Watch Industry "Oscars" Defies Status Quo With Unexpected Honors

All of the winners from controversial 2021 GPHG that gave rare props to Asian watchmaking.

Watches
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This year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie turned up more than a few surprises with the normally insular Swiss awards ceremony defying convention and looking at the wider watch world for once.

The biggest shake-ups came early on with the first award of the night, the Challenge prize for watches priced at CHF 3,500 or less ($3,800 USD), going to the relatively unknown Chinese brand CIGA Design and the Men’s watch award going to the Grand Seiko SLGH005.

The Swiss industry as a whole isn’t big on admitting that watches are made in parts of the world other than Switzerland and collectively held a grudge against Japanese watchmakers for decades for decimating Switzerland’s mechanical watch industry in the 1970s with its introduction of quartz technology. While Grand Seiko’s watchmaking is widely respected among collectors, this is only the Japanese brand’s second win at the “Oscars of the Watch World.”

China’s involvement in watchmaking – and Swiss watchmaking – still largely goes unmentioned, although it’s widely known that many Swiss brands have components made in China, which are then either finished or assembled in Switzerland. To put the words Swiss Made on a dial, 60% of its value must added in Switzerland, although it’s not clear how, or even if, those conditions are measured or policed.

The second big controversy of the evening was two big wins for Louis Vuitton, in the Audacious and Diver’s categories, where it beat seasoned dive watch specialists such as Doxa, Oris and Ulysse Nardin.

The fact is, that despite being best known as a luxury fashion and accessories brand, Louis Vuitton has taken its own watchmaking very seriously since 2002 and acquired its own Geneva-based complication specialist, La Fabrique du Temps, in 2012 where it makes movements and dials.

The winning Louis Vuitton Tambour Street Diver Skyline Blue might not look like any dive watch you’ve seen before with its drum case and house style dial layout, but technically it will be capable of going head-to-head with any similarly specced competitor.

Bulgari went home with the main prize, the Aiguille d’Or, for its Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar Chronograph.

Elsewhere there were two wins for MB&F for its LMX (Men’s Complication) and LM Around The World in 80 Days (Crafts). Audemars Piguet’s famed (and, as of this, weekend discontinued) 15202 Royal Oak ‘Jumbo’ Extra-Thin quite rightly scooped the Iconic prize while entry-level newcomer Furlan Marri took home the Watchmaking Revelation award.

The other GPHG 2021 winners on the night were Tudor Black Bay Ceramic (Petit Auguille), Piaget Limelight Gala Precious Rainbow (Ladies), Chopard Red Carpet (High Jewellery), Van Cleef and Arpels Lady Féerie (Ladies Complication), Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga (Calendar and Astronomy), Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Automatic (Mechanical Exception).

If you’re wondering where certain other familiar watch brands are, some simply choose not to participate in this pay-to-play event where winners are selected by a committee of industry veterans, collectors and journalists.

Back in September, HYPEBEAST looked at the 2021 nominees and predicted wins for CIGA Design, De Bethune, Zenith, Bernhard Lederer and Bulgari.

Elsewhere in watches, rare Patek Philippe watches steal the show at $17m USD Antiquorum auction.

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