WTI: You anointed a new President this year. What are the changes you're hoping he'll bring to GPHG?
CM: The arrival of a new president brings with it a new dynamism. To some extent it marks the dawn of a new era. The character of Raymond Loretan fits well with the developments we plan.
WTI: Why have you introduced the new Challenge Prize category?
CM: The twelve categories are adapted each year in order to align with new trends and to pay tribute to watchmaking creativity in its diversity. The Challenge Prize is reserved for watches retailing for less than 4,000 CHF. This award highlights the challenge of creating affordably-priced quality watches. The GPHG's mission is to reward excellence in all price segments and this new distinction is joining the ‘Petite Aiguille’ prize for models priced between 4,000 and 10,000 CHF.
WTI: What's the long term vision of the GPHG, keeping the changes in the watch industry in mind – especially with the ongoing influx of the digital age?
CM: Adapting to an ever more connected world, a digital platform will be set up this year to provide almost real-time access to pictures, interviews and information (mediacenter - gphg.org, available starting October 2018). More generally, we are thinking about creating an Academy, inspired by the Oscars or Césars, bringing together a broad representation of actors from different sectors of the industry. This is to broaden the unifying mission of GPHG, thereby gaining representativeness.
WTI: What was the story behind the new Prix de l'Audace this year? What parameters will the entries be judged on?
CM: The Prix de l'Audace, as its name indicates, will allow the jury to honour an audacious, non-conformist model. The main criterion for selection will be the expression of a certain creative freedom. Such a prize will allow jurors to reward quality but offbeat creations, which are difficult to compare with more traditional pieces. This prize is optional and can be awarded to any of the 72 shortlisted watches.
WTI: Don't you worry the number of brands would explode, now that watches with a retail price below 4,000 Swiss francs are also participating?
CM: The 2018 edition of the GPHG is set to be very exciting with 195 watches in competition and 105 brands entered. There are 22 watches in the "Petite Aiguille" category and 35 in the Challenge category. We are more than happy with this success.
WTI: There are a lot of big names missing this year – A. Lange & Sohne, Omega, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chopard, IWC, Breguet, Blancpain etc. Isn't that a cause of worry for the organisation?
CM: Indeed, there are brands every year that do not participate. Their reasons are different. Some do not have exciting novelties to put in the competition every year. Others simply do not want to compete. We warmly thank the brands that accept the challenge of competing. All do not win each time, but they participate in a unifying and competitive spirit for the renown of the entire profession.
About Chopard, the brand won the 2017 "Aiguille d'Or" so it is out of competition this year. Our rules stipulate that the winning brand of the "Aiguille d'Or" Grand Prix is automatically ineligible for the competition the following year, and its founder or CEO is invited to sit on the jury for one year. Thus Karl Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, is part of our jury this year.
WTI: Brands like Patek Philippe and Breitling have never directly participated in the GPHG. Are there any strategies which you will be adopting to bring the brands on board?
CM: Patek Philippe won the Aiguille d'Or several times in the first year of the GPHG. Yes, we hope to see them change their vision and participate in the competition again in the future. Rewarding a chosen few each year so as to enhance the renown of all, in a spirit intended to be both unifying and competitive: such is the challenge facing our Foundation. All do not adhere to it yet!
WTI: Which watch will you be wearing on the evening of the ceremony?
CM: On this occasion I remain neutral, I do not wear a watch!