By Stephen Pulvirent
The champions of haute horlogerie show off new mechanical marvels, proving creativity and passion are the best partners.
There are few watchmakers who have been able to establish themselves as the king of a particular complication or category. That being said, few would argue that Greubel Forsey is anything less than the modern master of the tourbillon, creating innovative new takes on the centuries-old mechanism. But Greubel Forsey’s prowess doesn’t stop there. In addition to the new mechanical experiments, there is a dedication to the most-demanding finishing techniques to create timepieces like no others.
Window to the Soul
Window to the Soul
It would be hard to imagine a timepiece that exemplifies the trifecta of engineering, artistry and imagination more than the new Double Tourbillon 30° Technique Sapphire. The Double Tourbillon 30° was Greubel Forsey’s first creation, launched back in 2005, but with this update, it looks like an entirely new timepiece altogether. The foundation is a newly developed case, made entirely of sapphire. The material is used for the main body of the 49.95mm diameter case, as well as the sculpted lugs, bezel and both the front and back crystals, which are secured together with solid-gold screws. Even the fluted crown is sapphire.
Beyond being visually striking in its own right, the transparent case also gives you a completely unobstructed view of the highly complex movement inside. The GF02s caliber is made of 396 total components, 132 of which comprise the signature double tourbillon 30° mechanism itself. The two tourbillon cages are nested, with the flat outer cage rotating once every four minutes and the inner cage (set at the 30° angle) rotating once every 60 seconds. Even with all of this, the massive series of four barrels, positioned at 10:30, provides 120 hours of power, counted out by the subtle indicator near 3 o’clock.
The real joy of the movement though is in the finishing found throughout the timepiece. The movement’s blackened baseplate makes the other components shine brightly, with the mirror-polished surfaces outlined by the hand-beveled edges. There’s no true “dial” to speak of, with the engraved indicators integrated into the structure of the movement itself. Only eight of these timepieces will be produced and it’s fair to say that this is the Double Tourbillon 30° in its most extravagant form yet.
As if that isn’t enough to sustain ambitious collectors for the year, Greubel Forsey also has the Quantième Perpétuel à Équation, another extraordinary creation. The 25° tourbillon — rotating once every 24 seconds — is just the beginning for this timepiece. Opposite, near 4 o’clock, sits a trio of displays for a straightforward perpetual calendar that includes the day, date and month, plus a small leap-year dial off to the left. The current day is spelled out like a person would actually read it, so the wearer doesn’t have to decipher a strange set of nested dials and hands.
Hidden on the back is a totally new equation of time indicator that utilizes a transparent window to offer a glimpse of the calendar mechanism itself. Finishing things off is a special crown that, through the use of a button in the center, can adjust all the functions of the timepiece, which eliminates the need for clumsy extra pushers. This is a complex timepiece executed in the simplest way possible.
Tackling a completely different sort of challenge, Greubel Forsey created the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision, its slimmest timepiece to date. In order to streamline things while retaining one of its signature tourbillons, Greubel Forsey added a unique sapphire bubble to the caseback, giving the mechanism the necessary space, without making the overall case thicker. It’s precisely placed to make it comfortable to wear, letting the watchmakers pack in more mechanics in seemingly less space.
It’s a great example of simplicity being deceiving and it’s no surprise that the white gold edition of this timepiece took the grand prize, or Aiguille d’Or, at the 2015 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève; otherwise known as the Oscars of watchmaking. This new rose gold incarnation with a black dial was created to celebrate the much-deserved award.
The tourbillon might be the company’s best-known signature, but not every Greubel Forsey actually includes a tourbillon. The Signature 1 is a perfect example of a timepiece that carries all the same DNA as the brand’s more complicated creations, but with a more pared-down approach. Not only is it the most accessible model in the collection, it’s also one of the easiest to wear, with a rose gold case that is 41.4mm across and just 11.7mm thick.
Created in collaboration with Didier Cretin, one of Greubel Forsey’s top watchmakers, the Signature 1 shows off the incredible hand-finishing techniques that go into every Greubel Forsey timepiece, especially on the exposed bridges and escapement, including an oversized (12.6mm) balance wheel. This very well could be the most superlative three-hand timepiece available today.
Giving the Signature 1 a run for its money though is the Double Balancier à Différentiel Constant, another Greubel Forsey without a tourbillon. Instead, there are two separate escapements, each with a balance wheel set at a different 30° angle. The time displayed represents an average of what the two balances count after being calculated through the use of a differential gear system. This is an extremely complicated way to create a more accurate timepiece, and one that required years of research and development to do correctly. One tiny miscalculation could render the entire mechanism useless.
Beyond chronometry though, the Double Balancier system is a beauty to behold, generously filling the dial cutout between 4 and 10 o’clock. A grained baseplate acts as a perfect grounding for the mirror-polished and beveled bridges and gears, with contrasting colors and blued steel accents. This is one you could stare at endlessly.
In just 12 years, Greubel Forsey has become one of the best-known watchmakers by creating true haute horlogerie. As the brand grows and evolves, so too does the level of creativity and ingenuity with which founders Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey dream up new creations. And if this year’s collection is any indication, the two are just getting started.