The jury of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2012 selected 10 stunning creations whose technological excellence and highly complicated performances deserve the place in the watchmaking history. Van Cleef & Arpels, Parmigiani, Speake-Marin, Richard Mille, Hublot, Greubel Forsey, Christophe Claret, Zenith, Antoine Martin and Urban Jürgensen have marked the year with their masterpieces of haute horology. Which one deserves the prestigious title of the best in 2012? Well, let the experts make such a tough decision. In the meanwhile, we can simply enjoy the ingenuity of these exceptional watches. However, if you have your favorite, do not hesitate to vote on www.gphg.org.
Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Poetic Wish
A charming member of the Poetic Complications line, this highly complicated man’s watch brings together the high-end technology, poetry and artistic design. It took seven and a half years of hard working for a renowned watchmaker, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, to develop and assemble 458 parts of a complex hand-wound mechanism with a five-minute repeater. However, the true quality of this timepiece comes from the fact that it put a technology in the service of art.
The romantic story starts on a spectacular dial that comprises engraved gold, mother-of-pearl marquetry, miniature painting on mother-of-pearl, translucent enamel and diamond setting. The men’s Midnight Poetic Wish watch tells just a half of the story. It is night in Paris and a young man stands at the top of Notre-Dame Cathedral, looking at the Eiffel Tower where his loved one stands. When the mechanism is activated, the shooting star appears along with the gongs of the minute repeater, and carries the man’s wish in the direction of his darling. The story is completed on the dial of the ladies’ model that complements the Poetic Wish Series.
The watch features a 43mm case, crafted in white gold and adorned with diamonds. Its acoustic interior construction enhances the sound of five-minute repeaters. The Midnight Poetic Wish timepiece is available either with a calf suede or alligator “claire de lune” leather strap. The price of this piece of art is $395,000.
Invited by the Archaeological Museum of Athens, the renowned Swiss watchmaker created the “Tribute to the Antikythera Mechanism” movement, one of the most mysterious objects in the history of civilization. This remarkable astronomical calculator, which probably dates back to the 2nd century BC, displays various cycles of sun, moon and planets, with the greatest precision. Hublot’s project is not commercial. As it was announced, only four Antikythera mechanisms would be produced.
Paying tribute to this masterpiece of Antiquity, Hublot also reproduced the mechanism in a miniature form, getting a wristwatch movement with the addition of hours, minutes and a tourbillon escapement system. Both sides of the watch faithfully present various indications found on the original Antikythera. The front side displays the calendar for the Panhellenic games, the Egyptian calendar, the position of sun, as well as movements and phases of the Moon in the constellations of the Zodiac. On the back-side, this unique mechanism shows lunar/solar astronomical cycles: Callippic, Metonic, Saros and Exeligmos.
Hublot’s team really did the incredible job. While keeping the spirit and the architecture of the original and taking care of accuracy and readability, it created in a few cubic centimeters what the creators of Antiquity had developed over several thousand cubic centimeters. Besides, the Swiss watchmakers incorporated conventional hours and minutes function, which is regulated by a conventional one minute tourbillon. This hand-winding mechanism is housed inside a 49.9 x 50.0mm case, crafted in titanium.
Parmigiani Toric Capitole
This unique minute repeater timepiece is inspired by the pocket watch of Perrin Frères (Neuchâtel), which dates back in the early nineteenth century. Parmigiani developed an extraordinary Calibre PF 321 hand-winding mechanism, which along with the minute repeater with fluted cathedral chimes provides an original way of displaying time in the special half-moon sector.
This extraordinary mechanism with a hand-bevelled main plate and bridges is visible through a sapphire crystal case-back. It incorporates a special model, featuring three discs with four arms that all carry a digit for hour indications. With the rotation of a disk, an Arabic numeral runs from the first to the sixtieth minute, indicated in the display sector and after that, the next numeral becomes visible on the display.
Parmigiani Toric Capitole Minute Repeater Watch has a nice looking, mysterious dial, surrounded by a hand-engraved and knurled bezel. It is made of 18 karat white gold, in the robust size (the diameter of 45mm). Available with a black Hermès alligator strap that incorporates an 18 karat white gold ardillon buckle, this nice example of the haute horology costs CHF685,000.
RM 031 High Performance
Richard Mille brought together all experience gained over the last few years, in order to create a true masterpiece of the haute horology. It is clear that the renowned watchmaker has done an incredible job. Each segment of a RM 031 High Performance watch represents the high-end of the advance technology – from the complex case construction and the finest material to an innovative skeletonized mechanism with perfectly executed parts.
The hand-winding Caliber RM031 incorporates an AP direct-impulse escapement (developed by APR&P for Audemars Piguet) which ensures fantastic chronometric results (variation of only 0 to 30 sec per month). Fitted with two Elinvar spirals that are set in the opposite directions, the AP escapement oscillates at the frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour. It provides greater efficiency thanks to the direct action of its escapement wheel on a balance wheel. The mechanism also features double barrels, while an optimized pressure angle of its wheels ensures the excellent transmission of the power. For corrosion-resistance and anti-magnetic properties, a baseplate and bridges are crafted in ARCAP, a special material which is frequently used in the aerospace, automobile and advanced electronic industries.
The new round case of the RM 031 High Performance watch is made of platinum that is chamfered, polished and brushed for a unique finish. Its complex architecture is composed of four parts. Like most RM’s timepieces, it is extremely robust, with the diameter of 50mm. This great model is released in the limited series of 10 pieces and costs $905,000.
Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2
With its Invention Pieces, Greubel Forsey pays tribute to its own horological inventions. This time, by lunching IP2, these innovative watchmakers celebrate the Quadruple Tourbillon with a completely new architecture that focuses all attention on an exclusive mechanism. Composed of 594 parts, IP2 hand-winding movement features two double tourbillons which are, thanks to the special construction of the asymmetrical, 43.5mm case, completely exposed from all angles. Asymmetrical convex sapphire crystal covers both front and back sides of the case, while a lateral window with a shaped sapphire crystal also provides an unusual view on the mechanism. Two double tourbillon systems are coupled via a spherical differential in the heart of the watch. Inclined at a 30°angle, the inner tourbillon completes one rotation per minute, while the outer tourbillon spins once in 4 minutes.
Although the dial looks chaotic at the first sight, it has probably been the exact intention of the luxurious watchmaker, in order to achieve the unique aesthetic effect. After a while, you will realize that every single part stands on the perfect position. A red triangle at the 5 o’clock position indicates hours and minutes on a rotating disk which hides triple coaxial mainspring barrels. The small-seconds sub-dial is located at the 10 o’clock position, just below the 56-hour power reserve indicator.
The Invention Piece 2 is presented in the Unique Edition of 11 pieces. Its case is crafted in 5N red gold, featuring a polished bezel and a centre band with hand-finished straight graining. The hand-punched case-back features the raised engraving of inventors’ names. This extraordinary watch also has the extraordinary price of CHF730,000.
With its Renaissance watch, Speake-Marin reached another level in terms of elegance, mechanical complexity and aesthetic sophistication. The open-dial architecture of this remarkable timepiece reveals a stunning hand-winding skeleton mechanism with the power-reserve of 100 hours, featuring two great complications – tourbillon and minute-repeater. Equally astonishing, the case-back opens a view on the back side of the mechanism, which is decorated with a different intricate hand-engraved design making each piece unique.
Visually, the Renaissance watch is a beautiful reinterpretation of classic Speake-Marin’s elements, some of which you can find on the brand’s very first Foundation timepiece. It comes with the iconic Piccadilly case, crafted in red gold, with the diameter of 44mm. Besides, it has a characteristic pleated crown, an intricate hand-engraving, as well as signature Foundation hands. Finally, the topping-tool motif which is the Speake-Marin’s trademark is presented in the form of the tourbillon cage. Limited to just 6 pieces, Speake-Marin Renaissance model is available for CHF270,000.
Christophe Claret Soprano
Four-note minute repeater striking Westminster Quarters on cathedral gongs is the absolute highlight of this great timepiece. But this is not all, when it comes to high complications. A skeletonized, hand-winding mechanism of Christophe Claret’s Soprano watch also features a tourbillon, which is, along with beautifully finished Charles X style bridges, revealed on both sides of the case. With this high-end movement, the renowned Swiss watchmaker paid tribute to its exceptional history of making innovative and highly complicated mechanisms.
The perfectly round, 45mm case is made of white gold, featuring a bezel and a case-back either crafted in gold or platinum, as well as a titanium case-band for optimized sound transmission. Accompanied by an elegant black leather strap with red stitching, Christophe Claret Soprano is launched in a limited edition of eight pieces.
Zenith Academy El Primero Minute Repeater Chronograph
It is not so usual to see Zenith’s timepiece with a minute repeater, which makes this remarkable model pretty exclusive. Zenith Academy Minute Repeater is equally impressive by its sophisticated design that combines a sporty look with elegance, as by its inner-part which are just slightly revealed on a dial side, but completely exposed through a sapphire crystal case-back. A base for a Caliber 4043 self-winding mechanism was the famous El Primero movement that oscillates on the very high frequency of 36,000 beats per hour. The Caliber 4043 comprises 461 components, nicely executed and decorated.
A small opening on a silvered guilloche engraved dial opens a view on minute repeater hammers. The dial also features small-seconds and 30-minute chrono sub-dials and it is adorned with 18 karat rose gold hands and Roman numerals that indicate hours. A 45mm case is crafted in the same material. With the thickness of almost 17mm, it provides a great resonance of repeater’s gongs. Each of 25 pieces from Zenith Academy Minute Repeater Limited Edition costs $172,000.
Antoine Martin Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel
By using unconventional materials, the innovative Swiss watchmaker developed an extraordinary hand-winding mechanism that oscillates on the low frequency of 18,000 beats per hour, but still provides the superb accuracy. Its one minute tourbillon is composed of 65 components and weights the total of 0.62 grams. Revealed at the 6 o’clock position, the tourbillon cage with the breathtaking diameter of 14.1 millimeters is the central figure of this sophisticated piece of art.
Bearing a small seconds hand, it is positioned directly under the crystal glass. The size of the cage required various design modifications. Thus, there is just one central hand that indicates minutes, while the hour sub-dial takes the 9 o’clock position. Besides, Antoine Martin Tourbillon Quantième Perpétuel watch also features a perpetual calendar and the indicator of 144 hour power-reserve. Made of pink gold, this great timepiece comes with the 46mm case and a sophisticated brown leather strap. Its price is $166,000.
Urban Jürgensen Chronometer P8 Automatic with Pivoted Detent Escapement
Entirely manufactured in-house, a Caliber UJS P8 is the first automatic mechanism with a pivoted detent escapement. Housed inside a beautifully polished platinum case with the diameter of 42mm, this high-quality movement is certified by C.O.S.C. as a chronometer with significantly better results than the vast majority of other brands’ timepieces.
Besides, thanks to its twin barrels, this mechanism provides a superb power-reserve of 88 hours, which is indicated on the dial. The stylish dial also features elegant Breguet hour numerals, as well as a small second sub-dial at the 6 o’clock position. Urban Jürgensen’s novelty costs $56,975.