As the Director of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), Carine Maillard knows a thing or two about watchmaking. Be it trying to help younger audiences understand the magic of watchmaking creativity or talking through the exceptional, unique timepieces that she comes across in her role, Maillard’s mission is to ensure that all the players in the watchmaking industry are recognised for their excellence.
“This recognition is important. All the players in the ecosystem of this industry are fundamental,” said Maillard in an interview with Luxury Society, ahead of its 22nd edition prize-giving ceremony, which this year includes a new category called “Mechanical Clock” amongst the 20 prizes it awards.
“A great deal of know-how is involved in every object: artisans from several trades, designers, subcontractors…all of whom are essential. The watchmaking world is made up of numerous professions, and its balance, as well as the quality of its productions, are unique and impressive.”
It is for this reason that Maillard has taken up the mission of ensuring the excellence of the watch-making industry is recognised, not just in Switzerland but globally.
“The quality of this know-how deserves to be presented and explained, and this is what we offer the public during our exhibitions with presentations by experts. It is exactly our mission to highlight and reward each year these skills as well as the lively creativity of the watchmaking art,” she said.
This year, the watches that were pre-selected by the GPHG’s Academy were presented to watch lovers and collectors in New Delhi and Casablanca, and the 90 timepieces are currently on display at the Musée Rath in Geneva until 20 November.
“This exhibition offers visitors, especially young people, the possibility of better understanding the magic of watchmaking by taking part in guided tours, conferences, and introductory workshops organised with the Geneva School of Watchmaking,” said Maillard.
Her comments come at an interesting time for the Swiss watch industry, which is reported to be on track to have its best year ever. In the first half of 2022, export values rose by 11.9 percent compared to the same period a year earlier, helped largely in part by the United States, which grew by 31.4 percent.
However, for many players in the industry, there is a sense of uncertainty lingering over the market. Be it the crypto-crash in May that brought an abrupt end to unprecedented levels of spending on hard-to-get timepieces, the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates, or the dreaded prospect of recession, it’s fair to say there are a lot of challenges that the industry is facing.
Still, Maillard believes that the watchmaking industry’s tradition of craftsmanship as well as its capacity to innovate is what will help it to shine despite the challenges it faces.
“It is a dynamic and modern industry that relies on values and professions driven by excellence; this balance is key to its vitality,” she said. “
“Watchmaking craftsmanship is present on many levels, although one does not necessarily realise this at first glance,” she continued. “It often takes the explanations of specialists to appreciate the extent of the work done, the research undertaken, as well as the extraordinary interweaving of the skills involved in a single object.”
“The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève represents a key milestone in acknowledging the skills, innovation, and craftsmanship that the watchmaking industry is known and loved for,” said Alain Zimmermann, Managing Partner at DLG (Digital Luxury Group). “Many of our clients are excited to be nominated this year and hope to have their excellent work recognised.”
Looking forward, Maillard said she is focused on how to grow and develop the Academy as well as how to involve younger generations who are interested in watchmaking. “This is one of the many themes that will be pursued in the near future.”