The 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève is upon us. Considered by many to be the Oscars of the watch world, the event honors watchmaking at its finest. Each year in November, the industry gathers in Geneva for an incredible award ceremony where we all learn who has won the different prize categories. It is truly a Who’s Who of the industry and I have enjoyed attending year after year. This year, though, there are new rules, new procedures and a somewhat surreal atmosphere surrounding the process.
Time To Enter the GPHG 2020
Before I get to that, though, it is important to note that today the GPHG organization invites international watch brands to enter the 2020 edition via a new digital platform. Brands can enter as many watches as they want from today until July 31. There are already several hundred watch models in the running thanks to the initial nominations by the GPHG Academy.
This year for the 20th edition of the GPHG and for the first time, rather than have a single jury for the voting process, the GPHG established what it calls the Academy — industry insiders in all walks of the watch world, divided into different sections (journalists, watchmakers and brand personnel, etc.) — to have a larger pool of jurors involved. However, while launching the new Academy system seemed like a good idea, no one anticipated COVID-19.
A surreal nomination process for GPHG
This is where it gets a little surreal. Last month, Academy members — including myself — were asked to nominate top watches for the different prizes. The task: submit approximately three to six watches — with image and name and reason for nomination — for each category. If you are like me, you take this job pretty seriously — after all, I really want the best of the best to win.
The thing is I haven’t been able to see, touch, feel any of the new watches this year. We haven’t been able to sit down with the creators, designers and watchmakers to discuss the watches while going hands-on. Even more importantly, many of the watch brands have not even released their newest watches yet because they are behind schedule in production due to the closures of the manufactures during the pandemic. It forced me to load my desktop with tons of photos that I really studied from all angles. It forced me to read the nitty gritty details of the press releases (many of which are surprisingly poorly written), and to reflect on why a particular watch, for instance, matters at all. Yes it was surreal.
Unfortunately, it may continue to be surreal if we are forced to go to the next rounds of voting this way. It helps to see the watches, to interact with the other jurors, and to have conversations about the timepieces. However, as long as this pandemic holds us hostage, we will have to move forward using whatever ways possible.
Rules and Fees GPHG 2020
It is my understanding that our nominations have been sent to the brands, who can elect to confirm their participation with the watches nominated, or enter other watches of their choice via the GPHG platform. This year even Smart watches have their own category.
To be perfectly transparent, there is a fee to enter a watch. According to the GPHG rules (section 8.1 and 8.2), the entry fee is CHF 500 per watch. “This amount is intended to cover the administrative expenses relating to the entry. This fee is invoiced as soon as the set of entries is received and must be settled within thirty days.”
Thereafter, if a watch is a final nomination leading into the voting, “A single flat-rate fee is payable for each watch nominated in accordance with article 5.3. This amounts to CHF 5,500 per watch and relates to the organization of the competition and the exhibitions, as well as to the communication and marketing services devoted to the nominated watches.”
During COVID-19 economic issues, these numbers could be a mitigating factor for some of the smaller, independent brands. Either way, it will be interesting to see what watches are entered by the brands in the upcoming month. Most likely they will be watches we Academy members had not seen when our nominations were due in. I have already begun to see so many great new timepieces now that the brands have returned to the workshops and headquarters.
This year’s GPHG Award Ceremony is slated for November 12th in Geneva. I hope Americans will be allowed to enter Switzerland then, and that a vaccine will be available for COVID-19, so that I can travel for this incredible event.