Brits bring credibility boost to GPHG judging

Nick Foulkes.

GPHG has often been described as the Oscars of the Swiss watchmaking industry, and there are certainly several parallels.

In the same way that The Academy’s aloof jurors routinely overlook blockbuster franchise movies, without which the global cinema business would implode, GPHG gongs are rarely won by the biggest watch brands because they decline to put their timepieces forward for judging.


The top five watch brands in the world in 2020, according to Morgan Stanley, were Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Patek Philippe and Longines.

None put watches up for consideration at GPHG, although Tudor was representing the Rolex camp and, sensibly, the judges awarded it a trophy.

Swatch Group — forever challenging the theory that no man is an island — was AWOL again, but LVMH and Richemont put forward a number of entries, and walked away with a handful of prizes.

Full list of winners here.

We are where we are, and the judging panel of this year’s awards had a more commercial feel than ever, and this could — should — lead to more blockbuster brands participating in future years.

There were 30 jurors from across the world assessing entries for the 2021 GPHG awards, and it is notable how well-represented the UK was.

Bill Prince.

Historian author and journalist Nick Foulkes was elevated to the position of jury president this year, no doubt making the full day judging process a livelier affair.

He was joined by former GQ magazine stalwart Bill Prince, one of the UK’s most respected writers on watches and other luxuries.

Brian Duffy.

More significant, because he runs the biggest watch retailer in Europe and the United States, is Brian Duffy, CEO of Watches of Switzerland Group (current market value £3 billion).

Mr Duffy told WATCHPRO this morning that he would encourage every brand to look again at GPHG as an important and valuable event in the watch industry calendar.

“The watch business is in such a successful phase, and poised for future growth, and events like GPHG and Watches and Wonders are part of that,” he says.

Mr Duffy is keen to remind the industry that the UK is the fourth largest market in the world, an assertion supported by Swiss watch export figures, and the biggest spender on timepieces per capita on the planet (unless you count Switzerland before the Chinese stopped travelling).

GPHG’s stock has also risen on the back of the current boom for independent watchmakers.

Often the most innovative players are the likes of MB&F, De Bethune, Christiaan Van Der Klaauw, CIGA Design and Bernhard Lederer — all winners this year — and they are red hot properties right now, which ensures retailers and consumers take notice.

Watches of Switzerland is also throwing more of its energy into independents, reducing its reliance on the waiting list brands, or perhaps creating more of them as demand soars for artisans.

“We are looking into what more we might do for GPHG winners,” Mr Duffy says.


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