Watchonista Exclusive: Presenting The 2018 Winners Of The Gaïa Prize

Gaia rewards people, not watches. Of course, the names of some of the winners rhyme with mythical timepieces. The fact remains that this prize celebrates people above all, their work and their influence.

By Joël A. Grandjean

Since 1993, this high distinction, baptized by some as the Nobel Prize for Watchmaking and organized by the MIH's " l'Homme et le Temps" Institute, the International Watchmaking Museum, has celebrated human excellence, rewarding the best of the best.

Watchonista as partner

As the first media partner of this high distinction, Watchonista joins in the congratulations already being offered to the winners. Once again, this award has fulfilled its mandate. At the same time to put the spotlight on personalities who have remained unjustly in the shadows, to highlight here a new and already surprisingly mature talent, there the complete work of a scientist, a historian or a researcher. At the same time also reward a personality already awarded by others or already well off in terms of notoriety. Except that this time the Gaïa gives him the recognition of his peers. In other words, it is the whole community that approves, praises and honors him.

Three categories including one that rewards Max and his friends

Among the 2018 candidates in the History and Research category is Reinhard Meis, a historian whose discretion has made finding the photo accompanying the press kit almost heroic. His books, which it seems are known to a target of scientists and enthusiasts that nothing stops, are dense and intense, as much as the knowledge and skill with which they are filled.

Then, in 2018, we discover Paul Clementi in the Crafts and Creation category, the one that honored the most mythical master watchmakers such as Jean-Claude Nicolet, François-Paul Journe, Philippe Dufour, Antony Randall, Derek Pratt, Georges Daniel, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht or the enameller Anita Porchet, and more... Who is he? The official announcement states that he is rewarded "for the extent of his manual skills and his historical knowledge put to the profit of inventive creations carried out with an irreproachable ethics". Quite a program! And most of all a spotlight on a now recognized personality.

Finally, the 2018 edition gives Maximilian Busser a prominent place on the podium of talented entrepreneurs. He is the fortunate winner in the "Entrepreneurship" category. I can't help but give you below, in addition to his official portrait, the comments I directed about his career and his pioneering approach.

Horizon Gaïa, the 20th of September in La Chaux-de-Fonds

From now on, it's official. Unlike in the past of this award, the results are already communicated before the date of the ceremony on the 20th September 2018. Because the public, journalists and former winners deserve to have the time to get documented and organized to be at the MIH that evening. On stage and at the microphone, historian Régis Huguenin-Dumittan, President of the Jury and Curator of the MIH. At his side, Annalise Eggimann, Director of Innosuisse, the Swiss Agency for the Promotion of Innovation.

By the way, about promotion and in order to celebrate in 2019 the quarter of a century of the prize, a fourth category will be born that evening: Horizon Gaïa. It will reward an individual one-year project by the attribution of a grant financed by the Watch Academy Foundation. The closing date for registration is 21 March 2019. The Gaïa Prize, created in memory of the patron Maurice Ditisheim, is even more reminiscent of the Nobel Prize, with a financial allotment.

My tribute to Maximilian Busser

The reluctant marketing man! Even though he’s the first to say no, Maximilian Büsser would really deserve a marketing professorship at some university.

He’s a man who makes decisions, but he attributes them to serendipitous encounters, to the kind of curiosity-driven opportunism that transforms ideas and contacts into life goals and then into an entrepreneurial career. What he does not say, is that they are born of a vision, of planning, in short of some calculation. And yet his choices could be taught like case studies in the most illustrious marketing institutions. Was it not he who, after meeting François-Paul Journe in the halls of Baselworld, decided to launch the Opus saga for a brand he was in charge of? A brand that had long maintained a high-jewelry image, before Büsser’s stroke of genius? In a twinkling of an eye, and disregarding the warnings from professionals in the sector against anyone who would so bold as to venture into the realm of co-branding, Büsser managed to endow Harry Winston with an ultra complex watchmaking dimension that has become highly coveted by collectors and those wishing to discover this world.

Another fact with high added marketing value was the launch of his own brand, adding to his initials the word “friends.” In some ways, he brought to watchmaking what street culture gave to hip-hop, a “featuring” aspect. He opened up his press pages where high-definition visuals are loaded and the latest press releases can be downloaded, while other brands barricade themselves behind codes and registrations that have to be confirmed and therefore undergo triage. He has applied the open source idea to information, and here too one finds a little revolution that is similar to the one of being totally transparent, because he also reveals the names of his suppliers, who’ve been subtly turned into friends.

Finally, by opening his M.A.D. Gallery, he not only created a vessel for the objects he likes, will like and will continue discovering, but he has also given birth to an unfamiliar and elegant brand boutique. You almost forget that you are in a place that not only sells timepieces, but also incites you to buy one. What better place to steep his retro-futurist spirit, his child’s soul, which sometimes lets itself be carried away and creates very daring pieces.

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[Press Release]

Presenting The 2019 Winners Of The Gaïa Prize

By Watchonista
The Prix Gaïa is awarded each year by the Musée international d'horlogerie (MIH) in recognition of extraordinary careers within the field of watchmaking...

Prix Gaïa 2018 – Maximilian Busser. Entrepreneurship category

By Watchonista
The Jury for the Gaïa Prize is paying tribute to Maximilian Büsser in recognition of his creative approach to watchmaking in the design and marketing of...

Prix Gaïa 2018 – Reinhard Meis. History-Research category

By Watchonista
The Jury for the Gaïa Prize is paying tribute to Reinhard Meis in recognition of the key contribution he has made to our understanding of the technical...