The travelling exhibition of the watches nominated for the 2022 GPHGs (Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève) makes its first stop of the tour in New Delhi, India, hosted by Ethos Watch Boutiques, with several brand representatives in attendance. Here’s a closer look at the events surrounding the exhibition, and what it means for fine watchmaking and India
"It is time for the fine watchmaking world to rediscover India, and for India to engage with the fascinating world of fine watchmaking,” stated Yashovardhan Saboo, founder and managing director of Ethos Limited, at the opening of the GPHG 2022 exhibition. It really captured the essence of what the ‘Ethos X GPHG’ weekend was about. A coming-together of GPHG representatives, industry professionals, watch collectors and enthusiasts, and Ethos representatives, the weekend was kicked off with a reception at the Swiss embassy in New Delhi, on October 7, 2022. Switzerland’s ambassador to India and Bhutan, Dr Ralf Heckner was present, as he welcomed us all to his ‘home’. He addressed the guests from the stage set up on the lawns of the Swiss embassy, and made a reference to India recently marking 75 years of independence. “We are celebrating not only 75 years of India’s independence; we are also celebrating 75 years of the Indo-Swiss friendship,” said Heckner, who even commented on the value of the GPHGs. “They are more like the Olympics of the fine watch industry,” he said, referring to a presentation made earlier likening the awards to Hollywood’s Academy Awards.
Gaining Momentum: Fine Watchmaking And India
From the GPHG Foundation, in attendance were Raymond Loretan and Carine Maillard, the president and the director of the foundation, respectively. Loretan himself commented that being at the embassy felt a lot like the GPHG awards. “The stage is absolutely incredible, and the company is of the highest level.” At the exhibition later, he echoed Saboo’s sentiments of India being important for the watch industry. “If we are here in India, it means we believe in India,” he expressed. “The GPHG is particularly grateful to be able to count on Ethos Watches once again to showcase the watchmaking creativity of 2022 in India, a promising market for the years to come,” Loretan added. “The largest democracy in the world is a fertile ground for the development of its values of tradition, precision and innovation, and we sincerely hope that our presence here will arouse the interest of enthusiasts as well as encourage vocations among up-and-coming generations.”
A coming-together of GPHG representatives, industry professionals, watch collectors and enthusiasts, and Ethos representatives, the weekend was kicked off with a reception at the Swiss embassy in New Delhi, on October 7, 2022
Saboo himself spoke enthusiastically about the importance of India as a fast-growing market, destined to be among the most important ones internationally. “It is also maturing quite steadily to understand and appreciate the emotion and savoir faire of fine mechanical watch creation. Ethos has been at the forefront of this transformation, and we are indeed delighted and grateful that GPHG agreed to collaborate with us to bring the exhibition of the nominated watches of the awards of the 2022 edition here to New Delhi,” he said with pride. “It is a unique platform for Indian watch aficionados to come face to face with the best of haute horology, and also for the participating watch brands to engage directly with India and Indian watch lovers.” This was particularly true for independent brands such as Armin Strom. “We really like that the GPHG is present in India,” commented Emanuel Bitton, Armin Strom’s regional marketing director. “Timing is everything. India has gained a lot of maturity in the appreciation of high-end watchmaking. That’s why I’ve come here for three days. And I’ve already had the chance to meet some interesting collectors, bloggers and journalists.”
Independent Brands And What The GPHGs Mean To Them
Other independent brands including H. Moser & Cie, Bovet, Louis Moinet and Louis Erard—who were key participants in one of the panel discussions—spoke about the performance of independent brands at the GPHGs. “Independent brands have an entrepreneurial and innovative vision, with independence from financial constraints,” stated Loretan, acknowledging that about two-thirds of the watches nominated for GPHGs this year are from independent brands. “The focus is on the product, not the brand,” reasoned Manuel Emch, who’s on the board of Louis Erard and is a consultant with other brands as well. Aurel Bacs—a founder of Bacs & Russo, the international watch division of Phillips auction house—also weighed in. “There is a dominance of independent brands at the GPHGs, which shows that excellence and recognition is not about the millions that can be spent on the marketing of a product, but on the attention that is given to the product itself,” Bacs added. “With independent brands, product development doesn’t depend on some bottom-line that to be met on a quarterly basis; just the way Van Gogh or Mozart didn’t have to bother about such things.”
