Hiren Kumar Bose on the six exceptional watches of the 84 pre-selected entries for the 19th Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève
For many the GPHG event is a contest for the best watches produced on the planet but there is more to it than that. These, at times unique pieces, are indication what the brands are presently engaged in, the direction they are taking—experimenting with new materials, announcing new shapes, fabricating never before architecture, creating innovative ways to tell time. In short, taking giant steps to shape the future course of action. Most importantly, it shows where the world of premium and high-quality watches are heading to. The 84 pre-selected watches will travel around the world, to cities on four continents to be admired by the public. While winning is important for the individual watches and their makers the GPHG as a whole is an ode to fine watchmaking.
DE BETHUNE DB28 Yellow Tones
With complete mastery of the art of thermal oxidation of metals, De Bethune 42.6mm watch continues to explore all the colour shades resulting from the heat released by the chemical reactions of heat-treated steel and titanium. To create its own fiery, radical, magnetic yellow, De Bethune applies its famous technique of gently oxidising grade 5 titanium to tint its surface naturally. This ritual conjures an extraordinary, rare and uniform fire yellow. This oxidation is applied to the case components and to most of the movement’s components. Each element is thus individually examined to ensure the process is properly calibrated to suit shape and mass. The iconic DB28 features the two new floating lugs unveiled this year. All beauty and refinement, a timepiece that presents a hand-wound mechanical calibre, fully visible and incorporating the patented spherical moon phase are located at 6 o’clock and the high-performance escapement which features a titanium balance wheel with white gold weights and a patented flat terminal curve balance spring.
TAG HEUER Autavia Isograph
A new material created to manufacture balance-springs for high-performance chronometer watches were featured in the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T Tourbillon Nanograph. Now, the same carbon composite hairspring is being expanded in the brand’s watch movements known by the moniker Isograph. Isograph technology proves that the new carbon composite balance-springs can also be used in mass production without any loss of quality or unique performance. With this TAG Heuer becomes the first manufacture to create balance-springs using a material it has invented and developed specially. Within the watch, the balance-spring is the most complex component to produce, assemble and adjust. The inherent features of the carbon composite balance-spring plus balance pairing lend it new and unique properties that allow the utmost accuracy, excellent shock resistance, low density, good thermal performance, impossible to copy or counterfeit and naturally non-magnetic.
AUDEMARS PIGUET Minute Repeater Supersonnerie Code 11.59
This 41mm wristwatch has the sonic power of a pocket watch. It’s exceptional acoustic performance, sound quality and harmonic tone are granted by the patented gongs, case construction and striking regulator developed at the time. The performant gongs are not attached to the main plate, but to a new device acting as a soundboard, which improves sound transmission. The redesigned striking regulator eliminates unwanted noise thanks to its more flexible anchor system. The 18-ct white gold case is complemented by a smoked blue enamel dial set off by white gold hands, applied indexes and numerals, as well as an Audemars Piguet signature in enamel. The soundwave caseback design is inspired by the watch’s exceptional acoustics.
The 47mm watch from the Bridges collection offers a double viewpoint: that of the sky visible from the surface of the globe and that of the globe visible from the surface of its atmosphere. Two complete globes – celestial and terrestrial – serve to mirror a fusional moment that we experience the Cosmos. Its nocturnal face differs from its diurnal appearance. This night-time view shines in the dark, making it hard to imagine the cosmic mechanics underlying this nocturnal scene. Along its horizontal and vertical axes, its complications are reflected in an arrangement set at all four cardinal points. Offset hours and minutes appear at 12 o’clock, while a tourbillon spins beneath a large black titanium bridge at 6 o’clock. At 3 o’clock, a terrestrial globe serves as a day/night indicator, while a sky chart takes its place at 9 o’clock. The entire scene is staged against a tinted sapphire crystal glass. Invisible in broad daylight, and dotted with luminescent hydroceramic particles, it offers a time-lapse view of the sky by night. At 9 o’clock, a sky chart – laser-engraved on a blue-tinted titanium globe – rotates every 23 hours, 58 minutes and 4 seconds, the exact duration of a sidereal day. Dozens of stars are connected to it, thus tracing the twelve constellations known for more than 2,500 years, those of the zodiac. They are enhanced with luminescent hydroceramic, thus enabling the Cosmos to fulfil its astronomical vocation even on the darkest nights. Finally, the celestial globe displays the constellation of the zodiac that is invisible at noon on the dial side and the one that is visible at midnight on the caseback side. At 3 o’clock, a complete globe gives two indications. It allows you to know if the local time zone is in daylight or plunged in darkness. And a 24-hour scale near its equator provides a GMT reading. This second time-zone reading time zone is done via the most sophisticated hand imaginable: a scale model of the earth. Also made of titanium and laser-engraved, this world map features hollow oceans and raised continents.
