The Grand Prix de Horlogerie de Genève celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Over two decades, GPHG has gained a formidable reputation and is often referred to as the “Oscars of watchmaking”. Raymond is at the helm of the Loreton Foundation, which has been organizing the event for five years now. A few weeks before the 2022 ceremony, we interviewed him to discuss the major changes being introduced to the event and what’s next for the Grand Prix.
Xavier Markle, Monochrome – You’ve been the head of the GPHG Foundation for five years – what brought you there?
Raymond Loreton, President of GPHG – I have a personal relationship with Carlo Lamprecht, the historical figure of GPHG; He convinced me to take over. As a former ambassador of Switzerland, I have an international background. However, it was during my posting to Singapore that I got closer to the world of watches. I have always been very interested in watches, and since my appointment at the GPHG Foundation, I have seen many of the people I met initially in Singapore.
Building on what Carlo has created, I think the idea is to strengthen and develop GPHG’s international exposure. It is a wonderful promotional project for a wonderful sector of our industry and culture.
GPHG just turned 20; You have been the head of GPHG for five years now. How do you feel about its evolution?
I think setting up an academy is a major step. We started with 300 members. Today there are 650 members. The goal may be to reach 1,000 educators by 2025. But we enroll people judiciously in a phased manner, checking that all educators have the right profile. There is also an idea to create a Junior Academy to associate youngsters with the GPHG option.
Things develop according to three principles. The first principle is the neutrality and impartiality of the Grand Prix. I believe the establishment of the Academy reinforced this. With a mechanism, neutrality is reinforced as more people vote.
The second principle is universality. We want all watches and all brands to be associated with the Grand Prix at an international level. And this is happening. Swiss brands still represent the majority of brands at the Grand Prix, but things have evolved. In 2022, we have 40 Swiss brands and 12 brands from other countries
The third principle is solidarity. The idea is to convince all industry players that participation in the Grand Prix is an act of solidarity in promoting watchmaking, watchmaking innovation and artisanal craft.
All these principles are nurtured in the academy. We have taken an important step by increasing the importance and exposure of the Grand Prix. It will take time, but I think we are headed in the right direction. We need to be practical and realistic in building the institutional structure for this development.
What is the Civil War in the Voting System?
The selection process begins with a call for brands to participate in the GHPG. A pre-selection (of 90 watches and clocks) is made by an online voting academy. A 30-member jury will then select the winning watches. This jury meets a few days before the ceremony under the supervision of a notary. We have the result on Thursday, the day of the ceremony. Academy members also vote, representing 30% of the final vote (70% for the jury). We have increased the weight of Academy members’ votes from 15% to 30% in 2022.
How is a jury selected?
Fifteen members are drawn at random from among the members of the Academy under the supervision of a notary, and fifteen members are selected by the Foundation and the Jury President. It allows us to keep a certain balance and I think it works very well.
Many key brands have not participated in GPHG or are no longer participating in it. How can you convince them to participate?
I think the only way to convince people is through the credibility of the Grand Prix. Hence the importance of Grand Prix principles. Communication with these brands is key. We have to engage them with the credibility of the Grand Prix. Ultimately, it’s their choice. I think solidarity with the industry is key. All this goes through a reliable GPHG and dialog.
Today, brands submit watches to the GPHG votes. Why is this necessary? Can it change?
This is an interesting question. Today, we have a tradition of working with brands. We need support from brands for practical reasons; We need information and clocks on loan for our traveling exhibitions. But this is questionable. We can choose watches without asking brands. But at present it is not a mature strategy.
Are there other challenges for GPHG?
Our next challenge is the 2022 edition. Each edition is a new challenge. There are some practical challenges, for example, our presence in India and the complexity of temporarily importing watches to India. We have had exhibitions in India, Morocco and Geneva at Musée Rath. After that there will be a ceremony. There will then be two exhibitions to showcase the winning watches; One in Zurich, Switzerland in November and one in New York in December.
Then there is the evolution of the Grand Prix. The ceremony has to evolve, we have new categories and we have to adapt the format. Academy development is also critical. We are backed by a secure voting platform. We want to open an academy for young people. This means we want to work on education. There is a lot to be done in that field.
Another critical factor is the financing of GPHG. Here is a paradox. Brands support the foundation through the inscription and seats they book at the GPHG gala dinner. Then we have institutional support. We need this institutional support not only for financial reasons but also for the credibility and independence of the Grand Prix. We are a non-profit organization. Then we need sponsors. We have a primary sponsor until the end of 2023, but we need to prepare for the future. This is a concern for us and we are looking for individuals or organizations who can support the Grand Prix.
For more information, please visit www.gpg.org.