Although it wasn’t until 1999 that they began working on a new generation of tourbillons, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have a working relationship going back some two decades. Four years after they started working in earnest on their tourbillon development, they unveiled Greubel Forsey, introducing their concept of horological ‘inventions’ at Baselworld 2000 with the Double Tourbillon 30° (DT30).
In 2006 the Richemont Group acquired a 20% stake in Greubel Forsey’s share capital.
To date, Greubel Forsey has released the following core tourbillon-based watches: the Double Tourbillon 30° (DT30°) in 2004, the Quadruple Tourbillon à Différentiel in 2005, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné in 2006, and the Invention Pieces 1, 2, 3. Also, in 2006, they partnered with Harry Winston to create the Opus 6.
I don’t think that I had ever thought that one, let alone two, independent watchmakers, would make the long journey to Australia, so I was completely surprised when I received an invitation to not only see some Greubel Forsey watches, but to meet Stephen Forsey himself.
Happily, I shared this occasion with a couple of others. I rather think that these occasions are best when shared.
First up, we got to see the Double Tourbillon Technique 30° in rose gold and silver. The Double Tourbillon consists of an inner cage inclined by 30 degrees that does a full revolution every minute whilst the outer cage fully rotates every 4 minute. It was Greubel Forsey’s first invention. At 47.5mm this is one one hefty watch size-wise, but is less heavy than one would expect because of the absence of dial, which also gives the watch an incredible depth.
In fact none of the watches could be considered to be slim of build, but that is because of the constraints set by the design and watch architecture chosen by Greubel Forsey.
Yes, there’s virtually a short essay (in French) on the side, words relating to the brand’s philosophy, if you like. Some would probably prefer the sides of the case to be text free…
Double Tourbillon Technique 30° in white gold and silver.
Next up was the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné (T24S) in rose gold with silver dial. One of their more understated watches, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné uses a single ultra-light inclined tourbillon cage rotating to achieve high angular velocity.
Tourbillon 24 Secondes (T24S) in platinum. Unexpectedly light, despite its 43.6mm size and my favourite, although I would probably prefer a little less text on the dial.
Next up, the Quadruple TourbillonThere are four asynchronous tourbillons which Greubel Fosey believe independently contribute to its accuracy. Whether two tourbillons are more accurate than one, and four more than two is a question I’ll leave to minds more technically proficient than mine.
You could look at this for hours.
You can click on the photo to enlarge it…
Some group shots.
And finally, Invention Piece No.1. The red arrow indicates the hours, the blue arrow, minutes. Whilst based on the movement of the DT30°, the forms of display, surfaces and design aesthetics of Invention Piece 1 are all heavily modified from its predecessor.
The watches we saw all had the number “11”, a number which they keep for their reference watches. When asked why not number “1”, Stephen said that there was a “1” for Robert Greubel and a “1” for him, so together, that became “11”.
Being able to look at a small fortune’s worth of beautiful and technically interesting watches and meeting one of the two men behind them is not a bad way to spend a bit of time on a Saturday morning…
If you’re wondering about Stephen’s visit to Australia then wonder no more – yes, Greubel Forsey now have an Australian AD : J.Farren-Price.
I admit that in trying to get my head around all the technical aspects of GF’s tourbillon feats before this morning, and even with his explanations, I couldn’t achieve a state of full clarity, but that didn’t detract from my ability to admire the technical feats and the beauty and astonishing finishing (which really needs to be examined under a loupe to be fully appreciated) of these watches. Whatever you may feel about tourbillons in general, or having multiple tourbillons, there is no denying the sheer beauty of these timepieces.
However, finely crafted works of art and horology aside, Stephen emphasised that they are meant to be worn, and to this end the testing that each timepiece is put through ensures that they can be used as they are meant to be – as watches you wear. This is not to say that you should go out and engage in active sporting pursuits whilst wearing these watches, that’s not what they were designed for. I am not one for “safe queens”; in the end, however complicated the watch, however much the watch cost, it was created to be worn.
Many thanks to Nicole Segundo of Swiss Prestige for inviting us to meet Stephen and to both her and J.Farren-Price for an amazing morning.