Whether it's TAG Heuer's laboratory-grown diamonds, or Breitling's goal of becoming carbon-neutral, the watchmaking industry continues to push the boundaries of innovation. Both brands, among others, are hoping for prestigious industry prizes including the Grand Prix de l'Aiguille d'Or.
Sport has the Olympic Games, cinema has the Oscars, and for watchmaking, there is the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.
Each year the competition highlights the innovations of the sector and rewards its most eminent players.
The selected watches and clocks are on display in the Swiss city ahead of the highly anticipated prize-giving ceremony.
To find out the latest innovations being developed by watchmakers, Euronews went to the Swiss Jura, one of the cradles of watchmaking.
In the peaceful valleys where Breitling, the pioneer of the modern chronograph, was founded in 1884, it still manufactures around 200,000 watches a year here.
The brand is presenting four pieces at the Grand Prix, including two new versions of the emblematic Navitimer. The Superocean diver's watch has also been reworked by a new generation of designers, charged with taking the brand's heritage into the future.
"Our objective is to reunite the entire Breitling heritage. To extract the most iconic pieces, in order to build the current Breitling portfolio. We are surrounded by collectors and historians who guide us through the history of what has already been done.
140 years of history is exceptional! So we take care to get out the archive pieces, to understand them, to analyse them. And, once we have understood the DNA of the piece, the values of the brand, of Breitling, we can begin to design from the brand's perspective." Explains Sylvain Berneron, the Creative Director of Breitling.
Beyond design, the watchmaker has set itself a new mission: to achieve carbon neutrality and favour responsible materials.
A little further on, in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a Mecca of watchmaking, another iconic brand, TAG Heuer, was founded in 1860. It also has 4 pieces selected this year. Like the new Monaco model, a favourite of motorsport enthusiasts. Or the Aquaracer, with which it is possible to dive to a depth of 1,000 metres. Jewels of technological precision are part of the company's DNA.
"In TAG Heuer, TAG means 'avant-garde technology', so the avant-garde is everywhere. We breathe avant-garde, in all the departments, you will feel this avant-garde spirit. It is even more pronounced in our department called the Institute, which is dedicated to innovation.
So we imagine, we create, and we write the innovation and all the steps to come for the company. To this avant-garde, we always combine the search for quality and performance, signature designs, and always a creative spirit." Says Maria Laffont, VP Product And Design, at Tag Heuer.
It is here, in the famous Institute, that the Carrera Plasma was conceived. For this watch, the watchmakers have used a laboratory-grown synthetic diamond, a first in watchmaking.
Grand Prix d'Horlogerie Academy
All the watches in the running have been selected through rigorous stages by the members of the GPHG Academy, comprised of hundreds of industry players that guarantee the values of the Grand Prix.
Raymond Loretan, is the GPHG Foundation President, "2022 is also the consecration of the academy system with 650 scholars participating in the entire selection process. We created it in 2020, today we have 650 members and I am aiming for 1,000 members by 2025.
This also allowed us to define the institutional principles of the Grand Prix : First, the neutrality and impartiality of the selection process. Second, the Universality, i.e. openness to all watches in the world, not just Swiss ones. And finally, the solidarity, encouraging all brands, even those who think they don't need it, to participate in the Grand Prix."
The winners of the 22nd edition will be announced on 10 November at the Théâtre du Léman, in Geneva. 90 timepieces are in the running to win one of the 20 prizes, including the prestigious Grand Prix de l'Aiguille d'Or.