A watch with an automatic mechanical movement from the house of Corum in La Chaux-de-Fonds in western Switzerland has taken top honours in this year's "Watch of the Year" competition.
The jury singled out Corum's "Classical Heure Sautante" (jumping hour) for its superior technical and aesthetic qualities.
Second and third prizes in the annual competition, organised by the "Montres Passion" and "Uhrenwelt" magazines, also went to watches from the town of La Chaux-de Fonds in canton Neuchâtel.
Second place was taken by a model called "Tank à vis" from Cartier, with the third spot going to a watch from the Girard-Perregaux company - the "Richeville" chronograph for men.
Composed of watchmaking professionals, the panel of judges made its final choice from 40 shortlisted models.
To be included in the selection, the watches had to carry the "Swiss made" label; be on sale in the Swiss market between September 1, 2001, and August 31, 2002; have a retail selling price of less than SFr3,000 ($4,380) and be produced in a quantity of at least 200 pieces.
The winning entry has been produced in three limited editions, each of 300 numbered pieces, according to the colour of the dial - black, silver or copper and silver.
Hour in successive jumps
The special feature that gives the watch its French name is to show the hour in successive jumps through an aperture at the top of a domed dial.
The chairman of the Corum company, Severin Wunderman, told swissinfo that he was "flattered" by taking the coveted prize.
"We are only a 55-year-old company. If you look at our competition, these are people that have numerous years above us," he said.
Asked how such a watch comes from the drawing board to the shop window, Wunderman said what was first needed were "a lot of dreams" followed by much discussion with his two in-house designers.
"We come up with an idea, then we try to go to a prototype stage. From there we go to a mechanical stage, the pre-production stage and then we start the piece," he said.
"And then we pray to God that it sells," he added.
Classical yet contemporary
Corum describes the timepiece as original, aesthetically pleasing and meticulously well finished, with classical and contemporary aspects merging into its award-winning creation.
The watch is perhaps typical of Wunderman's strategy at Corum.
"We do what other people do not do. We are risk takers. We go out of the norm. If you want a plain round or plain square watch, Corum is not the place to come to," he told swissinfo.
"At Corum, there are only two things - you either love it or you hate it. There is no in-between," he added.
The "Watch of the Year" prize, awarded this year for the ninth time, is intended to promote the best Swiss watch designs, both from a technical and aesthetic point of view.
Tradition has it that the 40 shortlisted timepieces are not only scrutinised by a jury of experts, but they also appear before readers of the weekly "L'Hebdo" magazine and the "Cash" economics weekly newspaper.
Readers differed from the experts by choosing the "Villeret" model from Blancpain as their favourite, which meant that it took the Public Prize in the competition.
Internet users chose as their favourite the "Master Compressor Memovox" model from Jaeger-LeCoultre, an automatic watch with mechanical alarm and a crown compression key system, water-resistant to 100 metres.
All the watches shortlisted by the jury of experts are on show at an exhibition until the middle of February at the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The "Watch of the Year 2002" is called the "Classical Heure Sautante" and made by Corum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
The watch has a mechanical hand-wound movement featuring a tonneau (barrel) shape which can be adapted to various kinds of cases.
Second and third places in the ninth annual competition went to Cartier and Girard-Perregaux.