Our Predictions In The Ladies Complication Category Of The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève: One Is Outed As A Drag Queen

Quill & Pad
Sep 24, 2018 · 17 min read

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[av_textblock size=’’ font_color=’’ color=’’] by Ian Skellern [/av_textblock]

[av_textblock size=’’ font_color=’’ color=’’] Welcome to the 2018 edition of Quill & Pad’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève predictions in which the team picks favorites and explains why.

The panelists are:

Ian Skellern (IS), co-founder and technical director Joshua Munchow (JM), resident nerd writer Martin Green (MG), resident gentleman Ryan Schmidt (RS), contributor and author of The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches Alex Ghotbi (AG), vintage watch expert at Phillips Ashton Tracy (AT), contributor, watchmaker, and blogger

Note: as jury members, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr and resident collector GaryG do not take part in these early predictions.

The GPHG foundation describes the Ladies Complication category for watches entered as constituting women’s watches “remarkable in terms of their mechanical creativity and complexity. These may feature all kinds of classic and/or innovative complications and indications like the annual calendar, perpetual calendar, equation of time, moon phase, a digital or retrograde time display, world time, dual time or others. These do not fit the definition of the Ladies or Mechanical Exception categories.”

Ladies Complication category pre-selected watches in the 2018 GPHG, clockwise from top left: Beauregard Dahlia C1, Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater, Chaumet Espiègleries, Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours, Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy, and Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
Ladies Complication category pre-selected watches in the 2018 GPHG, clockwise from top left: Beauregard Dahlia C1, Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater, Chaumet Espiègleries, Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours, Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy, and Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Ladies Complication shortlisted watches in the 2018 GPHG (clockwise from top left): Beauregard Dahlia C1, Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater, Chaumet Espiègleries, Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours, Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy, and Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

MG: Yes! The ladies have arrived in the world of the haute horlogerie. Or, more accurately, they are finally being recognized as a worthwhile customer group as behind the scenes many talented women contribute to the creation of the most breathtaking complicated watches — only they generally end up on men’s wrists. Here we see six worthy competitors in the Ladies Complication category, making the jury’s decision harder than ever.

I am quite disappointed that the Giberg Olora didn’t advance into the pre-selection, as Ian and I both considered the Giberg Niura, its sibling with the same movement, as the best of show of the 2018 edition of Baselworld. Quite honestly, I think that it packs more of a punch than some of the watches that did make it through!

IS: Overall, I like the range of style represented by the pre-selected Ladies’ Complication watches, and there really is something for everyone — everyone here referring to those with $50,000-$250,000 to spend on a watch. As with the six pre-selected Men’s watches, I think that all six watches here are excellent.

AT: I am impressed with the ladies’ complications on offer here. There are some quite lovely pieces, and I find myself drawn to a few of them.

JM: As we progress into week three of our round tables, the Ladies’ Complication category is leaving me with mixed emotions. When you look at the Men’s Complication category, you see a veritable feast of complication, but of course everyone builds complicated watches for men.

Making complications specifically for women is rare, and so finding something that is unique for women is always a bit more difficult. This year the contenders are all pretty awesome, and the complications are definitely top notch, but I can’t help missing the year Christophe Claret released the Margot and showed that high-end complications could be designed exclusively for women.

This isn’t to say that women don’t want versions of the popular complications, but I always feel like opportunities are missed to create something unique. I have my favorites here and definitely think some stand out very clearly, but I do wish we could see more general creativity directed at women.

Beauregard Dahlia C1

Beauregard Dahlia C1
Beauregard Dahlia C1

Beauregard Dahlia C1

IS: I think that the Beauregard Dahlia C1 is a very nice, well designed, feminine watch with an elegant central flying tourbillon that would look good on any woman’s wrist. However, this is a strong lineup, and there are stronger contenders for me in this category.

RS: It’s hard to look at this without thinking of the Omega De Ville Central Tourbillon or even the Kerbedanz Maximus, though, Ian. But what those watches have in strong technical notes, the Beauregard oozes with femininity. And the floral aesthetic is the perfect partner for the symmetry that such a movement affords. It’s beautiful. I can imagine if this is as good in the metal as it might be, the judges might get swept away by this.

Ornate automatic movement of the Beauregard Dahlia C1
Ornate automatic movement of the Beauregard Dahlia C1

Ornate automatic movement of the Beauregard Dahlia C1

AT: I think this is a truly special watch. The time and attention to detail that has gone into it is something to marvel at, and the central tourbillon is technically impressive. The mother-of-pearl dial is just beautiful down to the smallest details and even the crown with its flower motif is stunning. This is a passion project of a timepiece, a true work of art.

