The Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix awards are soon to be announced, and the jury of the prestigious event has recently published a shortlist of watches that are still in the race for the awards. In the innovation category, the final cut left ten timepieces in the run for the accolade. The list of innovative watches includes timekeepers with flying tourbillons, atypical time displays, as well as celestial bodies’ representations on the dials. Besides, there are watches with improved accuracy which beat at the higher rates than it is usual (some up to 250 times faster!), the first hydro-mechanical timekeeper, and pieces made from new materials.
The New Meaning of a Skeletonized Movement
One of the first watches that pops to one’s mind when the category of innovation is in question is Richard Mille RM056 Felipe Massa Sapphire timepiece we have recently written about. It includes a cool exhibition housing made entirely of sapphire which enables unprecedented view on its movement which combines a tourbillon function with a split-seconds chronograph. Based on the previous caliber RM08, the new tourbillon chronograph caliber featured in RM056 Fellipe Massa watch utilizes its best traits and enhances its qualities, since it has a plenty of new components and the weight reduced by one fifth. As it has been said, the hand-wound movement with a power reserve of 70 hours is skeletonized in a whole new way, since the case of the watch was made of sapphire. The cration of the innovative transparent and highly resistant housing is a laborious task that requires extreme precision. For this reason, the watch is made in a highly limited series of just five copies and available at the whooping price of $1,650,000.
Earth and Moon
Another product that features a lot of originality is Greubel Forsey GMT piece. It is a watch with a tourbillon and GMT feature which is made in an ingenious way with a rotating globe that represents the earth. The sphere rotates in the same direction and the pace as our planet does. While the wrist-worn sphere rotates, the wearer can check the time around the globe by cross-referencing the spot on the sphere with the equatorial chapter ring which also shows whether it is day or night. This feature is visually enhanced with a small lateral window on the side of the white gold case. The globe time zone is supplemented with a small 12-hour second time zone display at the ten o’clock position, the off-centered primary dial (with additional small seconds sub dial) and with a power reserve display (the power storage capacity of its hand-wound caliber with supreme finishing is 72 hours). The price of the watch is slightly under $547092.
There is one more watch with an interesting representation of a celestial body – MB&F Moonmachine. However, in this instance, the moon display was conceived in the collaboration with Stepan Sarpaneva. The famous Finnish watchmaker combined HM3 Frog model (named after the distinctive convex shape of the hour and minute displays which resemble frog’s eyes. The watch has a trademark moon with a grin that Sarpaneva based on his own face. The moon phase indication moves across the mystery rotor, a disc made of steel and 22K gold with laser perforation at the exact places of the stars visible in the northern sky. Moonmachine timepiece costs around $96,000.
An Innovation in Disguise
A slightly different approach is recognizable in the creation of Harry Winston Opus 12 Watch, one of the favorites for the award. This is another collaborative piece that was envisioned by Emanuel Bouchet. Unlike the previous models in the selection for the prize, the originality of construction of Opus 12 is not visible at once. However, it is a very intricate watch which features hour markers that spring to life and become hour or minute hands at the appropriate moment. Every five minutes, the mechanism of the timekeeper performs a little dance that activates two of its 24 hands. The exact time can be seen with the use of its retrograde five minute display and a small seconds sub-dial. As it has been announced, this timepiece has the price tag of around $286,000.
Flying Tourbillons – Use Your Enemy’s Power
The list of pre-selected timepieces in the Innovation Watch Category of the 12th Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix includes two timekeepers with a flying tourbillon complication: Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 piece and Iversse tourbillon by Badollet. The former one is truly a break-through timekeeper, since it combines this feature with magnetism as a driving force for its floating retrograde time display with hallowed steel spheres placed inside tubes made from sapphire. This way, X-TREM-1 watch harnesses the power of magnetism and, in a way, turns the tables, since it employs magnetic fields that have always been the nemesis of movements and known for their harmful effect on the accuracy. Yet in the turn of the events, magnetism is now an integral part of a hand-wound FLY11 movement featuring a neat tourbillon complication cage with 30 degrees inclination in order to enable a better view on it. The tourbillon cage is supported with double ceramic bearing for enhanced resilience. Its caliber includes twin barrels for the energy supply. While the first one is reserved for tourbillon, the second one powers its peculiar time display. The featured power reserve of the watch is 50 hours.
Flying Tourbillons – Reserved Vintage Intricacy
The second watch with a flying tourbillon is immensely elegant and reserved Badollet Ivresse Tourbillon piece. Ivresse means ‘’intoxication” in French and it is certainly an appropriate name for the high-end timepiece which has a flying tourbillon movement hidden on the back side, as it refuses to flaunt its technical superiority. It is a timekeeper that does not have many decorations, but still looks highly appealing, due to its rectangular case with a curved profile and a simple navy blue dial with a solitude chapter ring. The highly aesthetic watch with a simple yet exceptionally charming appearance was styled by a Swiss product designer, Eric Giroud. On the other hand, its manual winding mechanical caliber with a hidden flying tourbillon carriage, the reminiscent of the modest delicacy of vintage timepieces, was developed exclusively for Badollet. It oscillates at the frequency of 18,000 vph and provides a power storage that lasts for about five days. The innovative caliber with a hidden flying tourbillon is fitted into a housing made of platinum (30mm wide, 53.8mm long and 12.3mm thick) whose construction provides the basic water resistance of 30 meters. With platinum housing paired with a blue leather strap that matches the dial and its reserved technical excellence, the watch by Badollet features the price tag that slightly exceeds $200,000.
