Seven Newcomers To Watch At This Year’s GPHG
As the watch industry eagerly waits to hear who will be the winners of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) this week, we take a look at seven newcomers to the competition who have caught the eye of the jury.
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) is now in its 19th edition and each year sees an increasing number of participants. One hundred and ninety-nine watches were entered into the competition this year, with 84 watches pre-selected by the jury. Many prestigious watchmakers are on the list, coming from Geneva, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle and the Vallée de Joux, but also from Germany, Paris, The Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Japan.
Seven New Names
Among these big brands are seven newcomers to the competition, seven small brands that are relatively unknown, even to the most knowledgeable watch aficionado. We take a closer look at these daring young watch companies which are not only bringing something new to the GPHG, but also to the watch industry as a whole.
The Alchemists was founded by Fabrice Thüler, Hervé Schlüchter and Denis Vipret, whose horological concept is to make high-end timepieces using a unique material which brings energy and well-being to the wearer. The watch cases are made of a copper alloy called CU29 (copper, gold and silver) that is known for its healing properties. Each watch can also be paired with a semi-precious stone dial, such as lapis lazuli or black jade, which has its own set of therapeutic qualities.
The movement is also of particular note as it is entirely finished by hand under the watchful eye of Philippe Dufour, who is working together with the brand’s watchmaker, Hervé Schlüchter, one day per week.
“We are an extremely young brand, we only launched in Basel in March, so to be nominated for the GPHG is fantastic, especially as not that many people know about us,” shared Schlüchter. “We feel really privileged to be competing alongside the prestigious big brands, especially when you consider that we are probably one of the smallest watch brands out there.”
Bereve Timepieces is a small independent company founded by Bernardo Cipolla who is both an engineer and a watchmaker. But it is not only the mechanics of a watch that interests Cipolla, he has another important skill that he learned from his mother. “In the 1970s my mother worked in Switzerland as a grand feu enamel artist, an art that she then transmitted to my sister Angelica and I,” shares Cipolla. “With my watches, I would like to link horology with art through different artisanal techniques.”
The company specializes in different grand feu enamel techniques, including champlevé, cloisonné, plique à jour and miniature painting. It is also appreciated for its ability to combine different crafts, such as micro-mosaic in spun enamel, and the use of precious and decorative stones and minerals.
The company is now five years old, but this is the first time it has entered a timepiece into the GPHG. "The GPHG has always shown a great interest in independent watchmakers, which is indispensable in the transmission of our savoir faire to the world. It is an event which allows even the smallest and youngest players to compete alongside the horological giants,”
David Rutten Meteorite Watches
David Rutten is a Belgian-born designer whose GPHG watch, the DR-01 Streamline, combines his passion for design and astronomy. The case of the timepiece is cut from a single block of meteorite. Meteorite dials are not uncommon in the watch industry, but a whole case crafted out of this extra-terrestrial material is something totally new. Nominated in the Petite Aiguille category, Malik Bahri, David Rutten Communication and Marketing Manager shares how it feels to be pre-selected. “David and I have always been huge fans of the GPHG. Each year we would discuss and debate about who we thought would win."
I even wrote a few articles about it myself! “The GPHG is really something because it gives incredible visibility to small brands and puts the big brands and the small independents on the same stage,” he continues. “It is also the recognition of the quality of our work by our watch industry colleagues, and that warms our hearts.”
Doxa was founded in 1889 and is best-known for its early diver’s watches from the 1960s. The brand was relaunched during Baselworld earlier this year, much to the delight of its many fans, and has entered its SUB 200 into the GPHG’s Challenge category. Jan Edöcs, CEO of Doxa watches explains: "2019 is the year in which we relaunched Doxa with a new strategy, opening new markets and launching new products that will be made available in non-limited series. The SUB 200 is the first watch of this new era. So it was only logical for us to submit this timepiece as our entry in this year’s GPHG – the Oscars of the watchmaking industry. I would like to thank the jury for having shortlisted the SUB 200 as a contender. It is truly a great honor and a testament to the strength of the new Doxa dynamic."
Genus is a Geneva-based watch brand founded by watchmaker Sébastien Billières and Catherine Henry, COO. Their timepiece, the GNS 1.2, with two patents pending, was created with a wish to shake up watchmaking traditions, astonish and surprise – mission accomplished with the GPHG jury who have nominated the Genus timepiece for the “Mechanical Exception” category.
“Our tandem started from a blank page. Today our investment in terms of work, time, capital and energy is the submerged part of the iceberg. Participating in the GPHG is the unveiling of the tip of the iceberg. Being selected at the GPHG has been like opening the theater curtains on the watch stage, especially since we are an independent watch brand of two people,” says Henry.
“The pre-selection of the GPHG gives credibility to our brand, which already has the proven watchmaking legitimacy of Sébastien, who is firmly rooted in the Geneva watchmaking scene,” continues Henry. “In addition to this, the fact that the event has international visibility is a great way for us to communicate about our new Geneva watch brand,” she notes. “Our motivation for competing in the GPHG is to combine our arrival on the market at the same time as the awards, but also to arrive on the watch market together with a caring community that guides us through our first steps and presents us to a large audience, both within the watch industry and to the general public. We were very honored to be shortlisted in the incredible category of 'Mechanical Exception,'" concludes Billières.
Kudoke is best known for its one-of-a-kind mechanical timepieces that start life as ordinary high-end movements before being transformed with hand-skeletonization and hand-engraving into unique pieces. The brand’s owner Stefan Kudoke has been in the watch industry for a number of years and has followed the GPHG from the beginning. “It is the most renowned award in our industry, not only because of the top-class international jury, but also because it supports independent watchmakers and brands. This proves to me that the focus is on the watches, instead of the brand name,” notes Kudoke. “However, in the past it was not an option for me to enter this competition because of my focus on hand-skeletonized and hand–engraved watches, many created as unique pieces. When I introduced my new HANDwerk collection, including the KUDOKE 2, it was amazing how well it has been received. So many people encouraged me to give the GPHG a try with this watch. And that is what I did."
“It is a huge honor for me to be nominated, especially as it is the first time that I participated,” he continues. “To see my watch standing next to those from the big brands and other “underdogs” and having the same chance of winning makes me very happy. But, of course, you enter a competition hoping to win!”
Founded by former banker Gautier Massonneau, Trilobe is a new brand offering a unique way of reading the time. The brand’s first collection is called Les Matinaux, or “The Morning” in English, and presents the time using three separate chapter rings that turn to indicate the hours minutes and seconds. This first collection has been pre-selected for the “Petite Aiguille” award, much to the joy of its founder.
"At Trilobe, we like to step aside and shake up traditional codes of watchmaking, so we decided to enter our timepiece into the ‘Petite Aiguille’ award, which is also for the brand a wink to one of our mottos: ‘Hands-less, but with a sprinkle of magic’,” says Massonneau.
“We also decided to participate in the competition as the GPHG is the most prestigious watch competition, and even being pre-selected is a real honor for us. We are only ten months old and this is a great opportunity for us, especially with the exposure to the press and the world tour. We are thrilled as the competition will really help us to build brand awareness."
We wish all the brands the best of luck in the competition which will be held on Thursday, the 7th November. Stay tuned for the results as they happen.
(Images provided by the brands)