AG: There is an excellent Bordeaux wine called Château Beauregard, but I had never heard of the watch brand. I have to admit that I’m smitten: the fact that they have created a central tourbillon and then underwent great pains to hide it impresses me. And the fact that the hands are “hidden” is also quite cool.

The Dahlia C1 looks like a beautiful bracelet. It is feminine and elegant, so my vote goes to Beauregard.

Beauregard Dahlia C1
Beauregard Dahlia C1

Beauregard Dahlia C1

JM: In my book, the Beauregard Dahlia C1 has to take the second-place spot due to its creative design-driven display and the serious attention paid to the movement components. The skeletonizing adds an awesome floral motif that shies away from literal flower engravings on the plates and bridges and goes for a very stylized route instead.

The automatic winding mechanism is actually considered in this piece, and the attention continues all the way out to the crown. But mostly, the time display subtly flowing over the 48 hand-carved mother-of-pearl petals is gorgeous.

But again, it does not go far enough for what it could be, at least as far as complications are concerned. Being a unique piece definitely doesn’t help, either.

For more information, please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/dahlia-c1.

Quick Facts Beauregard Dahlia C1 Case: 38.8 x 15.5 mm, white gold set with 330 diamonds Dial: 48 mother-of-pearl petals, 144 diamonds Movement: unspecified automatic movement with one-minute central flying tourbillon, 65-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency Functions: hours, minutes Limitation: one unique piece Price: 240,000

Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

As a fountain pen enthusiast, I was also very excited about the Urushi lacquer dial, which looks so stunning with the applied “gold dust.” A mesmerizing, breathtaking watch and my winner in this category.

Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater
Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

AT: The watch itself doesn’t do much for me, Martin, but the fact it is a minute repeater brings my estimation up.

RS: It has interesting lugs and a great feminine touch for the repeater slide. But I do wonder if the links might end up looking like an old keyring after hundreds of activations!

Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater
Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

JM: My third-place choice is the very interesting Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater, simply because I know how awesome the Bulgari minute repeater movements are and this one’s pedigree is on lockdown. The specific style of the Diva feels very much like delicate jewelry tied with a ribbon even though it clearly is a very secure design. Out of all the Diva executions, this one is by far my favorite.

And to top it all off, the Diva Finissima Minute Repeater features the rare Urushi lacquer technique that is slowly making its way into watchmaking. The combination is stunning, and I am fairly confident it sounds similarly to the men’s piece. But subjectively, I don’t find it to be successful enough as a ladies’ complication piece to take the top spot, even though it truly is a beautiful and sonorous watch.

IS: Jumping hours, flying tourbillon and now a minute repeater: whatever criticisms the Ladies Complications category might attract, lack of serious haute horlogerie should not be among them. The Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater doesn’t just boast impeccable horology, the gem-setting is just right (neither too many diamonds nor too few) and the Japanese Urushi lacquer dial is simply sublime.

For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/diva-finissima-minute-repeater.

Quick Facts Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater Case: 37.5 x 9.39 mm, pink gold Dial: Urushi lacquer Movement: manual winding Caliber BVL 362 with 42-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, silicon escapement Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; minute repeater Limitation: 10 pieces Price: 180,000 Swiss francs

Chaumet Espiègleries

Except that half of the dial is covered by two multicolored giraffes and some trees, and so for at least half the day you won’t be able to clearly see where the hours and minutes are located. And there are no markings or notations, so the time would always be read rather loosely.

Chaumet Espiègleries
Chaumet Espiègleries

Chaumet Espiègleries

RS: It is very pretty, Joshua, but it has me immediately pining for those Van Cleef & Arpels/Agenhor enamel delights, which had display backs and even quirkier complications.

JM: Right? This seems like it could be a possibly fun cousin to the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels collection but it falls drastically short of being in the same league and comes in at the bottom of this lineup.

MG: Chaumet seems to be doing battle with Van Cleef & Arpels about who has the best “mystery” watch. And while initially this scene looks superb, the only thing that is really superb when you look at it a bit longer is the applied craftsmanship.

