filigree Panthers Motif
This watch features a classic Cartier motif, the panther, on a watch in which the ancient art of filigree – invented by the Sumerians in about 3000 B.C. and continued in Ancient Egypt, India, Tibet, Greece, Iran, and much later in Portugal – is taken to new levels, using gold and platinum micro-wires that are shaped into tiny rings and then assembled to create the lacy sheets that recreate the panther’s fur, with spots in black lacquer. The dial is in deep blue enamel with golden stars. The movement is the hand-wound 430 MC, the case is 42 mm in diameter and 8 mm thick.
Best Technical Innovation Watch – Ulysse Nardin Stranger
This watch by Ulysse Nardin is a modern version of a historic idea, a musical box combined with a watch. It plays the main theme from Vivaldi’s concerto “Primavera,” part of the Four Seasons, on a series of ten blades. It is a limited edition of 99 pieces. The music-playing disc is in full view on the front of the dial, so you can see the disc rotating, and watch the levers flick up and back down again to play the notes. Stranger Vivaldi plays on the hour, and on demand. There are two pushers on the caseband, one at 10 o’clock to activate or deactivate the hourly performance (status shown by an on-off indicator on the dial) , and one at 8 o’clock for the melody on demand. Another pusher in the crown acts as a selector for crown function, so you don’t have to pull it out. The crown function indicator shows whether the crown winds the movement, or sets the time or date. The case in rose gold is 45 mm in diameter. Inside, the in-house movement UN-690 is self-winding, with a power reserve of about 48 hours. The solid caseback includes a medallion depicting the watch’s musical theme. The Ulysse Nardin Stranger Vivaldi, reference 6902-125/VIV, is a limited edition of 99 pieces, price €105,000.
Best Sports Watch – Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic
The Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Chrono Flyback Automatic Titanio 47 mm is a flyback chronograph available in two versions, with rotating bezel in titanium or black ceramic – the latter version also has an extra subdial for chronograph hours. They are both technically diving watches, with unidirectional rotating bezel, visibly different hour and minute hands, applied luminous dots and Arabic numerals for legibility underwater and in low light conditions, black rubber strap, and water resistance at 300 metres. The dial is commendable for its simplicity. Instead of having a chronograph minutes subdial, Panerai added another central-sweep hand, so that chronograph seconds are shown by the blue hand on a scale marked with one-second intervals, and chronograph minutes by the rhodium-plated hand. The effect is one of great legibility. The minutes hand proceeds in steps of one minute: it only moves at the end of an elapsed minute. The continuous seconds subdial at 9 o’clock shows a diver that the watch is working, and there is a date window at 3 o’clock. The two chronograph pushers are at 8 and 10 o’clock: the pusher at 10 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph, and the pusher at 8 o’clock resets the stopped chronograph to zero, or, if it is pressed while the chronograph is running, instantaneously resets and restarts the chronograph. The watch is powered by the P.9100 calibre, the brand’s first in-house chronograph calibre. It has the classic features of a high-end chronograph, with vertical clutch and column wheel. Two barrels connected in series provide a 3-day power reserve (72 hours). The watch has the stop-seconds function (hacking seconds) that stops the balance wheel so that the second hand can be synchronized with a time signal. The hour hand can be adjusted by one-hour increments without affecting the minute hand, useful when you are travelling from one time zone to another. The watch has a solid caseback with the manned torpedo that is part of Panerai’s history as supplier of watches to the Royal Italian Navy. Price £11,600, available from summer/autumn 2015.
