GPHG 2017 - The Morning After
And so, while many of the winning representatives are barely into bed after a night of cheer and celebration, in neighbouring rooms others are packing their travel cases in silence, never having been so brave as to assume anything twenty-four hours ago, but disappointed nonetheless, and now just keen to get back to base and move on.
It's been a night of not a little drama, and might well be remembered for being something of an anomaly in years to come, because where it is unusual for even just one brand to scoop two awards, 2017 was the year when three brands virtually closed out the podium, winning two awards each.
The crowning glory of the GPHG evening is L'Aiguille d'Or; the cherished award which entitles its new owner to pronounce itself as the Official Watch of the Year, and for this edition the this time around it is Chopard and its L.U.C Full Strike minute repeater which takes the honours.
L'Aiguille d'Or - Chopard L.U.C Full Strike
While I will confess to being slightly surprised, I am not disappointed, and cannot say that Chopard's award is not very well deserved, as what its specialist L.U.C Haute Horlogerie atelier has created is quite simply a beautiful and original take on this most revered complication.
Usually situated on the rear of the movement, because of the space there around the calibre for the steel gongs to be accommodated, and to allow the acoustics of the watchcase to create the clearest and most sustained chimes, on the Full Strike the minute repeater has been moved around to the front, with the little hammers now dial-side and on display as they strike gongs of sapphire crystal, which are cut into the same glass which covers the dial. Incorporating the gongs into the crystal has never been done before, and because of its fragility is extremely difficult to perfect, yet the rewards are the sound of unique clarity as well as the spectacle of the action taking place up front.
GPHG 2017 Ladies Category - Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton
In my pre-event look at the Ladies Category I was sufficiently impressed with the Chanel Première Camélia Skeleton as to suggest it could be a winner, but felt that as it was - by far - the most expensive piece of the six finalist watches, that maybe its price could be the factor which would deny it. Not so. At the end of the day, its unique combination of superbly executed watchmaking, ageless, classic styling and the universal appeal of its prestige made cost an irrelevance.
GPHG 2017 Ladies High Mech Category - Van Cleef and Arpels Lady Arpels Papillon Automate
I got this prediction correct, and while the competition from A. Lange & Söhne and Graff in particular was certainly formidable, the Lady Arpels Papillon Automate by Van Cleef and Arpels, with its wispy sapphire miniature meadow and delightful butterfly with flapping wings is a piece which is as technically complex as it is breathtakingly beautiful.
GPHG 2017 Men's Category - Bulgari Octo Finissimo
The danger of predictions is that they can prove embarrassing when they're wrong, and although I marked it as 'a dark horse' in my preview, acknowledging what is indeed an incredible horological achievement, I didn't see the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic, with its record-setting 2.23mm self winding movement, fending off a three-pronged offensive from A. Lange & Söhne, Greubel Forsey and Kari Voutilainen. That it did was one of the surprises of the night.
GPHG 2017 Chronograph Category - Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire
Beautiful, immaculately appointed and technically sophisticated the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire certainly injected a touch of classic reserve to the category, however it would not have been where the 'smart money' was on. Facing down the genetically connected contenders from Fabergé and newcomers Singer, it was up against a pair of watches which had captured the attention of the watch world in 2017, and this result was another surprise, although that is not to take away anything from a superb piece from a small independent company. And they weren't done yet.
GPHG 2017 Tourbillon & Escapement Category - Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton
I stopped short of making this my choice for the GPHG 2017 Tourbillon & Escapement Category, making my call on the independent newcomer David Candaux, but I was not even slightly surprised when the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Skeleton was called out as the winner. A world record holding 1.95mm hand winding tourbillon movement, spectacularly reduced to its very barest form and exposed within the splendid octagonal platinum case, it really is a conversation stopper and deserving of the prize.
GPHG 2017 Calendar Category - Greubel Forsey QP à Équation
Another justification for my mortal existence was my correct prediction on Greubel Forsey and their horological blockbuster, the QP à Équation. Despite challengers from A. Lange & Söhne, Audemars Piguet and the wonderful Krayon Everywhere, with its extraordinary array of calendric functions and readings, across the front and the back, topped off with a signature inclined tourbillon and of course the molecular attention to every detail which defines Greubel Forsey, there really was no other winner here.
GPHG 2017 Travel Time Category - Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde
Parmigiani Fleurier strikes again! It's very seldom we see double category wins for the same brand, but like Bulgari and Chopard, the independent brand would explode that logic and travel home with two awards. The Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde by Parmigiani Fleurier once again provided another of the night's talking points, although much less so than its sibling in the Chronograph Category. While I did have it as one of my favourites, I can't say it's the one I actually chose, but still it is a beautiful and elegant piece, with an original layout and double day and night displays, and I am not disappointed with the outcome.
GPHG 2017 Mechanical Exception Category - Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600
With impressive contenders by A. Lange & Söhne (again), Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin, watchmaking's heavyweights were out with their big guns, vying for the honours in this prestigious category, but even at a glance it's clear that even among its illustrious peers the astonishing Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 by Vacheron Constantin and its Les Cabinotiers specialist craftspeople was something really special, and with its compendium of cosmic complications, executed to Poinçon de Genève standards of uncompromising excellence, I even thought it might not only win this category, but possibly go even further, although interestingly, this category would produce the outright winner of the Aiguille d'Or, Chopard's L.U.C Full Strike minute repeater.
GPHG 2017 Petit Aiguille Category - Tudor Heritage Black Bay Chrono
Tudor strike a one-two in winning this category for the second year in succession. Always existing in the shadow of its majestic sibling, its emergence and full-on assault on the fiercely contested arenas of accessibly priced watches for underwater sports and aviation has been one of the stories of the past decade. The new for 2017 Heritage Black Bay Chrono certainly caused a fuss at its launch, as much for its cool, retro looks which borrow a little something from its superstar cousin, as for the largely unexpected unveiling of a technical cross pollination with Breitling.
I should have known better, but while in no doubt that it would be a hot contestant, I was leaning away from the Heritage Black Bay Chrono towards Seiko or maybe even independent Habring².
GPHG 2017 Sports Category - Ulysse Nardin Marine Regatta
Predicting this category was a good feeling, particularly as the Marine Regatta by Ulysse Nardin was something of an oddity among motor racers and divers, although none so odd as the wonderful Aquapod from MB&F, but its reversing seconds hand and automatic chronograph activation was an irresistible draw to a really smart and complex watch, which could actually give a sporting advantage. Grand Seiko with its first hardcore diver was a notable rival, but the Marine Regatta was the right winner here.
GPHG 2017 Artistic Crafts Category - Voutilainen Vingt-8 Aki-No-Kure
As I predicted in my preview, Kari Voutilainen wins at GPHG yet again, and in what's proving to be an enduring collaborative relationship with Japanese lacquer artist Tatsuo Kitamura, the watchmaking Master who masters look up to has created this watch of spellbinding beauty. Applying his skills in different techniques the artist's Unryuan lacquers are truly astonishing in their beauty and throughout this masterpiece are quite simply spectacular. Although up against a very impressive Vacheron Constantin, and the sadly overlooked Joker by Konstantin Chaykin, for me there could only be one winner.