The design is however severely lacking in my opinion: the colorful giraffes can still be a matter of taste, but the flock of birds seems to pull a one-hour looping flying upside down. Also, the star, which indicates the hours, seems to turn around the white disk in the dial center, which I presume is the moon, and even disappears behind the trees for at least half the day. This is one of those designs that looks amazing when first sketched, but in practice is lacking finesse.

Chaumet Espiègleries
Chaumet Espiègleries

Chaumet Espiègleries

AT: This Chaumet is a beautiful piece. Africa holds a special place in my heart, and I love the giraffes painted on the dial, but I don’t think it is enough for the ladies’ complication category for me. The time display is nice — more of an artistic feat than a complication in my opinion.

IS: I give Chaumet extra points just for the naming the collection Espiègleries, which is French for “comic mischief.” And the colorful giraffes certainly look as though they are ready to cause some serious comic mischief.

While a jumping hour might not appear to be a significant enough complication to excel here, the fact that the hour is displayed by a gold wandering star and the minutes by a flock of three birds makes the story told here that much more interesting. I like the Chaumet for not taking itself too seriously and imbuing serious horology with a sense of fun.

For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/espiegleries.

Quick Facts Chaumet Espiègleries Case: 35 x 11 mm, white gold Movement: unspecified automatic movement with 36-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency Functions: jumping hours, minutes Limitation: 5 pieces Price: 126,700 Swiss francs

Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

It is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but making previously men’s/unisex watches into ladies’ watches just isn’t going far enough. Perhaps consider making the display a little more meaningful in a feminine package and playing with the concept of upside down in a new way?

Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours
Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

MG: With skill and class Ballouard transforms his Upside Down into Pink Hours! Here we see the skill of the master because aside from its size (41 mm) there is very little that indicates that this watch started its career aimed at the male demographic. The beauty is that Ballouard doesn’t even need to use diamonds to get the job done. He simply uses color and one of the most beautiful mother-of-pearl dials currently available. A masterpiece!

Movement of the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down
Movement of the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down

The display back of a Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down

RS: Goodness, this is a pretty watch! I love any iteration of the Upside Down, but if I’m honest there is something in the watch, perhaps the extent of its whimsical nature, the elegant Breguet numerals, the warm hue of the movement — probably the combination of these things — that feels more at home in a ladies’ watch. With a mother-of-pearl dial and pink gold case I’m bewitched by this watch. It’s my top pick.

Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours
Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

AT: I feel as if I shouldn’t like it, but I love it. The hour display is fun, technically challenging, and just awesome. The upside-down numbers are what do it for me, with the current number the right way up it is just genius. I really like it and the concept too — of living in the moment and not looking to the past. Will it take the top spot? I don’t think it will quite make it, but it will be a close second.

IS: I’m a big fan of Ludovic Ballourd’s work and even had the pleasure and honor to accompany him to Paris to deliver his very first Upside Down watch. While described as a jumping hour, the complication is much more than that as the hours not only jump but also flip upside down. Or right side up in the case of the present hour.

But, the Pink Hours is at heart a dial variation, and I’m looking for more originality than that in my “best ladies’ complication” of 2018.

For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/pink-hours.

Further reading: Why I Bought It: Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down When Confusion Paves The Way To Awe: The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down

Quick Facts Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours Case: red gold, 41 x 11 mm Dial: mother-of-pearl Functions: hours (indicated by jumping rotating disks), minutes, small seconds Movement: manual winding Ballouard Caliber B01, based on the Peseux 7001 gear train and barrel geometry with patented jumping hours complication; 21,600 vph, 36-hour power reserve Limitation: 12 pieces Price: 91,545 Swiss francs

Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy

Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy
Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy

Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy

JM: The Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy doesn’t do much for me, either, at least as a ladies’ watch. The movement is awesome and any aventurine dial is always going to capture my gaze. But like some others, I feel that this is an afterthought watch, something going after women with the least effort possible.

I understand the economics of making watches, especially very expensive and complicated ones, only for a female audience, but I keep coming back to the Margot from Christophe Claret. If you are going to make an almost 400k Swiss franc watch, Claret proved it could be something a bit more unique and not be a “piece unique.” I know you got it in ya, Parmigiani, why not kick things up a notch?

MG: Where Ballouard knows how to transform a watch into a beautiful, elegant ladies’ piece, Parmigiani still struggles. It uses diamonds and an aventurine dial to poorly disguise that this watch was never created with a woman in mind: it’s like putting Mister Universe in dress and hoping that he becomes Miss Universe.

