The Watchmakers' Award
Watch Time|July - August 2020
Created in 2001, the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) has established itself as the most important award show in the industry. A look back at how the event started, the performance of the competing brands and, just as important, how much the event has evolved over the last two decades.
Roger Ruegger

The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève was created in 2001 with the aim to “highlight and [...] reward the most remarkable contemporary creations and promote the watchmaking art worldwide.” The founding members were the Canton of Geneva, the City of Geneva, the Musée international d’horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds (MIH), the Geneva Laboratory of Watchmaking and Microtechnology (Timelab) and the Edipresse Group. Until 2019, watch brands were able to enter their most-promising models in up to 14 categories, with a (comparatively small) fee per watch, and an additional, more substantial, fee for shortlisted watches that would later take part in the global traveling exhibition. Carine Maillard, Director of the GPHG, says, “The GPHG is a media showcase and a great promotional tool. The preselected watches are presented every year in autumn, during an exceptional exhibition, which travels the globe. Winning watches have significant visibility thanks to international media coverage. We keep registration fees low so all brands can participate.”

In other words, the GPHG is partially financed by the brands that choose to participate (the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the City of Geneva also provide financial support, together with sponsors), and until 2019, brands that didn’t want to compete simply weren’t represented at all, which explains why, for example, there is not a single watch from Rolex to be found among the previous winners. (Its sisterbrand Tudor, however, is a regular participant and first won an award in 2013 with the Heritage Black Bay.) To improve this situation, the GPHG has launched the “Academy of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.” With this move, the GPHG “is affirming its commitment to openness and innovation by announcing the creation of an international watch industry Academy, operational as of May 2020.”

The group is composed of “several hundred members” from the industry, including brand representatives, and each member is responsible for proposing one to 12 watches in at least eight of the 14 categories of the upcoming 2020 edition. At the same time, brands will still be able to enter watches directly and will even be able to validate all entries. In theory, this means that the 350 members of the academy should at least generate 2,800 additional entries for the 2020 edition, most likely with a fair amount of identical watches among them. While the pool of entries should substantially grow with this new setup, the deciding body is still relatively small. The final jury selecting the award winners will consist of 30 members from the academy, but almost half of them will be randomly selected. This jury will meet in Geneva, behind closed doors, and under notarial supervision, to evaluate the preselected watches in person and proceed to the final vote by secret ballot. Hopefully, this new concept will allow for an even more transparent, independent and representative look at the industry. Speaking of transparency, WatchTime joined the GPHG as a media partner in 2019 and is also represented directly and indirectly in the academy: yours truly, Rüdiger Bucher (Editorin-Chief of WatchTime’s sister-publication Chronos) and Jeffrey Kingston (longtime collector and close friend and event partner of WatchTime) are members of said academy. You will also find New Jersey-based Roberta Naas on the list. She’s a regular freelance contributor to WatchTime (see, for example, “Women Rule,” pages 72 to 77, in this issue).

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