It’s the season of watch shows, discussions and one such show which has been known to bring the watch fraternity together from across the globe is the GPHG exhibit and awards. The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the highest honor in the world of horology, surely had the pomp and royalty of India. And the only one who could manage this is Ethos! Kicking off with a grand dinner held in the Capital, at the Embassy of Switzerland followed by intellectual panel discussions, words cannot explain how awestruck we were.
Our Founder at The Hour Markers. Karishma Karer caught up with Raymond Lauretan, President of GPHG to discuss the nominations, his views on the Oscars of watchmaking, and more. Did you know our founder is also part of the GPHG Academy?
But before we get into more details of this insightful conversation, let me introduce the man of the hour – Raymond Loretan. He has served for over two decades in the Swiss diplomatic corps (including as Swiss Consul General in New York City until 2007) before being appointed as the President of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) for 2018.
Visiting India after almost 30 years, Raymond Lauretan said, “The expectations are high considering India is the largest democracy in the world. I personally have seen India evolve over the years when I was a seasoned diplomat. There’s a huge role for India to play in the world; the geo-political role will increase over time despite the population challenges. For us, as Swiss, there is a huge potential for economic relations. Our visit as GPHG can also be seen to be in this dynamic. We were invited by Yashoo Saboo, who always has an eye out for the evolution of the market and we can see the watch market develop. Despite the evolution of the watch market in India, the lack of access has led it to be called a “complicated market.”
Talking about his journey as the GPHG President and the awards, he said, “Great! I don’t have a watch background, and being a diplomat, former President Carlo Lamprecht asked me to take on his role. I was living in Singapore in the 90’s and opening up watch boutiques every other day. I’m very proud of one achievement along with my team – creating the watch academy of the Grand Prix.”
Calling it a ‘change of paradigm’, he said, “We changed the old selection process. This academy, which started in 2020, is quite a success. We now have 650 people and hope to touch the 1000 mark by 2025. Based on this new selection process, it’s important for competition. I’m trying to develop GPHG on three principles – first, impartiality and neutrality because in the earlier days we had a suspicion of not being entirely neutral. Second, universality; GPHG is perceived as a competition for Swiss watches, but actually it’s not. We are open to watches on a global level. In fact, we have 12 non-Swiss watches this year. 40 Swiss brands and 12 foreign brands. We’ve seen an evolution and to promote the horological industry worldwide. Last but the most important, solidarity; I want to motivate the brands to participate in GPHG.”
Talking about the three principal axes of action to grow GPHG, he said, “Participation and competition are crucial. Competition is great since it’s getting credible within the academy. Next would be the promotion of the watch industry as a whole. The main idea is to motivate young people to learn about the watch industry and, of course, buy watches too. The third axis which I would like to develop is education. It’s helping the youth understand the profession of a watchmaker. Even in Switzerland, we’ve to be very active to stimulate people.”
Did you know this year GPHG has seen some interesting people on the jury like the new chairman of the Jury Nicholas Foulkes, Hind Seddiqi? Talking about how the jury gets decided, he said, “All the jury is from among the academicians. The 15 members, however, are chosen via public notary. This is a mutual decision. The second part of the jury is chosen by the foundation and the chairman to ensure balance within the jury, which is important.”
“GPHG strives to maintain gender balance, seeing more representation by women on the jury panel to select winners. Not out of pressure, but I think women are bringing a different approach and sensitivity to the watch industry. Several women are taking responsibility as the CEO of watch brands, but I think we can do better.” says Raymond. And like our founder says, women have a strong voice in the watch industry. Well, we cannot disagree.
Transparency is key for GPHG. How can one apply to be a part of the GPHG selection process? Shedding light on the process, Raymond said, “The first step is an appeal made by watch brands who want to participate. Then, there is a first selection of the watches which are divided into different categories; a choice only made by the academicians. In the second round, the academicians also vote for the finalists, because the weight of the academy in the final jury is 30%. The final jury holds 70% weightage. At the end of the day, no one knows who has won since it’s all via a public notary. It’s almost impossible to manipulate the results.”
GPHG has always seen a mix of watch brands, independents along with the commercial marquees. But, we’ve never seen a Patek Philippe or a Rolex participate. Why so? “Apparently there’s a rule that Rolex cannot participate. Some brands are reluctant to come for the awards. With the credibility of the Grand Prix, its principles and passing time, we may see these brands reconsider their position.”
Any predictions? Well, only of the ceremony being great, and indeed it was. With Finnish watchmakers, Japanese watchmakers participating, do we expect to see an Indian watchmaker on the list? Though Indian watches have their presence, those which hold 60% of the complicated, closed market, well, we have our hopes high.
Read about the finalist here.