The Mechanical Exception category of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève brings together the ultimate in sophistication and innovation. But that’s the thing. Sophistication and innovation represent two very different kinds of watches. A watch is considered sophisticated when it offers many different indications. It’s innovative when it offers new ways of doing things, and this could apply to simple functions as much as to complicated ones. Neither approach is better than the other – they are both vital to the progress of watchmaking. All we can do is sit back, and wait for the jury to announce which they have decided to reward this year.
The Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite” offers a bundle of complications that is unusual these days for its breadth, but also because it represents a catalogue of everything A. Lange & Söhne can do. The Tourbograph, a tourbillon and chronograph combined, has been around for some time, but here Lange has added its perpetual calendar, plus a fusée-and-chain transmission. The constant force mechanism is what the “Pour le Mérite” designation refers to, in the Saxon company’s lexicon. Girard-Perregaux has chosen a similar approach to complication, but with the accent on three-dimensionality. The tourbillon of the Planetarium Tri-Axial pivots around three axes, performing spherical revolutions. Alongside the tourbillon there is a world globe that rotates at a more stately pace, as well as a moon phase indication and an off-centre time display.
Tourbograph Perpetual © A. Lange & Söhne
Planetarium Tri-Axial © Girard-Perregaux
Vacheron Constantin has pushed the envelope with 23 complications. The Celestial Astronomical is a mechanical computer for astronomical functions and indications. This one-of-a-kind piece (further examples may be commissioned on request) represents a unique and uniquely comprehensive catalogue of functions. It nevertheless remains portable, legible and practical, with a 3-week power reserve and, incredibly, a thickness of just 13.6 mm. We have seen many thicker watches offering far fewer complications.
Les Cabinotiers Celestia Astronomical Grand Complication 3600 © Vacheron Constantin
In recent years, much horological innovation has focused on minute repeaters, and two of the most remarkable initiatives in this direction are going head to head in this category. The Audemars Piguet Supersonnerie incorporates the sound amplification concepts we have already seen in the grand complication Royal Oak Concept, but inside a Jules Audemars case (this watch marks the launch of a new iteration of this model). Here, however, it’s all about the sound. The apertures in the caseback are connected to a copper resonance membrane (providing acoustic resonance, not frequency).
Jules Audemars Minute Repeater Supersonnerie © Audemars Piguet
In opposition, Chopard is presenting its most innovative watch, the watch to which the company has devoted more development efforts than any other in its history: the Full Strike. What makes it different are its many safety features, its considerable striking reserve, and above all, its unique approach to sound generation. In this L.U.C watch, the two gongs that create the sound are carved from the same block of sapphire as the watch crystal. As they are of a single piece, they behave like a loudspeaker, producing a sound that is crystal clear, literally.
L.U.C Full Strike © Chopard
Now, it’s available in a more affordable stainless steel case and also the version is known as the Mirrored Force Resonance Water. Armin Strom has a custom of releasing different versions of an eye themed on elements like fire, water, earth, and atmosphere. More importantly, I believe this new version looks even better.Apart in the stainless steel case, the case dimensions and design are left unchanged. The new Mirrored Force Resonance in steel measures 43.4mm wide and is about 13mm thick. The case is distinguished with its thick lugs and muscle. And like most Armin Strom watches, there is a small lip at 6 o’clock in between the lugs which permits owners to engrave their initials if they would want to do so.There’s a pusher at 2 o’clock that instantly zero-resets the two moments hands. This is a pretty cool feature because if resonance is indeed in effect, then both seconds palms should beat in unison.Aside from the case material, the largest changes to this watch are all on the dial. Anyhow, it is a fantastic color combination and provides the watch a modern and fresh look.The remainder of the dial stays unchanged, and that means a whole lot of the movement can be seen. However, the highlight has got to be the twin balance springs on the left side of the dial, which are flanked by two subsidiary minutes dials with cool-looking triple-spoke minutes hands.
But innovation can take other forms, for instance in new approaches to abstruse concepts such as resonance. Armin Strom created a stir with its Mirrored Force Resonance. It improves the precision of a double-escapement system by using resonance to synchronise the two components. In this instance, the two escapements are linked by a spring-shaped component, which causes them to synchronise. The watch design as a whole is also extremely striking.
Mirrored Force Resonance © Armin Strom
Whether the approach comes from a big brand or a small firm, whether it’s classical or iconoclastic, elegant or cutting-edge, this category brings together some major statements in terms of technology, image and, above all, philosophy.
Watch the ceremony