Best Men’s Watch – Cartier Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton Watch Calibre 9461 MC
The Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon Skeleton has an elongated tourbillon carriage that enables the balance to rotate around the dial, once a minute. The balance bridge is in the form of an arrow and so it becomes a seconds hand. It is different from a normal tourbillon in which the two axes of rotation are close together and combined into a single unit, but the technical function of neutralizing the detrimental effect of gravity on the movement’s precision by constantly altering the position of the balance wheel axis remains the same. And it’s even more spectacular, with the constant rotation of the balance around the dial. The movement is suspended from the giant XII and VI numerals, and the only other link between the movement and the case is the bar at 3 o’clock bearing the Cartier logo that also conceals the winding stem leading from from the crown. The Calibre 9461 MC movement is in German silver, with titanium used for the circular bridges on the back of the movement. Along with the white gold of the case, the result is an intriguing composition of silvery colours. The 47-mm case is in white gold, 15.5 mm thick, with a crown set with a sapphire cabochon. The manually-wound movement has a power reserve of about 48 hours. The watch is a limited edition of 100 units in white gold, price about €120,000 plus tax.
Best Ladies’ Watch – Chopard L.U.C XPS 35mm Esprit de Fleurier
This year’s version of the XPS 35 mm women’s watch by Chopard is a 25-piece boutique edition, with a light ultramarine blue mother-of-pearl dial, a diamond-set bezel, and an alligator strap in matching hue. At 7.1 mm thickness it is prodigiously slim. It also has the merit of housing a mechanical movement, the L.U.C Calibre 96.23-L running at 28,800 vph, with a micro-rotor and twin barrels providing a 65-hour power reserve; precision is certified by COSC. The white gold case has a water resistance of 30 metres. The display consists of just the hour and minute hands, with seconds on a subdial nicely differentiated with guilloché finish. The transparent caseback reveals the bridges that feature hand-engraved work, a technique called fleurisanne, named after the village of Fleurier where Chopard have one of their manufactures. The engraver creates a relief pattern of scrolls or flowers, which are polished, while the background is hammer-stippled. The watch, reference 131968-1002, is priced at 45,000 Swiss francs / £32,670 / €44,330.
Best Chronograph Watch – Arnold & Son TEC1
Arnold & Son presented the Royal TEC1 Tourbillon Chronograph at Baselworld 2014, with tourbillon at the top of the dial, and a chronograph display with central second hand, and a 50-minute counter on the subdial at 6 o’clock. The automatic movement, A&S8305, provides 55 hours power reserve, and it is visible through a sapphire caseback in the 45 mm case. It is available in three versions: red gold with anthracite dial, palladium with silver-white dial, and red gold with blue enamel guilloche dial. Price from about €79,400.
Best Design Watch – Vianney Halter Deep Space Tourbillon
Watch designer and maker Vianney Halter was inspired by science fiction in this piece, which has the tourbillon at the centre, rotating on three axes, with revolution times 40 seconds, 6 minutes and 30 minutes. This beautiful mechanism is placed on a dark background, surrounded by a dial with two curved blued metal hands for hours and minutes. Apart from the sci-fi, Deep Space 9 space station looks, I think that this piece is intelligent because it does the logical thing: it puts the tourbillon right at centre stage, it’s the star of the show. The VH 113 movement has a power reserve of 55 hours. The watch is 46 mm in diameter, and it has a domed watchglass, making it a total of 20 mm thick. Price about €150,000.
Best Independent Watch Brand – MB&F
Maximilian Büsser worked for Jaeger-LeCoultre for seven years, before moving to Harry Winston Rare Timepieces in 1998, developing Harry Winston’s innovative watches with the Opus series. In 2005, Büsser left Harry Winston and founded his own company MB&F. His ambition is to create an original watch or clock every year, and it does so through specially-assembled teams of professionals – the “friends” in Maximilian Büsser & Friends that provides the brand’s acronym. The MB&F Horological Machine No. 6 Space Pirate is a good example of the brand’s approach: a playful sci-fi tourbillon with ten sapphire crystals, a central tourbillon and semi-spherical hour and minute indicators.
Best Digital Watch – Montblanc TimeWalker Urban Speed e-Strap
Curiously, for the Best Digital Watch award, the jury chose not a watch but the e-Strap by Montblanc, a connected device that slips onto the strap of the TimeWalker Urban Speed mechanical watch or any watch strap by whatever brand. It’s a clever way of allowing people to stay connected, receive notifications on their wrist while also enjoying their mechanical watch.