Creation of special timepieces is an art and it comes from a place of passion is what Bacs implied. And it was passion and love of the craft that people spoke of the most at the event, which was truly a celebration of fine watchmaking as a whole. The passion for the art and innovation of fine watchmaking also brings out healthy competition, owing to the efforts of the GPHG Foundation and these awards. “When we get a chance to participate, we get more ideas to be better and more beautiful with our products. It’s a very nice challenge to participate in,” said Jean-Marie Schaller, founder and CEO of Louis Moinet. Even Bitton added, “For us it’s good. We are not afraid of competition. This year, we have two watches nominated. Participating at the GPHGs alongside all the other innovative watches of the last one year gives us the motivation to do even better.”
Also commenting on what recognition from the GPHG means to them was Leila Kamali from Oris. “We were nominated last year for the Divers Sixty-Five cotton candy edition. It was very nice to gain reassurance from the industry,” she stated. Kamali also brought up what it meant to be seen by the Swiss watch community, which is largely based around Geneva or the French-speaking parts of the country. “We are confident in what we do, but knowing that we are seen and appreciated even from the industry and the watch community is a good feeling,” she expressed. “It’s good to feel included, as one of the very few brands based in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.” Yet, the idea of the GPHGs is about more than the brands based in Switzerland alone. “We are happy to have more brands from outside of Switzerland participating every year,” Loretan had shared, during his speech at the embassy reception. “The GPHG maybe the Geneva Grand Prix, but it’s not only about Switzerland.” This was recognised also by Bitton, who stated, “We really appreciate the GPHGs of recent years, since they have become more international, more diverse, and bigger, and there is also more transparency in the nomination process.”
A panel discussing the values of indpendent brands: from left to right, Manuel Emch, Aurel Bacs, Raymond Loretan, Nicholas Hoffman from H. Moser & Cie. and Jean-Marie Schaller from Louis Moinet
Sustainability And The GPHGs
Something Loretan said about the process and criteria for the awards was a good example of the transparency, in not just the nomination shortlisting, but even in deciding on the prize winners. “The industry is becoming increasingly concerned about sustainability, and it’s becoming a priority for brands, and especially with the products,” he mentioned. “Hence, sustainability has become a key criterion for the innovation prize.” The innovation prize at the GPHGs is one for which there are no nominees announced prior to the awards, much like the Aguille d’Or or the grand prize for the watch of the year. Sustainability was also discussed at length over one of the panel discussions on the second day of the two-day exhibition. While brand representatives spoke about their initiatives in that arena, Kamali highlighted Oris’s efforts in a separate interview. “Sustainability is a part of our DNA,” she said. “We find opportunities to make sustainability a part of our innovation.”
GPHG: For The Love Of Fine Watchmaking
“Innovation, craftsmanship, creativity and the love for fine watchmaking are what the GPHG is all about,” Aurel Bacs said with confidence at the embassy reception. He made a very astute analogy related to fine watchmaking, likening fine watches to fine horses. “With the advent of the motorcar, horses went from being an essential commodity to being animals that people felt passionate for—for riding, for racing and so on. People collect horses and breed them, not for any essential purpose. Similarly, watches are objects of passion, and may not have utilitarian appeal.” Fine watches not being required for timekeeping is something that was mentioned a lot by others as well, and it was good to see a show of love and pride in being a part of this world, without ignoring the fact that a fine timepiece is far from utilitarian in nature.
“Our mission is the promotion of fine watchmaking in all its facets,” declared Raymond Loretan
In that sense, making the art of watchmaking relevant to those who might appreciate the craft itself is a huge part of the GPHG Foundation’s purpose. “Our mission is the promotion of fine watchmaking in all its facets,” declared Loretan. “We are about recognising the work that means something to so many people, creating value beyond the obvious. Our raison d’être is every relevant.” And by the end of it, there definitely seemed to be a lot of interest in the products on display. Through all the discussions and speeches and interactions related to fine watchmaking, it wouldn’t be surprising if there were some new fans of fine timepieces along the way, in addition to a renewal of interest among existing enthusiasts.
While this was the GPHG’s second exhibition in India (the first one, eight years ago, was also in collaboration with Ethos), the exhibition will travel after this to Africa for the first time, for its next stop in Casablanca, Morocco. After that, the travelling exhibition returns to Geneva, well in time for the main awards ceremony on November 10. The prize-winning watches will continue travelling thereafter—first to Zurich and then to New York.
We will bring you more news on the 2022 GPHGs. Watch this space, where you can also learn more about our top picks from the nominated timepieces that were displayed here in India last weekend.