Grand Prix de Genève 2016 - interviews with two key players
The first is president of the jury and auctioneer extraordinaire, Aurel Bacs. The second is Claude Sfeir, a powerful figure and avid collector, one of the few to have lifted the veil of anonymity. A crosswise look at the event.
With expectations running high among a knowledgeable audience, which includes a smattering of Geneva's officialdom from politicians to economic players and even a few noteworthy celebrities, the 27 members of the jury met to deliberate on Sunday 6 November 2016. The agenda provoked some hot debate, as well as a few shared and divided opinions. Against all odds, the jury made a sterling effort to keep a cool, unbiased head amid the extraordinary atmosphere and added pressure of speculation and persuasive advertising, not to mention fever-pitch excitement of the forthcoming event.
The jury in a high-stakes event
The stakes are very high. The organisers have been busy polishing and fine-tuning this showcase year-end event ever since Carlo Lamprecht arrived as president of the foundation to orchestrate the proceedings and the spread of the event's reputation. The winning watches, one in each of the 12 categories, chosen from a preselection of 72 initially whittled down from around 170, together with 17 highly prized distinctions, including the most prestigious Aiguille d’Or, Prix du Jury and Prix du Public, will travel the world in quest of fame and recognition. Prior to the 2016 ceremony, the watches will be exhibited in Seoul, Rome and Geneva (from 3 to 12 November), before going on their triumphal tour from 16 to 19 November 2016 in Dubai, the high point of Dubai Watch Week run by local timepiece dealer, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.
The jury for 2016, as is its wont, is a suitably eclectic choice of international experts. One notable difference this time is the stronger female contingent, including the celebrated fashion designer, Chantal Thomass and the Monaco-based and bred, Tina Zegg. Also worthy of special mention is the incredible array of accessory professions related to the watchmaking and luxury industries, including brand representatives, historic dealers, collectors, specialist journalists, designers in all fields and renowned experts. I approached two of the shot-callers at this amazing key event for their opinions and asked each the same three questions about the GPHG.
AUREL BACS, PRESIDENT OF THE JURY
You're known for your wholehearted involvement. How do you view the 2016 selection?
I'm always fascinated to see how many brands compete in the GPHG year after year, but I cannot deny that I'm also sorry to see some go. 2016 is an interesting year for two reasons: firstly because of the number of independent designers and watchmakers, the brands and the complications, and, secondly, the trend towards timeless classics. I'm optimistic about the 2016 edition and very much looking forward to it!
There are some new members in your jury, and especially a few more women. What advice would you give the newcomers and those who were there last year?
For the Jury, like in any good democracy, the more voters there are, the better the results. It makes no difference if they're men or women! What matters is that the jury is professional, neutral and honest. I especially like to insist on the last point by reminding the jury members at the start of the session: 'Be yourselves and don't be influenced by others'.
The competing watches take part in a traveling exhibition. What is the impact of such an exhibition?
The GPHG is an ambassador of high-quality watchmaking. The exhibitions organised before and after the event help to communicate and broadcast the know-how, passion and beauty of Fine Watchmaking in all four corners of the globe.
You're well known as an avid watch collector, but you're also a jewellery specialist. How has that expertise helped in the choices and selections you make?
My expertise has given me a broad view of the market, its developments and expectations. It makes me better informed in my choices and, of course, my critical eye tends to go more for watches with jewellery-type details.
What's your view of the 2016 selection?
The 2016 selection is very varied if you look at the broad range of styles represented, the techniques used and the various brand positionings. It's also a uniform spread that's representative of Swiss excellence in the watchmaking sector.
There are more ladies on the jury this year. How will their presence impact upon the final verdict?
I think that ladies are more emotional when they analyse a watch. They focus less on details, but tend to see the overall harmony of a piece in terms of technical achievement and design.
GPHG 2016 on Watchonista