If you want free wine in France, just say “quand je suis sous, je parle mieux.” When I’m drunk, I speak better. If you’re a watchmaker who wants to win the Petite Aiguille award, just submit an inexpensive watch to The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s (GPHG). A timepiece that sells for a price between . . .
CHF 4,000 ($4374.60) and CHF 10,000 ($10,938.41).
Hang on. How is a four grand to $11k timekeeper considered “petite”? From where I sit, that’s some serious cheddar.
It’s all relative mon ami. The GPHG is a Swiss gig. According to cnn.com, Geneva is the world’s tenth most expensive city. Zurich is tied with Paris for number five. So there is that.
There’s also the fact that a lot of watches under four grand are battery-powered. Even now, forty years after the quartz crisis, the GPHG’s movers and shakers still turn up their collective noses at battery-powered watches of any kind, sort or description.
Equally germane: the Swiss watch industry is busy getting its collective ass kicked at the bottom of the market (August 2020 export stats above). If the GPHG awarded a prize to a watch below $4k, it would behoove them to consider big dog digital watches (e.g., G-SHOCK) and world conquering smartwatches (e.g., Apple Watch).
But wait! The rules for this year’s Petite Aiguille award state that “smartwatches are admissible in this category.”
Given the minimum qualifying price, I can think of one eligible smartwatch: the $5200-and-up Hublot Big Bang e. And it’s Swiss! And it’s not in the running. Hublot doesn’t want to be the first to harsh the GPHG’s mellow and risk losing votes for its mechanical pieces.
So how do the GPHG judges judge the “inexpensive” watch entries? What separates the horological wheat from the chaff? Whatever it is, the GPHG ain’t sayin’. Perhaps the award’s name will help . . .
Google translates “petite aiguille” as “small needle.” The term is an idiomatic expression comparing a watch hand with the Petite Aiguille mountain in the Pennine Alps, near Bourg Saint Pierre, Switzerland.
Which tells us precisely nothing. And leads us to believe the judges simply select their favorite watch from the selection pre-selected by other judges, based on whatever criteria strikes GPHG members’ fancy.
Last year’s PA prize went to the Kudoke Kudoke 2, a German-made moonphase timepiece that just snuck into contention at 9,670 CHF. The GPHG doesn’t provide any post-award explanatory text. So we don’t know why Stefan Kudoke’s brainchild won.
The same mystery surrounds the 2018 Petite Aiguille winner, the we-use-Austrian-movements-only Habring² Doppel Felix. The chrono is as complicated as the Kudoke is minimalist, but both entries came from small ateliers. So maybe independent watchmakers get the inside line on the award.
I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that the GPHG’s Petite Aiguille award is something of a sympathy you-know-what for watchmakers who don’t have a shot at the major prizes.
If so, this year’s smart money’s on the just-under-the-wire-price-wise Trilobe Secret. The real money – we’re talking several billions – is in and on sub-$300 smartwatches. A category for which Switzerland still has no answer.
The GPHG’s meaningless gesture towards smart watch inclusion tells you that the Swiss watch industry can just about maybe kinda sorta see the writing on the wall. Again. Meanwhile, the self-congratulatory champagne for the next Petite Aiguille winner – Switzerland’s idea of the best “affordable” watch – is sure to flow.