Christopher Ward won the ‘Petite Aiguille’ category at the 2023 GPHG! In a noteworthy nod to its roots, Christopher Ward, a brand that once encapsulated the microbrand spirit, has clinched the “Petite Aiguille” prize at the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) with its London C1 Bel Canto model. While Christopher Ward may no longer fit within the narrow confines of a microbrand—having scaled to a production volume and recognition that rivals established names—the company’s trajectory remains a beacon of inspiration for the microbrand watch community. Established in 2004, Christopher Ward swiftly set a precedent for the sector, pioneering a direct-to-consumer approach that challenged the traditional watch retail model. Its evolution from a fledgling online-only watchmaker to a brand capable of crafting its own in-house movements mirrors the aspirations of many microbrand watchmakers today. The brand’s success story is not just a testament to its own innovative strategy but also serves as a proven blueprint for the burgeoning microbrand watch world, underlining the immense potential within this dynamic industry.
The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), established in 2001 and managed by a foundation since 2011, is a prestigious event in the watchmaking world, celebrating the craftsmanship and art of watchmaking. It is supported by both public and private partners, including its main partner FGP Swiss & Alps. Each year, the GPHG awards ceremony is a key event for industry stakeholders and enthusiasts, where a jury and the GPHG Academy honor contemporary watchmaking with various prizes. In 2023, for instance, the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix was awarded to Audemars Piguet, and 19 prizes in total were distributed to outstanding contributors to the horological field. The event also showcases nominated timepieces in exhibitions, such as at the Musée Rath in Geneva and other international locations.
The “Petite Aiguille” category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) prizes is a distinct segment that celebrates watches considered “entry-level” in the context of luxury watchmaking. Eligible watches must be priced between CHF 4,000 and CHF 10,000. Interestingly, the rules have been updated to include smartwatches within this category, broadening its scope. The selection criteria for the winners are not publicly detailed, leading to some speculation about the judges’ preferences. Previous winners have varied from the German-made Kudoke Kudoke 2 moonphase timepiece to the chronograph from Habring², suggesting a preference for craftsmanship and design from smaller ateliers. However, renowned brands like Tudor and Seiko have also claimed this title in the past, hinting at the category’s competitive diversity. Some view the “Petite Aiguille” award as a nod to fine watchmaking at more accessible price points, contrasting with the more prestigious awards of the GPHG.
The competitors in the “Petite Aiguille” category at the 2023 GPHG were a diverse group representing a range of styles and watchmaking philosophies:
- Bulgari’s Octo Roma Automatic: A timepiece that continues the brand’s legacy of blending Italian design with Swiss engineering, offering a sophisticated and modern aesthetic.
- Christopher Ward London’s C1 Bel Canto: The eventual winner, a model that balances traditional craftsmanship with a contemporary approach, reflecting the brand’s growth and evolution.
- Habring2’s Chrono-Felix Top-Second: A watch from the Austrian brand known for its mechanical ingenuity and classic design principles.
- Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin’s Le Régulateur: A collaboration that brought together Louis Erard’s heritage and Konstantin Chaykin’s inventive watchmaking to create a unique regulator-style timepiece.
- Massena Lab and Raúl Pagès’ Magraph: A collaborative effort that showcases Massena Lab’s dedication to horological artistry and Raúl Pagès’ meticulous craftsmanship.
- Tudor’s Black Bay: A model from a brand that has established itself with designs that pay homage to its historical models while incorporating modern technology and style .
Securing the “Petite Aiguille” prize at the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève marks a significant honor for Christopher Ward, especially considering the caliber of contenders in this year’s lineup. To emerge victorious against illustrious brands such as Bulgari, with its fusion of Italian flair and Swiss precision; Habring2, revered for its mechanical excellence; Louis Erard, in collaboration with the inventive Konstantin Chaykin; Massena Lab, teamed up with the artisanal expertise of Raúl Pagès; and Tudor, a brand synonymous with heritage and modern horological innovation, underscores the substantial esteem in which Christopher Ward’s London C1 Bel Canto is held. This accolade is a testament not only to the brand’s dedication to craftsmanship and design but also to its standing as a prominent figure that once pioneered the path for microbrands and now shines in the broader watchmaking industry.
But when you delve into the details of the Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto, it’s no surprise that it stood out as a prize-winning piece. This striking watch marks Christopher Ward’s foray into the realm of chiming watches, boasting a ‘Sonnerie au Passage’ complication that melodiously strikes the hour. The watch, with its 41 mm x 13 mm Grade 5 titanium case, not only enhances the chime’s resonance and tone but also promises lightness and a water resistance of up to 30 meters. Aesthetic delight is ensured as the striking mechanism is displayed dial-side, allowing the wearer to witness the horological dance in action. Moreover, the C1 Bel Canto comes with an option to silence the chime and features a blue platine plate with a sunray finish behind the rhodium-plated elements, ensuring visibility with Super-LumiNova filled hands and markers. At its heart lies the automatic Sellita SW200-1-based FS01 Calibre, a movement that necessitated the creation of 50 new components, resonating at 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations per hour) and offering a 38-hour power reserve. This watch isn’t just a technical marvel; it’s a limited edition art piece, with only 300 available in Azzurro blue, combining exclusivity with Christopher Ward’s hallmark of accessibility
Christopher Ward won the ‘Petite Aiguille’ – To Sum It Up
In sum, the victory of Christopher Ward’s C1 Bel Canto at the 2023 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s “Petite Aiguille” category is a landmark achievement for a brand that has transcended its microbrand beginnings to carve out a significant niche in the watchmaking industry. This accolade, celebrated among watch aficionados and industry insiders alike, not only underscores the brand’s commitment to innovation and quality but also its influence and standing within the competitive landscape of the GPHG. The C1 Bel Canto, with its harmonious blend of technical prowess and aesthetic elegance, distinguished itself amongst formidable peers, exemplifying the spirit of excellence that the GPHG celebrates. Christopher Ward’s journey from a pioneering microbrand to an inspiration for watchmakers everywhere is a testament to the dynamic and evolving nature of the horology world, highlighting the profound impact that dedication and craftsmanship can achieve.