GPHG Finalists: Mens’ Watch

We’ve had a look at the finalists for the Grand Prix Horologie De Genève Ladies‘ and Ladies’ Complication categories. This is where things get serious. Not because I’m a sexist pig. A win here equals both bragging rights and big bucks. Picking three from the six nominees to highlight here (with official pics and edited copy) is no easy task. I’m going to start with the wild card . . .

Spring Drive Manual-winding Platinum – 88’000 CHF ($89,210.58)

Presented in a thin dress series within the Grand Seiko Elegance collection, this watch presents a refined and slim profile. It offers one-second-a-day precision and presents the understated refinement and quality that exemplify Grand Seiko’s uniquely Japanese sensibility while reflecting the natural and continuous flow of time with its signature glide motion seconds hand.

The team of elite watchmakers from the Micro Artist Studio presents Caliber 9R02, a new movement that has two mainsprings set in parallel within a single barrel and uses the unique Torque Return System* to deliver a power reserve of 84 hours.

The case is Platinum 950 and just 9.8mm in depth. Both hour and minute hands and hour markers are made of 14k white gold. The Grand Seiko name, the minute markers and all the other markings are etched into the dial.

The power reserve indicator is visible through the sapphire crystal case back, next to the barrel whose shape echoes the bellflower that is the symbol of Shiojiri, where the studio is located. The two bridges have edges that are painstakingly polished so that their brilliance contrasts with the perfect hairline finish of the bridges.

 The dial features the celebrated “Snowflake” pattern which is inspired by the beauty of the snow in the Shinshu region. The dial’s silver finish complements the delicate hand carving on the platinum case.

OUR TAKE: Despite Spring Drive accuracy and stunning artistry, there’s no way in Hell the GPHG will gong the brand that just about killed Swiss watchmaking. Is there? The fact that the platinum Snowflake is a finalist is stunning. A win is simply incroyable.

De Bethune DB28 Yellow Tones – 102’000 CHF ($103,415.76)

With complete mastery of the art of thermal oxidation of metals, De Bethune continues to explore all the colour shades resulting from the heat released by the chemical reactions of heat-treated steel and titanium. After working with the blue color for more than 15 years, Denis Flageollet now explores a warm colour.

To create its own fiery, radical, magnetic yellow, De Bethune applies its famous technique of gently oxidising grade 5 titanium to tint its surface naturally. This ritual conjures an extraordinary, rare and uniform fire yellow.

This oxydation is applied to the case components and to most of the movement’s components. Each element is thus individually examined to ensure the process is properly calibrated to suit shape and mass.

The iconic DB28 features the two new floating lugs unveiled this year. All beauty and refinement, a timepiece that presents a hand-wound mechanical calibre, fully visible and incorporating the Maison’s latest innovations:

•    The patented spherical moon phase is located at 6 o’clock. Made of steel and palladium, it is accurate to within one lunar day every 122 years.

•    Aerodynamics, optimised efficiency, reliability, regulating quality, thermo-compensation, anti-magnetism… the high-performance escapement features a titanium balance wheel with white gold weights and a patented flat terminal curve balance spring, ensuring an ideal mass-inertia ratio for the optimal frequency of 28,800 vph suitable for wristwatches

•    The calibre also comes equipped with the triple “pare-choc” shock absorption system. De Bethune was not only the first to design a bridge held symmetrically on both sides to perfectly maintain the balance wheel in position, but also to integrate two shock absorbers at each end, in addition to the shock absorber of the balance wheel itself.

OUR TAKE: I’m not sure why De Bethune made a watch modeled after a Star Trek Starfleet insignia, but it’s an extraordinary piece in every respect. The watch’s symmetry, materials, “pare-choc” protected movement, flying lugs and “why the hell not?” moonphase are endlessly appealing. A strong contender.

The new Grönefeld 1941 Principia – 36’850 CHF ($37,358.07)

The Grönefeld 1941 Principia Automatic is housed in the company’s 1941 case. Named after the year their father Sjef was born, the 1941 case exudes grace from every angle. It is available in red gold, white gold or stainless steel. A sapphire case back has been fitted to confer a spectacular view on the extensively hand finished movement with their well-known stainless steel bridges and a 22K solid gold oscillating weight.

The stainless-steel bridges replicate the facades of the Dutch houses, termed ‘bell gables’, once again, referencing the homeland of the Horological Brothers. The bridges are hand-bevelled, evincing a brilliant gleam and have their jewels set in gold chatons.

The 1941 Principia Automatic is fitted with a 22-karat solid red gold monobloc rotor. The eye-catching oscillating weight is extensively decorated by hand and turns on a ceramic ball bearing, preventing wear and eliminating the need for lubrication. This movement includes a balance wheel, with white gold timing screws, and is equipped with a reliable free-sprung hairspring.

Each movement is finished and assembled by hand. To emphasize the manual labour involved a gold plate, engraved with an individual number, is applied to the movement.

OUR TAKE: There’s a reason the Horological Brothers scooped the GPHG in 2016: they make perfect classical pieces. This is Swiss high horology, made in Holland. The company’s first automatic is an unassailable choice for a second gong.

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