“I thought this year’s winners were not the obvious ones,” said U2’s Adam Clayton during the traditional gala dinner that followed the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s ceremony. Last night, the industry and its guests gathered to celebrate the year’s best watches and watchmakers. Clayton, a former jury member, has been a watch fan for some time and seemed very pleased to attend the GPHG – so much so that he flew from Las Vegas to Geneva during a break in U2’s much-lauded concert series at the new Sphere to enjoy the evening even though he had no official function at this year’s event. “I wanted to enjoy the awards ceremony and I wanted to meet a lot of the friends that I’ve made here,” he explained. “I like being around this. Sometimes there’s too much focus on what things cost and not the amount of work that goes into them…”
Insiders surely feel the same way about the annual event celebrated by the luxury watch industry. And this year’s was particularly exciting with unexpected winners like Raymond Weil (Challenge Prize) and Christopher Ward (Petite Aiguille) taking home prizes.
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Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the night’s biggest prize, the Aiguille d’Or, went to Audemars Piguet for its astounding Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4. And while it might have been the buzziest watch ahead of the ceremony, outgoing CEO François-Henri Bennahmias managed to top the sensation with a moving acceptance speech followed by a kiss planted right on the lips of ceremony emcee and French celebrity Édouard Baer.
For most, however, it was the independent watchmakers who stole the show. Petermann Bédat won a second GPHG award thanks to the Chronograph Prize going to the duo’s Chronographe Rattrapante. A previous employee of MB&F, Simon Brette, now independent, won the Horological Revelation Prize with his Chronomètre Artisans, while the pet project of Chopard’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the independent-like sub-brand Ferdinand Berthoud, took home the Chronometry Prize for the powerful Chronomètre FB 3SPC. A new element for the 23rd edition, these two awards replaced—or even split—the Men’s Prize.
Twenty-year-old Hautlence, an independent brand now part of the Meylan family’s group that also owns H. Moser and is headed up by the energetic young Samuel Hoffmann, a second-generation watch executive, took the Innovation Prize for its fun Sphere Series 1. Renowned independent Kari Voutilainen won this year’s Men’s Complication Prize with his interesting, cushion-shaped World Timer, while independent watchmaking firm Laurent Ferrier received the Tourbillon Prize for a sober, sporty timepiece whose tourbillon escapement is unusually not visible from the front. The spectacular independent brand, Bovet won the Calendar and Astronomy Prize with its outrageously complicated Récital 20 Astérium, while Ulysse Nardin—once again independent after belonging to Kering for eight years—won the Iconic Prize for its favorably re-engineered version of the (seriously iconic) Freak watch.
For me, though, the night belonged to the 80-year-old winners of the Special Jury Prize Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, who founded the AHCI (Academy of Creative Independent Watchmakers) in 1985, thereby kicking off the era of the high-end independent watchmaker. This loose group today comprises 34 watch- and clockmakers and two candidate members from 16 different countries. Members past and present have included such luminaries as the late Dr. George Daniels, Philippe Dufour, François-Paul Journe, Franck Muller, Urwerk’s Felix Baumgartner, and Kari Voutilainen. Many members have won individual awards over the years, and in 2010 the GPHG jury awarded the Special Jury Prize to the AHCI as a group. It is extraordinary that the 2023 jury decided to revisit the honor by awarding the founders personally for their considerable contribution to the art of watchmaking. But, as jury president Nick Foulkes pointed out in his award introduction, long before we had today’s excellent independents, Andersen and Calabrese were there to forge the path.
For more images of the 2023 GPHG award winners click here.
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