An Enhanced Accuracy
Moving to pieces that are created in order to secure enhanced accuracy, we reach another candidate for the prize – Chopard L.U.C 8 HF timepiece. It premiers Chopard’s new breakthrough L.U.C 01.06-L caliber, a very special movement, the first ever that has a high-frequency escapement and is certified as a chronometer by the COSC. Entirely designed, developed and manufactured in the watchmaker’s facilities in Fleurier, the automatic mechanical movement beats at the frequency of 8Hz which is twice as high than the usual ones we see in the majority of modern mechanical timekeepers. It took several years to perfect its high-frequency escapement which is made to be compatible with all of the brand’s calibers, indicating the future direction of the watchmaker. Due to the higher frequency featured in the product, it is less sensitive to shocks and therefore more reliable and punctual. Since the higher rate of vibrations per hour (in this instance the frequency is 57,600 vph) requires more energy in order to function, the brand engineers were faced with a tricky task. However, they managed to equip the watch with an impressive power reserve that lasts for 60 hours, which is remarkably generated by a single barrel. In order for this to work immaculately, the caliber includes several silicon components that are attached to steel with the new manner developed by the Chopard’s team.
The innovation of the beating heart is topped off with an avant-garde design. Chopard L.U.C 8 HF has a 42mm wide titanium case of circular shape, and a crown of the same material set at the four o’clock position. On the face of the timekeeper, we can notice a pointer-type display and a small seconds counter with a hand that rotates far more smoothly than it is the common practice, since it features a higher frequency. Nice details in the design of the product are monobloc lugs made of titanium that connect the housing to a black leather strap, as well as to a semi-closed case back with a matt finish. To ensure a better view on the exposed innovative escapement, the back of the housing includes a magnifying glass placed directly over the escapement. The timekeeper by Chopard is made in a limited edition of 100 pieces and is worth about $20,000.
An Unprecedented Punctuality
If two times higher frequency seems impressive, than the next timekeeper is bound to blow one’s mind, since it has an unbelievable 250 times higher frequency and unprecedented precision for a mechanical piece – 1/2000th of a second! It is the amazing TAG Heuer Mikrogirder which owes its exceptional accuracy to the new construction of a regulator system. Instead of the classical hairspring of spiral shape, it has a linear oscillator that beats at a minute angle, unlike the traditional timekeepers that can vibrate at an angle up to 320 degrees. The new system has numerous advantages. It utterly eliminates the negative effect of gravitation to the mechanism, as well as the loss of amplitude. The latter enables such a high frequency that still does not require a large amount of power. Truly an amazing timekeeper from the brand’s Carrera series, Mikrogirder, has a round steel housing with the diameter of 45mm and water resistance to 50m. TAG Heuer Mikrogirder is made in just one copy that costs $160,000.
The First Hydro-Mechanical Watch
The list of preselected timekeepers for the prize for the best innovation also includes the first hydro-mechanical watch – HYT H1 Black DLC. It is really a cool watch that couples a hand-winding mechanical caliber with a fluid module which is used for its retrograde display of hours. Made by the new watchmaking brand, Hydro Mechanical Horologists (HYT), the futuristic wristwatch beats at the frequency of 4 Hz, and has a caliber with bridges that are hand-chamfered and graced with Cotes de Geneve pattern. The movement’s remaining power storage of 65 hours can be seen on the display on its sci-fi looking dial with fluid hours which likewise includes a small seconds counter and a classical minute indication at the top of its face. HYT H1 Black DLC timekeeper has a round casing made of titanium. It is quite chunky, since it has the diameter of 48.8mm and the thickness of 17.9mm, needed to facilitate its ground-breaking hydro-mechanical movement. Unusually for such a complex timepiece, it is water proof to 100 meters. The watch by HYT has a rubber attachment and the price of $49,500.
Finally, the last of the preselected products in the race for the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix award in this particular category is Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Magic Gold watch. It is a timekeeper with a substantially sized casing made from high-tech materials, and supplied with a self-winding mechanical movement with a column-wheel chronograph, which is visible through the skeleton dial. To make the movement more accessible and visible, the watch from the Big Bang series has a special cylindrical bezel. This product, made in the collaboration of two powerhouses from the watchmaking and automotive industry, has the frequency of 28,800 vph and the power reserve of three days. It is made in the limited edition of 500 pieces and it costs $36,700.