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The Oscars of Watchmaking

Independent watchmaking brands vied for top honours – and won their share – at the celebrated Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève this year.
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Almost half the most prestigious watchmaking awards presented at the 22nd annual Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) went to independent brands this year.

MB&F was top among them winning two prizes – Best in Show or “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix for the LM Sequential EVO – an MB&F Machine nominated in the Chronograph category – and the M.A.D.1 RED, an accessible timepiece created under a different brand, M.A.D.Editions. These accolades take their total to nine GPHG awards in 17 years.

MB&F is a kinetic creator of sculptures for the wrist, at very high price points that reflect their haute horlogerie composition. The LM Sequential EVO features the independent brand’s 20th calibre to date. Following a recent communiqué, communications manager Arnaud Légeret says: “In the world of fine watchmaking, creating a new movement for each new watch is likely to get you labelled officially insane… and that is exactly what MB&F has done. Since 2005 MB&F has created 20 calibres in 17 years, spanning 11 Horological Machines and 9 Legacy Machines, with over 250 friends.”

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The LM Sequential EVO is a chronograph, reinvented by Stephen McDonnell, representing “extraordinary technology and extraordinary thinking. On the M.A.D.1 RED, we took an industrial movement, put it upside down, and created this crazy rotor that turns on top of it, and cylinders underneath, giving the time. The case construction is nuts, and we reserved it for a happy few,” says CEO and founder Maximilian Büsser in his acceptance speech.

That level of crazy is one of the things that drives interest in independent watch brands (indies as they’re known in the industry) because they’re not afraid to break tradition. Asher Rapkin, cofounder of Collective Horology, an exclusive invite-only watch club where members share a common interest and own at least one timepiece created by Collective and a significant watch brand, says, “They’re the brands taking the most risks these days – in designs, complications, and style. Indies are well equipped to move fast and try new things.”

Akrivia, Ferdinand Berthoud, Grönefeld, H. Moser & Cie, Krayon, Parmigiani Fleurier, Sylvain Pinaud, Trilobe, and Voutilainen were the other indies who won prizes. Meanwhile, Bvlgari, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Hermès won two awards each, with Grand Seiko, TAG Heuer, and Tudor scooping the remaining individual prizes. Automaton-maker and sculptor François Junod won the Special Jury Prize for his contribution to the watchmaking world.

Bvlgari took the Jewellery Watch Prize for its Serpenti Misteriosi High Jewellery piece and the Audacity Prize for the Octo Finissimo Ultra 10th Anniversary piece, adding yet another accolade to the Octo Finissimo series.

Hermès came out top in the Ladies’ Complication and Men’s Complication categories for the Arceau Le temps voyageur, a watch that is part of a longstanding tradition of craftsmanship, technology, and the art of time.

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Van Cleef & Arpels’ awe-inspiring Fontaine Aux Oiseaux automaton was a deserving winner in the Mechanical Clock category. The artistic masterpiece is the result of 25 000 hours of craftsmanship. The brand’s Lady Arpels Heures Florales Cerisier won the Innovation category for its incredible dial decorated with flowers that bloom to tell the time – when four open, it’s four o’clock.

TAG Heuer’s Monaco, considered the most iconic watch from its collection with a five-decade history, won the Iconic Watch Prize. CEO Frederic Arnault notes the design elements that make it identifiable immediately – the square case, square counters, the circle on the dial, the bright colours, and the partnership with Gulf that dates to the 70s when they were the only two brands sponsoring motor racing. “Everybody knows about the Monaco watch. This one is simply a revolution: new movement, finishing, texture and colour but it’s a similar watch to the ones that came before,” he says.

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by Peter Frost

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