In conversation with the jury of Masters Awards 2022
Now in its second year, the DFS Masters Awards seeks to reward the most unique and discernable watch and jewelry masterpieces on offer at Masters of Time, across six categories. Starting with the Petit Hero award, it recognizes the best timepiece priced under US$12,000. It may seem unusual to set a ceiling based on the price point, but it is a very relevant category as it addresses watches that may otherwise go under the radar when compared with some of the considerably more complex, and it must be said, onerous haute horology timepieces that the watch industry can create.
The next three categories deal with excellence in a particular aspect: Craftsmanship, Innovation, and Jewelry Design, all of which are of particular importance when discussing the finest objects that are available this year. These often are the distinguishing factors that elevate a watch or jewelry piece and truly make them stand out within the selection.
Lastly, the most coveted prizes are the Master of Watches and the Master of Jewelry, each awarded to the ultimate timepiece and jewelry piece respectively in this edition of Masters of Time.
The job of making these selections falls upon a panel of jurists that represents a cross section of experts and connoisseurs in their respective fields, linked to the horological and jewelry industries. It is certainly no easy task given the variety of the pieces entered in each category, with each able to lay claim to representing the best example on offer. We turn to each jury member to discuss what their views are on Masters Awards and what are the finer details that catches their eye when making their evaluations.
Returning as lead jurist is Carson Chan, a well-known watch authority and collector, who is also Chief Advisor to the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, an organization tasked with the promotion of watchmaking excellence throughout the world. He has deep expertise on the technical side, so it’s interesting that for him, the evaluation process for the Masters Awards is primarily an emotional one: “If it’s with jewelry, I think the design and the quality are equally important, but ultimately the key is if the piece speaks to me emotionally. Same for watches, I look for the aesthetics and then the mechanical aspect, if it inspires or evokes emotions; then I look at history.”
It's a similar approach for Lung Lung Thun, a financier whose passion for watch collecting is evident through her social media presence: “I think good design can make a product talk and evoke feelings. So first and foremost, I consider the product’s aesthetics, followed by whether it has achieved the requirements in its respective category.”
Even for industry professionals such as Maggie Henriquez, the Managing Director of Baccarat, a historic maison of luxury crystalware with more than 250 years of history, there is a strong focus on much more than the technical merits alone: “Emotional connection to the watchmaker intent with his creation should be tangible. As a watch is worn on the wrist in direct contact with the skin, it is a highly personal accessory. It needs to transcend a memory, a moment, a connection.”
An interesting perspective is provided by Vianney Halter, a well-known artisan watchmaker who is in his second year as a member of the Masters Awards jury. For him, there is less of an emphasis on this emotional reaction, with a higher focus on the watch and jewelry pieces that will stand out from the crowd: “I look for originality, being free and different than the trends.” He adds though that both industries have evolved in recent years, and have presented products that are more targeted, closer to what clients are truly asking for.For the jewelry pieces, Charlene Lau, the Head of Department for Jewels at the Phillips auction house in Hong Kong, interestingly takes on a more pragmatic approach to her evaluations: “It will be the design, whether it’s a unique creation or something similar to other design items showing in the market or any interesting or historic provenance, then the craftsmanship of the jewelry.”
For Faye Tsui, a fashion stylist and blogger who has worked with many of the leading brands in the industry, it is perhaps befitting that her selections are focused on innovation: “From designs to complications never seen before, and I will look into new material breakthroughs, too.” These are certainly themes that we have often seen in recent years in watchmaking and jewelry as the brands have sought to differentiate themselves from the classic designs that we have become very familiar with.
As a watch collector for more than 20 years, Sean Li is also very much looking for the innovation aspect, in part as it is also driven by his work as the Editorial Director for Blackbird Watch Manual: “As an editor specialized in the watch industry I am continually keeping track of the newest timepieces introduced to the market, and therefore the ones that stand out from the crowd through their distinctiveness and novelty will certainly draw my attention first. However, from a personal standpoint, the aesthetics will play a very strong part, as this is where the initial emotional response comes from.”
There will be an inevitable overlap between the personal and professional points of view for each jury member when faced with the selections in Masters Awards. Perhaps it’s Maggie Henriquez who summarizes it the most succinctly: “We live and express ourselves through the choices we make every day, large and small. Same goes for the watch and jewelry that I will choose for the day. These choices often start my day and are an expression of my feelings and emotions.”