CORDER’S COLUMN: GPHG jury ignores commercial realities of the watch industry

Rob Corder, managing editor of WatchPro.

There was a strange atmosphere at last night’s Grand Prix D’horlogerie De Genève (GPHG) awards as one industry giant after another lost out to a challenger brand.

Audemars Piguet was a worthy winner of the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix trophy for its Royal Oak Self-winding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin, but a second win for the brand in the Men’s Complication Watch Prize for its Code 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie was more contentious.


AP’s authorized dealers say Code 11.59 has not been selling well this year, although the brand is quick to point out that its Royal Oak took years to bed-in, and is among the unicorn watches that cannot be bought for love nor money now.

Regardless, François-Henry Bennahmias Audemar Piguet’s CEO, will be delighted that the undoubted technical sophistication of the Minute Repeater Supersonnerie was recognised by the expert judging panel, even if collectors are giving the family the cold shoulder for now, and can take additional encouragement that AP picked up a third gong in the Iconic Watch Prize category for the Royal Oak Jumbo Extra-thin.


François-Henry Bennahmias Audemar Piguet’s CEO.


Tudor was the other big beast brand to take a prize, but it may be surprised to have been included in the Challenger category reserved for up-and-coming watchmakers for its Black Bay P01 retro re-issue. It was up against Ciga Design, Doxa, Gorilla Watches, Ming and — just as bizarrely — Seiko.

You’d be forgiven for thinking being part of the Rolex empire would have precluded such placement as a challenger brand but it was nice to see Eric Pirson, Tudor Watches CEO, collect the Challenge Watch Prize 2019 since parent company Rolex has a corporate policy of not participating in awards ceremonies.


Eric Pirson, Tudor Watches CEO.


The most worthy winner of the night was not a watchmaker at all, but Luc Pettavino, founder and organiser of the Only Watch charity watch auction in aid of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He was rightly honoured with the Special Jury Prize 2019 ahead of this week’s sale that is expected to raise eight-figure sums for his cause.


Luc Pettavino, founder and organiser of the Only Watch charity auction.


Courting controversy can be no bad thing for awards ceremonies because it gets people fired up on social media, and some of the biggest players, including Rolex and Patek Philippe, do not submit watches to the jury.

But, a little like the way the Oscars always favours costume dramas and indie films, the list of winners does feel a little unrepresentative of the commercial core of the industry when there were so few winners from the powerhouse brands.

This may be down to the composition of the jury, which has undoubted horological and historic expertise, but is heavily weighted towards watch geeks over commercial nous.

Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, vice chairman of Seddiqi Holdings, the parent company of luxury watch giant Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in Dubai, and Michael Tay, co-group managing director of The Hour Glass in Singapore, are the stand-out experts for me who live in the real world of the watch business.

The full list of winners is:

“Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix: Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak Selfwinding Perpetual Calendar Ultra-Thin
Ladies’ Watch Prize: Chanel, J12 Calibre 12.1
Ladies’ Complication Watch Prize: MB&F, Legacy Machine FlyingT
Men’s Watch Prize: Voutilainen, 28ti
Men’s Complication Watch Prize: Audemars Piguet, Code 11.59 by Audemars Piguet Minute Repeater Supersonnerie
Iconic Watch Prize: Audemars Piguet, Royal Oak “Jumbo” Extra-thin
Chronometry Watch Prize: Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, Carburised steel regulator
Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize: Hermès, Arceau L’heure de la lune
Mechanical Exception Watch Prize: Genus, GNS1.2
Chronograph Watch Prize: Bvlgari, Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT Automatic
Diver’s Watch Prize: Seiko, Prospex LX line diver’s
Jewellery Watch Prize: Bvlgari, Serpenti Misteriosi Romani
Artistic Crafts Watch Prize: Voutilainen, Starry Night Vine
“Petite Aiguille” Prize: Kudoke, Kudoke 2
Challenge Watch Prize: Tudor, Black Bay P0


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