The Aiguille d’Or (Golden Hand) is the top prize at the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Awarded by a jury that consists of the most eminent collectors and watch journalists, this prize is the one coveted by the entire watchmaking industry. We take a look back at the watches that have won this prestigious award in the past.

In general, there is one clear trend among the winners: all of them are traditional high-end watch brands, like Patek Philippe, A. Lange & Söhne and Breguet, to name just a few of the names that have won the Holy Grail of watchmaking. The prize awarded to TAG Heuer in 2012 is a notable exception. Although the brand is not usually considered to be part of the inner circle of high-end watchmaking, it nevertheless stood out that year with its revolutionary Mikrogirder model, a mechanical chronograph with a precision of 1/2000th of a second and an entirely new type of regulating organ.

 

Mikrogirder. © TAG Heuer

From 2001 to 2006, the winners were all Geneva-based watch brands: Vacheron Constantin in 2001 and 2005, Patek Philippe in 2002 and 2003, F.P. Journe in 2004 and 2006. In 2007 Geneva’s reign ended with a victory for Richard Mille. The manufacture based in the canton of Jura won the Aiguille d’Or with its RM 012, an architectural tubular tourbillon. In 2008, Geneva watchmaking returned with another victory for F. P. Journe and his Centigraphe Souverain. Since then, year after year, the Switzerland’s traditional watchmaking valleys have taken the honours. To date, A. Lange & Söhne, based in the Saxon village of Glashütte in Germany, well-known as the cradle of the German watchmaking industry, is the only non-Swiss watch brand to have won the Aiguille d’Or, in 2009 with the Lange Zeitwerk.

.

Lange Zeitwerk. © A. Lange & Söhne

In 2001, the year in which the GPHG was established, the Lady Kalla by Vacheron Constantin was named the best watch of the year. This piece, which combined the horological experience and jewellery-making heritage of the Geneva-based manufacturer, is the only ladies’ watch to have won the Aiguille d’Or. 

Lady Kalla. © Vacheron Constantin

If you look at all 14 winners, the king among the complications is the tourbillon, of which five have won the top prize: 5101P “10 Jours Tourbillon”, Patek Philippe (2003), Tour de l’Ile, Vacheron Constantin (2005), Tourbillon Souverain à seconde morte, F.P. Journe (2004), RM 012, Richard Mille (2007), Double Tourbillon 30° Edition Historique, Greubel Forsey (2010). Patek Philippe’s 5102 Skymoon is the only astronomical watch to have won the prize, in 2002, and the Sonnerie Souveraine by F. P. Journe the only striking watch, in 2006. 

The winners from 2011 to 2013 were innovative pieces at the forefront of technology: De Bethune and the DB 28, TAG Heuer and the Mikrogirder, Girard-Perregaux and the L.M Constant Escapement. Last year, high-end watchmaking in the most classical form marked its return with the prize awarded to Breguet’s Classique Chronométrie. 

 

Classique Chronométrie. © Breguet

Given the variety of past winners, it is difficult to imagine what type of timepiece may be awarded the prize at this year’s awards ceremony on 29th October in Geneva. But it’s worth noting that the artistic crafts category has become increasingly important over the year and that none of these watches is yet to win the top prize. But out of 193 watches entered into the GPHG 2015, there are also 23 tourbillons… Make your predictions!

Click on the cover image for this story to to see a gallery of all previous Aiguille d'Or winners.

Find the full list of winners from all 14 previous editions of the GPHG at gphg.org.

Aiguille d’Or : 2001-2014

  • 2001 : Vacheron Constantin, Lady Kalla
  • 2002 : Patek Philippe, 5102 Skymoon
  • 2003 : Patek Philippe, 5101 P « 10 jours Tourbillon »
  • 2004 : F.P. Journe, Tourbillon Souverain à seconde morte
  • 2005 : Vacheron Constantin, Tour de l’Ile
  • 2006 : F. P. Journe, Sonnerie Souveraine
  • 2007 : Richard Mille, RM 012
  • 2008 : F.P. Journe, Centigraphe Souverain
  • 2009 : A. Lange & Söhne, Lange Zeitwerk
  • 2010 : Greubel Forsey, Double Tourbillon 30° Edition Historique
  • 2011 : De Bethune DB28
  • 2012 : TAG Heuer, Mikrogirder
  • 2013 : Girard-Perregaux, L.M Constant Escapement 
  • 2014 : Breguet, Classique Chronométrie
  • 2015 : ?