“Follow your heart when choosing a timepiece for you because watches are about emotions.”
Discerning words from Raymond Loretan, chairman of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Foundation, who has been at the helm and organising the prestigious Grand Prix for five years now.
He held several high-profile diplomatic positions throughout his illustrious career before entering the world of watches.
“I bring fresh eyes to this industry since I am an outsider. I’m able to look at things independently while working with a team that is very much experienced, “ he says.
“The Grand Prix is built on three principles.
“First is neutrality. With the creation of the Academy, which now has 850 members from all over the world who take part in the different pre-selection and awards votes, this important pillar will be guaranteed.
“The second one is universality. In 20 years, the watchmaking industry has changed a lot, and so has the GPHG. Today, with the Academy, we are offering brands from all over the world the chance to take part in this prestigious competition.
“The last principle is solidarity. With these new principles, we think that every brand should participate and should be able to participate in this GPHG. Not only to win, but also to support the watch industry as a whole.”
Loretan reveals that 52% of watches registered this year were non-Swiss watches, a percentage that is “quite an evolution.” It should be noted, however, that a large proportion of these products are manufactured in Switzerland.
“This shows that the Grand Prix is universal. And emancipating itself from the original mission of Swiss promotion.
“I always say that being in these Grand Prix is like being in the Olympics. Participating is already winning.”
The Oscars of Watches
Often referred to as the Oscars of the watch industry, the winners will be unveiled at a ceremony in Geneva’s Théâtre du Léman on Nov 9.
Ninety timepieces were nominated by the 850 members of the GPHG Academy using digital means and under notarial supervision.
These 84 watches and six clocks are in the running to win one of the 20 prizes at this 23rd edition of the GPHG, including the prestigious “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix best-in-show award.
According to Loretan, a jury of 30 members is drawn from the Academy every year.
The juries meet behind closed doors in the presence of two notaries, a few days before the awards ceremony, to physically evaluate each of the nominated timepieces before proceeding to the second and final ballot, alongside the other members of the Academy who vote digitally.
“Only the two notaries know the results. Nobody can really interfere, and I myself don’t know the result till the ceremony; certainly adds to the thrill of it!” Loretan says.
At the same time, he is eager to pursue three key directions of the GPHG.
“The first, of course, is the competition. It must be featuring the best watches in all 15 categories that have been carefully selected.
“The second one is education. This is very important to motivate the young generation to be interested in the watch industry. The objective is to show younger generations the many professions hidden behind the important watchmaking industry.”
This is an important aspect, shares Loretan, and hence this year a college dedicated to youths has been set up within the seven colleges of the Academy.
“It’s for individuals up to 25 years old. So during our exhibitions, we try to provide a dimension dedicated to the young, especially here in Switzerland where the exhibition is held for longer. An entire educational programme has been created for the public as well as for students and youths.” These include watchmaking workshops organised in partnership with the Geneva Watchmaking School and visits to the exhibition of nominated timepieces with a watchmaking expert.
Sustainability is next on Loretan’s agenda.
“Climate change is an issue we are very much aware of. The watch industry is concerned and has a responsibility to protect the environment.
“We are now emphasising sustainability aspects in some categories (of the awards), for example innovation and economy.
“For the innovation category, we asked the jury to look into the sustainability of the watch.
“So this is one of the approaches we are taking, which I would like to consolidate till 2025,” says Loretan.
With the growing trend of some brands creating their own events, how does one convince these brands to join the Grand Prix? To this, Loretan says every brand has its strategy, yet GPHG is a unique event.
“We play a federating role between the watch industries. It’s about showcasing the Grand Prix as an event that one has to be in, even if they’re doing their own event. They have to show that they are supporting the watch industry worldwide.”
The trophy presented to GPHG winners is a gilded bronze hand to symbolise skill and mastery, both key to all watchmaking trades. Follow the event live on gphg.org
Nominees headed to Kuala Lumpur“It’s very important that GPHG comes to Kuala Lumpur, and it will be our first time, as it’s an important place in South-East Asia.
“I had been to Kuala Lumpur several times. I was always impressed by the development of the city and the diversity of Malaysia,” says Loretan, whose former ambassadorial postings included Singapore.
“So I am happy that the GPHG exhibition will be stopping in Kuala Lumpur this year. And we’re proud to once again have The Hour Glass, which has consistently displayed its expertise and discernment, join us as a partner and sit on the jury for the 2023 awards,” he adds.
The nominated watches will embark on a travelling exhibition, with Kuala Lumpur being the only stopover in South-East Asia. Other cities in the world tour are Hong Kong, Macao and New York before returning to Geneva.
Watch retailer The Hour Glass will host the Kuala Lumpur showcase, highlighting 84 watches from 14 of the awards’ 15 categories. This offers watch enthusiasts in the region a glimpse into the pinnacle of contemporary watchmaking.
Among the categories are Iconic, Complications, Mechanical Exception, Sports, Jewellery, Artistic Crafts, Challenge or entry-level, and “Petite Aiguille” or mid-range priced. The shortlisted entries in the remaining category -- Mechanical Clock -- will not be shown here.
In conjunction with the event, The Hour Glass will be hosting a series of interactive activities at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, such as a watch photography workshop, a DIY mechanical clock workshop and a colouring session with Hublot for children to cultivate an early appreciation for the art of watchmaking.