With a case measuring a bulky 37.2 x 44.7 mm that is never going to happen. If this watch had competed in the jewelry category, I would have given it high points; if Parmigiani had entered it into the Men’s category I would have considered it a very ballsy move. But in the Ladies Complication category, it is nothing but a drag queen.

Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy
Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy

Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy

RS: I’m sorry, Parmigiani, but no number of diamonds can convince me that this is a ladies’ watch. It would bust my cuffs, that’s for sure. Love it, but it’s too big to be the winner.

IS: If the thought of a twirling tourbillon surrounded by a scintillating aventurine dial surrounded by a diamond-set frame makes you smile, the reality will delight. While I’m not sure that the power reserve indicator adds interest to the dial or detracts from its serenity, it is a worthwhile complication in a category for complications.

For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/kalpa-tourbillon-galaxy.

Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy Case: 37 x 44.7 x 11.5 mm, pink gold Dial: aventurine Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve Movement: manually wound Caliber PF510 with 30-second tourbillon, 168-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency Limitation: one unique piece Price: 388,000 Swiss francs

Further reading: Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

The motion on this dial is so mesmerizing to watch, and because all the heavenly bodies move at their appropriate speeds, the configuration of the dial is different every day. The execution of the complication is breathtaking and much more thought-through then the Chaumet: take for example a closer look at the finish of the alligator strap, which has some glittery “stardust” sprinkled in to match the similarly scintillating aventurine dial.

The Lady Arpels Planétarium combines a complex movement by van der Klaauw with the elegance of Van Cleef & Arpels and is one of the pioneers in the world of complicated ladies’ watches!

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

AT: This is the clear winner for me. The planetary display has been so tastefully realized, and the dial on this timepiece is just exquisite. I love that Van Cleef & Arpels commissioned a Christiaan van der Klaauw module for the planetary system, which gives the watch added clout.

Astronomical-rich back of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
Astronomical-rich back of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Astronomical-rich back of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

JM: My winner has to be the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium as the complication was specifically designed to be housed within a ladies’ watch, and having a partial solar system on the wrist is rather magical. The execution is top notch, produced in collaboration with Christiaan van der Klaauw, the master of astrological watchmaking.

It is also the most complicated when you count different complications; the Bulgari minute repeater is technically one complication (though, admittedly, the most difficult one to make). The intention for this watch was clearly to provide a woman with everything in the solar system, a grand assembly of the heavens.

Compared to the rest of the watches in the category, I just can’t see one giving more smiles and drawing more lustful stares (at least from me). When it comes to the watches selected, this one makes me feel the most intrigued, and I think others may feel the same.

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium
Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

IS: It takes, or at least it should take, much more than being a superlative watch to win a GPHG category. Superlative should just be a baseline for entry into the elite world of the “pre-selected.” To win you need to be innovative, imaginative, creative, and audacious.

And the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium gets full marks from me in all categories. And the fact that the base complication comes from poetic astronomical specialist van der Klaauw adds icing to the cake.

The Planétarium looks fantastic, is playful, educational, fanciful, astronomical, and at 38 mm very wearable on slim wrists. It’s my predicted winner of the 2018 Ladies Complication category.

For more information please visit www.gphg.org/horlogerie/en/watches/lady-arpels-planetarium.

Further reading: Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist Best Of SIHH 2018: Top 5 Watches For Women Astronomical Design: Talking To Daniel Reintjes, CEO Of Christiaan Van Der Klaauw

Quick Facts Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium Case: 38 x 13.84 mm, white gold Dial: aventurine Movement: automatic base movement with Christiaan van der Klaauw planetarium module, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency, 40-hour power reserve Functions: hours, minutes; date, day, month, year, moon phase, planetarium Price: 257,500 Swiss francs

Predicted Winners

Ian: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Joshua: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Ashton: Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Planétarium

Martin: Bulgari Diva Finissima Minute Repeater

Ryan: Ludovic Ballouard Pink Hours

Alex: Beauregard Dahlia C1

You may also enjoy: Quill & Pad’s Predictions In The Ladies Category Of The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Our Predictions For Best Men’s Watch At The 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (Hint: Spoilt For Choice) Giberg Niura Flying Tourbillon: Elegant Style And Serious Substance Aventurine: Sparkling, Glittering, Mysterious, And Placing A Galaxy Of Stars On Your Wrist Astronomical Design: Talking To Daniel Reintjes, CEO Of Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Best Of SIHH 2018: Top 5 Watches For Women [/av_textblock]

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