2023 Winners of the GPHG 2023 Grand Prix de Genève: our picks of the most affordable winning watches

Disclaimer: I had the honor of being invited to the 2023 edition of the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie Genèvoise, a major and highly selective watchmaking event where all the big names in the world of watchmaking (and me…) rub shoulders. While this event is dedicated above all to watchmaking prowess and craftsmanship on watches at prices that are often prohibitive, certain categories will speak to the common man.

Winners of the GPHG 2023: winning watches of the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève

In addition to the visuals of the selected watches, you’ll also find some videos I was able to take of the ceremony, as well as of the nominated and winning models The GPHG is considered the « Oscars » of watchmaking. Organized annually since 2001 by the Fondation du Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, it rewards excellence in various fields related to this age-old mechanical art. A total of 15 prizes are awarded, highlighting both the technical sophistication of movements and the aesthetic appeal of watches. Each prize celebrates a particular aspect of watchmaking expertise and creativity. Here, we’ll just mention the prizes for men’s watches. First of all, the prestigious Prix de l’Aiguille d’Or crowns the watch considered the best of the year in all categories. This is the supreme distinction, awarded to a single creation that stands out in the eyes of the jury… Its equivalent for men’s watches is the Prix de la Complication Messieurs. It honors men’s timepieces featuring movements enriched with complicated modules, whether tourbillons, minute repeaters or perpetual calendars. The broader Prix de la Montre Messieurs rewards men’s creations judged to be the best, all criteria considered. These range from elaborately designed timepieces to models featuring exceptional mechanisms. The Prix de la Montre Métiers d’ Art recognizes excellence in traditional decorative techniques such as engraving, enameling and guilloché. More accessible, the Prix de la Petite Aiguille recognizes watches offering unbeatable value for money, with a price tag of less than CHF 8,000. Finally, the Prix Challenge rewards successful design creations priced under CHF 2,000, a guarantee of affordable quality watchmaking. On the technical side, the Chronograph Watch Prize celebrates excellence in chronograph design and complications. The Prix de la Montre Sport showcases sports and outdoor watches that combine robustness, technical efficiency and aesthetic success. The Prix de la Montre Iconique rewards models from an emblematic collection or line that has profoundly marked the history of watchmaking over the last 20 years. The Prix de la Montre Calendaire honors mastery of calendar complications, whether simple, perpetual or astronomical. The more confidential Prix de l’Audace rewards audacity and risk-taking in watch design, with creations featuring atypical designs and mechanisms. Finally, the Tourbillon category rewards the best watch equipped with this complication among the competing pieces. The tourbillon is a rotating mechanism invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801 to improve watchmaking precision. Comprising a cage enclosing the escapement and balance wheel, it performs one revolution per minute to minimize the disruptive effects of gravity. A true technical feat, the tourbillon is reserved for exceptional timepieces and symbolizes the pinnacle of haute horlogerie expertise. Watches are judged on criteria such as finish, technicality, design and value for money. These are just some of the awards presented at the GPHG. They highlight technical virtuosity and time-honored expertise, as well as creativity, innovative design and exceptional value for money.

II. The winners of the GPHG 2023

At the prestigious ceremony held in Geneva on November 9, the gotha of Swiss watchmaking gathered to celebrate the best of this mechanical art industry and reward the most remarkable timepieces of the past year. Among the fifteen or so prizes awarded at this major watchmaking event, three undeniably caught the eye. These are the prestigious Prix de l’Aiguille d’Or, the Petite Aiguille and the Challenge.

A. The Aiguille d’Or watch: the quintessence of Haute Horlogerie with Audemars Piguet code 11.59

Designating the masterpiece of the 2023 vintage, the Aiguille d’Or honored the technical and aesthetic prowess of the Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4 designed by Audemars Piguet. It took no less than 5 years of development by the craftsmen of the famous Manufacture in Le Brassus to bring to life this exceptional watch, a true contemporary masterpiece. No fewer than 40 complications – 23 of them visible – make up its slender 3.7 mm caliber.
A symphony of 2,300 miniaturized components make up this extra-thin movement with its multiple functions. These include a supersonnerie grand sonnerie capable of diffusing a crystal-clear sound, an on-demand minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, a split-seconds chronograph and an exceptional flying tourbillon. Pure excellence and virtuosity are evident in every detail of this watch, whose silver dial displays remarkable purity and symmetry despite the concentration of complications. A work ofcontemporary goldsmithing that elevates haute horlogerie to new heights.

B. Audacity rewarded in the Petite Aiguille with Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto

It’s hard to compete with such a demonstration of watchmaking expertise and technicity. And yet, in the Petite Aiguille category, which rewards watchmaking ingenuity at a more modest price (between CHF 2,000 and 8,000), the jury was won over by a worthy challenger.
It’s the C1 Bel Canto from Christopher Ward, an audacious creation with a strong temperament, priced at less than 4,000 euros. Right from the start, its radical design is a real eye-catcher: no more traditional hands, just an ingenious visible mechanism to display the time!
The rotation of a mobile set indicates the elapsed hours and minutes on a refined dial. But this timepiece also conceals a most astonishing sound complication at this price level. The C1 Bel Canto rings every hour thanks to its patented movement.
Its contemporary silhouette shelters an age-old mechanism, that of ringing watches, to the delight of connoisseurs. Thanks to his masterful design, Christopher Ward has created a technological timepiece with unbeatable value for money.

