Building a Decade of Unparalled Haute Horology
By Dale King
In a world that prizes time, Swiss based master watchmakers Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey employ that commodity in liberal portions to craft their signature wrist timekeepers using a 200-year-old methodology they have brought forward and adapted to 21st century haute horology.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the exclusive Greubel Forsey brand – handcrafted works of mechanical genius, often considered the finest and most precise mechanical timepieces available.
The Precise Inner-workings of a Masterpiece
According to the pioneering horology duo, the accuracy of a Greubel Forsey timepiece owes much to the “tourbillon,” French for “whirlwind,” a spinning device added to the
mechanics of a watch escapement intended to counter the detrimental “drag” of gravity on proper timekeeping. The mechanism, once used to improve the accuracy of pocket watches that remained in a single position for long periods of time, was developed around 1795 by French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet from an earlier idea by English chronometer maker John Arnold.
While the tourbillon may be the heart of Greubel Forsey timepieces, invention, creativity and inspiration are the chambers of the soul. Born in Alsace, Robert Greubel says he realizes the importance of the tourbillon, but when he worked on the Double Tourbillon 30 Degree, “I felt the need to express the Greubel Forsey philosophy by means of a beautiful dial.” Other watch designs speak volumes with a variety of “complications,” a watchmaker term for anything on the face that is not connected with hours, minutes and seconds.
Greubel Forsey demand hand-finishing of all surfaces, whether seen or unseen. This philosophy is a bow to the days when no watches were machine-made. “Polishing consumes hundreds of hours,” says Greubel, “but such tender care enhances the perfection of each watch.” In fact, a quarter of the firm’s “passionate team of young professionals” is dedicated just to polishing each part of every timepiece.
Co-founder, Forsey says the first Greubel Forsey timepiece, the Double Tourbillon 30 Degree, presented in 2004, “featured two concentric cages – in other words, a double tourbillon – with the inner cage angled 30 degrees to the outer.” This “angled” dynamic is captured in the strongly inclined roof of the Greubel Forsey headquarters located in the quiet Swiss community of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
A Closer Look at the Collection
The firm’s line of exquisite timepieces includes the Quadruple Tourbillon, using four tourbillon cages, all working to minimize gravitationally induced errors, and the Quadruple Tourbillon Secret, presented in 2012, housing a modified quadruple tourbillon to ensure enhanced accuracy.
Other Greubel Forsey watches include the GMT, Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain, Double Balancier 35 Degree and the
Art Piece 1, most of which have won leading international horological awards.
Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey
The two craftsmen were heavily steeped in watch expertise when they met in 1992 while working at Renaud & Papi, manufacturer of mechanical watch movements (now a subsidiary of Audemars Piquet Renaud & Papi SA).
A tall, tousle-haired Brit hailing from St. Albans, Stephen Forsey is the more extroverted of the pair. His grandfather worked for many great names in engineering; his father was an industrial chemist and automobile enthusiast. Robert Greubel learned watchmaking from his father and attended L’Ecole d’Horlogerie in Morteau. “Working together, we noticed we shared a similar vision,” says Forsey. “It gave us the motivation to work together.” They left Renaud & Papi in 1999 and opened Greubel Forsey in 2004.
Reinventing Horology of the Past with Uncanny Sophistication
Dedicated to continual re-invention of the mechanical watch, a product that faced an uncertain future against quartz electric timepieces, the timepiece creators used the process of independent, by-hand production, but with modern twists, to appeal to timepiece collectors and connoisseurs. “People interested in our creations are collectors with a high level of knowledge about watchmaking,” Forsey says. That’s good, he notes, since the company completes no more than 100 timepieces each year.
Still, the world has developed an overwhelming desire to hold, wear or just touch one of the duo’s creations. At one of Greubel Forsey’s exhibitions in 2013 in Belles Montres, Paris, Forsey said, “Each year, more and more collectors and amateurs come back to see these
The watches possess an uncanny sophistication. The GMT has particular eye appeal with a second time zone indication on its face complemented by a three-dimensional rotating globe visible through the crystal as well as the side. All this is set in an
Art of invention is the hallmark of Greubel Forsey. “Every day is an adventure,” says Forsey. “We don’t have much time to admire what we’ve done. We are always working on what we have to do tomorrow.” Greubel seconds that motion, adding: “Creating is our driving force, the result of the influences of our watchmaking history.”
Overall, the pair assesses a decade of timepiece craftsmanship in a single sentence: “Art, as in watchmaking, is the process of the human mind directing human hands to create the work. These watches speak for us.”
For more information about the ingenious horology of Greubel Forsey, go to www.greubelforsey.com.
Editor’s Note: South Florida Opulence is pleased to host Greubel Forsey at our 2014 Annual MegaYacht Gala on Fisher Island. Guests will have the unprecedented opportunity to view these remarkable timepieces in person.