Give timeandtidewatches.com credit for taking on the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – the watch industry’s “Oscars.” Do the GPHG awards really reflect the people’s choice? T&T asks. The obvious answer: no. “Each year an academy of industry experts, journalists and influencers is assembled to determine the nominees for these prestigious awards – with 30 of these members ultimately selected to serve as the final jury.” That’s not the undemocratic half of it. GPHG 2021 corruption runs deep . . .
The GPHG 2021 regulations page doesn’t reveal how the GPHG Foundation Board chooses members for its “Academy,” nor the membership fees required. The Academy divides “significant stakeholders in the main sectors related to watchmaking” into seven “Colleges.” A quick scan of the College descriptions reveals that everyone and anyone is eligible, including “influencers” and “collectors, end customers, aesthetes, other personalities, etc.”
The only barrier to entry: new members must be sponsored by an Academy member. Unless they’re not: “The Foundation may also appoint new members without sponsorship.” The barrier to members banding together to further a particular watchmaker’s prospects? “The Academy does not include more than five members of any one brand or company.” Hang on. Couldn’t a brand’s subcontractors, component suppliers, distributors, dealers, customers and paid influencers collude to vote for a watch?
No! All GHPG members must “Respect the duty of confidentiality related to their membership status [bolding theirs]. The official secrecy applies to all members of the Academy.” Whew! Wait. “Members of the Academy may communicate about their status as members of the Academy.” Helpfully enough, the GPHG publishes a list of members. Last names only, without any indication of their affiliation.
The watch nomination process is even more exclusive. Or not. “The proposals made by members of Academy are submitted to the brands concerned. The brands decide whether or not to confirm the entries of the proposed watches and may enter other watches for the competition. Brands which have not been put forward by the Academy may also submit spontaneous entries.” Time & Tide has some intel on that “brand confirmation” process . . .
Brands also have to pay a CHF 700 fee for each submitted entry and another CHF 6000 if their watch gets a nomination. This gives conglomerates a larger advantage because they can more comfortably submit candidates. As an example, Piaget has a total of six nominations this year which means the total cost of participation is at least CHF 40,200. So, for budding microbrands this potentially poses a challenge in regard to the expense.
Right, so, Academy members submit their nominations, then “elect” 84 watches from the nominees for round two. Remember: all of the watches in the running for a GPHG 2021 award must be “confirmed” (i.e. paid for) by the brands. If they don’t confirm it, it’s out. Next . . .
The Foundation appoints 30 members – according to their whim – to “physically evaluate each of the nominated models and to proceed with the second round of secret ballot voting.” Just so we’re clear, if a jury member spends five minutes examining each of 84 watches they need seven hours to finish the task. Luckily none of the watches goes walkies – this is a Swiss gig – and the 30 jurors meet “a few days before the awards ceremony.”
The nominated watches are also submitted to the vote of the entire Academy (excluding members of the jury), via the secure platform. For each prize, the results of the Academy votes, in proportion to the number of Academy voters, count as 15 votes, which are added to the votes of the 30 members of the jury, i.e. one third of the total of 45 votes. The total count determines the prize list.
The GPHG 2021 is the org’s twentieth running of the bulls. What are the odds big brands mount “discreet” campaigns for one watch or another to win a gong? Given the Foundation’s lax rules and the prestige on the table, high. But then who cares? Only the people who make money off the GPHG. That’s a short list – of people determined to keep it that way.