C. Vintage elegance saluted in the Prix Challenge with Raymond Weil millésime automatic

Last but not least, in the Challenge category, which honors watches with assertive design under the CHF 2,000 mark, the Raymond Weil brand took the prize with its Millésime Automatic Small Seconds.
This watch, with its assertive vintage look, boasts a silver dial with a delicate vertical sector, enhanced by applied hour-markers and stylized leaf hands. A harmonious ensemble that won over the jury with its understated elegance and retro Twist allure.
Its sleek silhouette conceals a mechanical self-winding movement with a 3-year warranty, the RW4251 caliber. A reliable and precise timepiece that is a credit to affordable Swiss watchmaking. Unbeatable value for money for this seductive creation, priced at €1,895 With the Aiguille d’Or the ultimate expression of the great art of watchmaking, the Petite Aiguille a technological feat, and the best value watch of the Challenge, the GPHG has the merit of appealing to all types of watch lovers.

The other watches that stood out for me in the challenge category:

Timeless Watches: The HMS 003 from Timeless Watches is a bold creation nominated in the GPHG 2023 « Challenge » category. Its unique design is inspired by Switzerland’s industrial heritage, with curves, textures and depth evoking turbines and gears.
It houses an exclusive mechanical movement entirely developed in Switzerland with silicon balance spring, glucydur balance wheel and haute horlogerie finishing. This resolutely contemporary watch with a manufactured movement represents a breath of fresh air in its category. Studio Underdog Studio Underdog: The Watermel0n Perpetuel Limited Edition is a bold creation by the Studio Underd0g label, selected in the GPHG 2023 « Challenge » category and limited to 50 pieces. Its design is inspired by a juicy watermelon, with a pink and green dial and seed-shaped hour markers. As for the movement, it features a Chinese-made hand-wound mechanical chronograph by Seagull (model ST-1901) renowned for its reliability and precision.
This 21-jewel movement offers 38 hours of power reserve and a column-wheel architecture for the chrono functions. It is visible through a transparent caseback, but does not feature haute horlogerie finishing. The word « Perpetuel » refers to the collab with Perpétuel Gallery and not to a perpetual calendar. With its original fruity styling, watermelon seed hands and affordable chrono movement, this bold creation brings freshness to the GPHG « Challenge » category.

D. Ancestral know-how celebrated in Métiers d’Art with Piaget

The GPHG has also always valued ancestral decorative know-how. The Prix de la Montre Métiers d’Art is dedicated to creations combining cutting-edge mechanical watchmaking and prestigious handcrafted decorations.
Piaget was honored this year for its Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata model. This exceptional timepiece is distinguished by its mother-of-pearl dial adorned with a wave motif handcrafted by master artisan Anita Porchet. A titanic work of engraving that took 10 months and exalts the irregular beauty of the material. Overlooking the dial, an off-center flying tourbillon at 9 o’clock adds a technical feat to this contemporary handcrafted tableau. Swiss excellence at its noblest.

The other watches that impressed me in the Métiers d’Art category:

E. Robustness and versatility rewarded with the Tudor Pelagos 39

The Prix de la Montre Sport is a new category at the GPHG, created in 2023. It aims to highlight time-measuring instruments designed for intensive use, whether in the water, underwater, or conquering the summits.
This year, it was Tudor’s Pelagos 39 watch that won over the jury. This technical yet elegant creation is a worthy representative of timepieces built to perform in action. The Pelagos 39 shines above all in its robust design and proven reliability. Its 39 mm case, machined from hypoallergenic grade 2 titanium, makes this sporty watch both solid and light to wear. Water-resistant to a depth of 200 meters, its unidirectional rotating bezel engraved with minute markers enables precise measurement of dive times. Its ceramic disc is also luminescent for optimum visibility in the dark. In terms of movement, the Pelagos features Calibre MT5400, certified as a Chronometer by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres. An in-house self-winding mechanism of proven precision and reliability, with a comfortable 70-hour power reserve. The matte black sunray-textured dial, luminescent hour-markers and hands, and signature red second hand complete this highly legible picture in any situation. With the Pelagos 39, Tudor has created a multi-purpose watch refined enough to excel off the water. A compendium of sporting elegance that convinced the jury.

III. A vintage of watchmaking excellence

Buoyed by the infectious passion of its master of ceremonies Édouard Baer, the Montreux International Film Festival once again brought together the gotha of the watchmaking world to celebrate its most outstanding talents and creations. The jury’s choices reflect a desire to reward timepieces representing different forms of watchmaking excellence. Whether in terms of mechanical prowess, innovative design, respect for tradition or inventiveness, all aspects of this age-old art have been covered by the 2023 winners. Unsurprisingly, Audemars Piguet’s sensational Code 11.59 Ultra Complication Universelle RD#4 crystallizes today’s pinnacle of haute horlogerie and technological mastery. The 5 years of development and the 40 complications brought together in this contemporary timepiece command respect and admiration. Faced with this monument to engineering, more gently tempered timepieces have managed to stand out from the crowd. Christopher Ward’s astonishing C1 Bel Canto, with its ingenious rotating display, is a case in point. Or Raymond Weil’s Millésime Automatique Petite Seconde, with its retro elegance at the best price. In a completely different register, it’s impossible not to salute the titanic engraving and contemporary rendering of the dial on the Piaget Altiplano Métiers d’Art – Undulata, which takes ancestral know-how to new artistic heights. Beyond the award-winning pieces, all the watchmaking houses present deserve respect and consideration for their commitment to pushing back the boundaries of their art. Whether they be historic tenors or young independent creators, each contributes in his or her own way to the prestige of the Swiss watchmaking tradition. The GPHG plays a major role in bringing this extended family together once a year and celebrating its many talents. The shared passion for this age-old mechanical art transcends competition for one evening. And every year, the public is delighted to discover new, ever more astonishing and virtuoso timepieces. There’s no doubt that this 2023 vintage will leave its mark on the history of the Grand Prix, and has helped to bring to light some exceptional timepieces. See you in 2024 for more breathtaking creations!

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