Sven Andersen didn’t make the podium with his rather sober “Jumping Hours Rising Sun Edition” in platinum, but shared the Jury’s special prize with Vincent Calabrese: in 2025, their baby AHCI (Academy of Independent Creators Watchmaking) will be 40 years old!
Let’s start with the final ceremony, an emotional sequence full of celebration: young watchmaking student Kylian-Douglass Thieulot‘s ascent up the steps, the passionate embodiment of a new generation’s promise, put a smile on the faces of all those who are learning in Switzerland’s watchmaking industry.
Then, as the first flights take off for Dubai Watch Week, where the award-winning timepieces will be on show from November 15 to 20, it’s no surprise that in Geneva, on the GPHG stage, it’s a line-up of CEO-stars who are rightfully collecting the honors they deserve: Scheufele, Babin, Bennahmias, Ferrier and Voutilainen..
François-Henry Bennahmias about human genius: “Tonight, we’re celebrating the people we never see or talk about, who are the treasure not only of Audemars Piguet, but the treasure of watchmaking…“
In fact, it’s François-Henry Bennahmias who takes to the stage to collect the Aiguille d’Or with the Audemars Piguet Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4. And to give us one of his signature speeches, such as the “coup de gueule” he delivered in 2019 directed at the world of suppliers . The Swiss Watch Passport (by JSH) had immortalized it with a mobile phone before it went viral.
In its trail suddenly came a number of worthy revelations, such as “Hautlence, the comeback” and delightful discoveries by Alcée et l’Epée… Finally, on the sidelines and without any prior warning, a few new comers have slipped into the spotlight: Simon Brette and the Petermann Bédat duo. And since the whole event obviously had to be sprinkled with a few jewelled sparkles, Piaget and Dior Montres came out on top, while in matters of volumes and accessible excellence, Raymond Weil and Tudor were rewarded.
Independence and sulkings
The 2023 edition is proof of the importance of this Oscar-winning tribune for independents: of the 19 awards showered on the red carpets, only 3 group brands were targeted: Piaget (Richemont Group) as well as Bulgari and Dior Montres (LVMH). The same happened with the 90 nominations voted for by 847 academicians and a jury chaired by Nick Foulkes: only 23, including several duplicates, came from groups. Are the major players always a little more sulky, if not downright bad players? Indeed, and Geneva’s politicians need to be reminded of this when their visibility-seeking speeches officiate on behalf of “the whole sector”: to take part in the GPHG, you have to register! And even with the rise in the membership fee, despite what may be discouraging some modest independents, the fee for brands attached to groups remains a mere trifle.
Among the 90 2023 nominees, there are some real watchmaking treasures to be discovered or followed. One such example is the HYT motorist’s curiosity, the result of ingenuity mastered by one of the evening’s partners, Arnaud Faivre’s TEC Group. Timepieces and brands, also mostly independents, who had registered, sometimes for the nth time. On the way back, still dazed by the noise of the crowd and the cheers, I offer them a well-deserved review lap. Scroll, respect!