uropa Star: Among the changes you’ve initiated, the founding of the GPHG Academy in 2020 was nothing short of a mini revolution. It has since gone from strength to strength, rising from 650 members in 2022 to more than 860 in 2023. How do you see this as important for the GPHG?
Raymond Loretan: We set up the Academy to bring about a radical paradigm shift in the selection of timepieces participating in the Grand Prix and the award winners in an effort to establish the impartiality of the organisation. The system defined in 2020 has confirmed, year after year, that it works. The changes ran deep and they certainly seem to have met with the approval of the industry and the public at large. We want the Academy to continue to grow and mature until 2025 before we start planning the next development phase.
Are you setting any limits for its development?
We‘re aiming at 1000 members in 2025, but we’re not setting any long-term limits. Today, we’re focussing on the qualitative growth of the institution, for example the college for the under 26s created this year. We’ll then see how further changes can be implemented, once all the Academicians have been thoroughly “broken in”. For the 2025 – 2030 phase, we’re planning to adapt their mission to turn them more into ambassadors of the GPHG. Our director, Carine Maillard, and I, will see to it that thoughts on potential development channels remain top of the agenda at the Foundation’s board meeting.
- Raymond Loretan
The Academy is a panel of experts, all with very different profiles and hailing from all kinds of backgrounds and professions. How would you define its primary role?
The founding of the Academy has helped to embody and define the founding principles of the new GPHG, and these are the principles on which we aim to build our future. First and foremost, there is the neutrality and impartiality of the Grand Prix, an essential factor for its legitimacy and independence. All Academicians are at liberty to nominate the timepieces of their choice for the pre-selections in the specific categories. Official registrations are then confirmed by the brands‘ agreement, a vital pre-requisite for them to remain in the running. The Academy then votes to decide on the pre-selection (the timepieces competing to make it through to the list of prizewinners). Everything is conducted anonymously.
The final decision concerning the winners is the shared task of the Jury and the Academy, according to the current ratio of 70% for the 30 jury members and 30% for the Academicians. All of the jury members are Academicians, half of their number is drawn by lots and the other 15 members are designated by the GPHG with the agreement of the president of the Jury, plus the winner of the Aiguille d‘Or from the previous year. This process helps to maintain the necessary balance. Voting takes place entirely as a secret ballot under notarial control.
Secondly, the Academy stands for the universality of the GPHG, an important factor safeguarding its relevance. Its members do indeed hail from all backgrounds and countries, united in their passion for watchmaking. This is also reflected in the sheer variety of the competing brands and their countries of origin. Finally, the GPHG and the Academy together convey the solidarity among the players in our industry. The GPHG sets out to be inclusive. To participate is to testify to one’s solidarity and support for the entire watchmaking industry. Ultimately, the aim is to include all brands, from the most prestigious to the most humble.
Some very big brands in the sector, who were present at the start of the GPHG, are still conspicuously absent. How do you aim to get them back?
The easiest way is to create a credible institution, one that remains relevant and true to its values. Of course, everyone can be part of the dialogue. However, making this a key institution will show that participation in the GPHG is synonymous with a demonstration of solidarity and the community of values specific to this branch. The goal is to spread conviction through the quality of the GPHG product.
The role of the GPHG is not solely confined to the competition itself. Your mission also includes other important channels. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Obviously, the competition is the high spot, but the GPHG also aims to educate. It´s a tremendous vehicle for promoting the industry and motivating people, especially young generations. It encourages them to want to discover and enter the industry as, say, watchmakers, collectors or designers. Our mission is taking shape a little more every year. We exhibit around the world with the aid of experts who are there to lead the tours and explain the craftsmen´s skills, specialisations and techniques. And we go into even greater depth in the exhibition at the Rath Museum in Geneva with a series of watchmaking workshops, guided tours, conferences and an educational programme for schools aimed at young audiences aged between 10 and 16. Finally, we hope to increasingly integrate the notion of sustainability in watchmaking. For the moment, sustainable approaches fall under the Innovation prize category, so we are asking the Academicians and the Jury to include this aspect in their decisions.
The 23rd GPHG awards ceremony will be held on 9 November 2023 at the Leman Theatre in Geneva.