HERMÈS Arceau L’heure De La Lune
The new Arceau L’heure de la lune 43mm watch offers a unique vision of Earth’s satellite with the simultaneous display of moon phases in both northern and southern hemispheres. Two mobile counters gravitate on a meteorite or aventurine dial, revealing mother-of-pearl moons in step with an exclusive module, coupled with a Manufacture Hermès movement. Framed by a white gold case, the mechanics adopt a light, barely-there role. The horse, representing the origins of Hermès, gallops elegantly into the world of dreams. At 12 o’clock, the moon is adorned by a Pegasus. Entitled Pleine Lune (Full Moon), this portrayal of the winged horse hints at a passage between two worlds, where magic and reality merge. On the other side, at 6 o’clock, the view of the moon from the northern hemisphere provides a realistic depiction of its surface. The mobile counters displaying the time and date turn weightlessly to reveal the moon discs while maintaining their horizontal orientation. This contemporary dance is choreographed by a patented module exclusively developed for Hermès. With a total thickness of just 4.2 mm, it’s 117 polished and bead-blasted components are incorporated within the Manufacture Hermès H1837 movement: a technical challenge designed to preserve the slenderness of the overall mobile chassis, which sweeps around the dial in 59 days.
ULYSSE NARDIN Marine Mega Yacht
This 44 mm watch hours, minutes, moon phase, power reserve, tourbillon power reserve with patent-pending anchor and windlass linked to the winding mechanism, flying tourbillon, moon phase, tidal coefficients and volumes. Built in the same spirit as a luxury mega yacht, the watch, crafted in platinum is regulated by a flying tourbillon equipped with a cage modelled on a latest-generation ship’s propeller. It boasts of a 3D “grand feu” enamel dial, reminiscent of a ship’s bow. A precise representation of the Moon with an ultra-detailed surface sits across from a sophisticated tide indicator, while an anchor attached to the windlass at 12 o’clock raises and falls to indicate the power reserve. At the very heart of this exceptional watch, one can rediscover some of the most characteristic features of their boats, carefully crafted to take on the seas of the entire world. To ensure the watch is firmly anchored in the nautical world, the cage of the flying tourbillon is decorated with a propeller, its blades specially honed to guarantee the highest level of performance for latest-generation yachts. And since every detail counts, the hands, with their design inspired by the venerable marine timepieces that the Manufacture has always supplied, move majestically above this scene, like the lamps of lighthouses or buoys floating on the horizon out at sea. This powerful beating heart of the watch has a diameter of 37 mm, features 504 components, and is wound by hand. It guarantees a power reserve of 80 hours at a cruising speed of 21,600 vibrations per hour, with the tourbillon moving at 60 rotations per hour (or one rotation every 60 seconds). Its first role is to provide an analogue time display, giving a three-dimensional presentation of the phases of the Moon. It contains a mechanism that displays the height of the tides in real-time in relation to a specific location, in addition to indicating the seasonal coefficients. Once the mechanism has been adjusted by the action of the winding-crown, the position of this is measured in a window which opens up on the side of the watch. Keen to be as realistic as possible, Ulysse Nardin has perfected an authentic miniature windlass, visible at 12 o’clock. Through the action of a set of wheels in contact with the winding mechanism, the windlass turns to simulate the raising of the anchor, even when the