On Nov 9, Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) a.k.a. the Oscars of watchmaking bestowed its highest honour, the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix, to Bovet. Meantime, industry veteran Jean-Claude Biver, the man who took Hublot to the esteemed level it is today, was honoured with the Special Jury Prize.

Bovet hit the nail on the head when it described the Recital 22 Grand Recital as “an astronomical theatre”. Last week, this remarkable interpretation of the perpetual calendar walked away with the Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix, GPHG’s top prize.

It’s not hard to see why it was adjudged the best of the best. With a case size of 46.3mm, the various calendar indicators are displayed in a novel way with the dial layout inspired by the Tellurium-Orrery. The sun is represented by the tourbillon at ‘6’ and the moon can be seen at the edge of the hour sub-dial. The latter makes one full circle around the dial in accordance to the synodic period of exactly 29.53 days.

Its most striking feature, however, is the hemispherical earth, which can actually be customised to your choice of location. The details, right down to the clouds that appear to float above the oceans and land, are engraved and hand-painted, and incorporated with luminescent substances so that the earth radiates in same manner as it was seen from outer space.

On either side of the hour counter are the retrograde power reserve and minute. A date aperture can be seen at ‘7’ but the rest of the calendar indicators – the day, month and leap year - are on the caseback. There is another date indicator, a glass disc that rotates around the vast bridge.

The beauty of the design is complemented with ease of use. While the indicators can be adjusted individually, a pusher between the upper lugs can be used to simultaneously correct all the functions. If the watch has stopped for 5 days, you only need to press the pusher 5 times to get all the functions to display the correct information again.

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Other winners at GPHG 2018 include Chanel’s Boy-friend Skeleton for Ladies Watch, Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels Planetarium for Ladies Complication, Laurent Ferrier’s Galet Annual Calendar School Piece for Men’s Complication and Seiko’s Prospex 1968 Diver’s Recreation for Sports Watch. A shout-out to MING Watch whose 19.01 was one of the finalists in the "Petite Aiguille" category for watches retailing under CHF8,000 (about RM33,200). 

Man of the hour

Jean-Claude Biver was conferred with a Special Jury Prize for his outstanding contribution to the Swiss watch industry. A dynamic leader with pin-sharp focus on his goals, the name Biver is perhaps most synonymous with Hublot where he was CEO from 2004 – 2012. He was instrumental in revitalising the brand with the Art of Fusion concept of melding disparate materials in a watch such as gold and rubber. Before joining Hublot, Biver was with Omega and Blancpain, the latter a company he acquired in 1992 and later sold to the Swatch Group.

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Under his leadership, Hublot quickly grew into such a formidable player that it caught the interest of the LVMH Group; the luxury watch brand became part of the luxury conglomerate in 2008.

In 2014, Biver was appointed president of its Watches Division where he oversaw not only Hublot but also TAG Heuer where he successfully launched its first Connected Watch, and Zenith.

In September this year, Biver retired from all operational duties but remains on board as the non-executive chairman of LVMH watchmaking division. “After 45 years in the watch industry, I would like to focus more specifically on advising and sharing my experience,” he said in a statement announcing this decision.

As he takes a step back from day-to-day action, Biver can take heart that he has left a legacy that most can only dream about.

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