It would be easy to summarize Greubel Forsey as “the brand that retails for 300 000 € and up”, as such actually is the case. Paradoxically, that would be an understatement. The large part of their staff dedicated to research and development is constantly working on a new “invention”, as they call their innovative subsystems. Winding, barrels, differentials: they keep rethinking what is already deemed by others to be perfectly efficient. The tourbillon is Greubel Forsey’s calling. But none are run of the mill tourbillons. One of them lies at a 25° angle to the movement. Another comprises two tourbillons rotating one within the other, also 30° askew. The third kind features two of those subsystems, linked through a spherical differential, resulting in the Quadruple Tourbillon.
And then, there are the other inventions, the GMT, a unique world timer and their latest offspring, a perpetual calendar. It is totally integrated, bidirectional, pre-encoded and highly legible. Four features that make it the most advanced of its kind, its 24-second tourbillon notwithstanding.
A lot of work
The technical content of Greubel Forsey is on another plane from everyone else’s. And it shows: most of their timepieces have no dial to speak of. Instead, various levels of gears, hands, plate, bridges share a three-dimensional space crowded with Greubel’s other speciality, one that is inseparable from the very core of Fine Watchmaking: finishing. Great watches are as great to look at in detail as they are to consider from a technical perspective. Every spec of matter has to be polished, grained, chamfered, never mind the pattern or technique as long as it’s been taken care of. Greubel Forsey’s frame of mind is exactly that. Consequently, the total amount of the brand’s production is a hundred watches per year. And that takes dozens of highly trained and dedicated staff. But that is a basic necessity to reach Robert Greubel’s and Stephen Forsey’s standards of quality.
Every Double Tourbillon takes a total of 10 months from start to finish.
Even more work
Consider this. A brand manufactures a movement starting with raw brass or steel components. Machining is a messy business, and your typical bridge or wheel is spat out by a machine that scratches the metal and stinks of oil. Greubel Forsey does it the other way around. They start by covering the surface of their brass platelets with a special kind of finishing, called Grenage. Instead of polishing or tracing a slight pattern on the surface, graining is actually a very elaborate, deep scratching. But when executed with craft, it becomes a sea of micro-dots that play with light in a unique manner. When that result is achieved, only does the components manufacturing begin. That is how confident the brand is in its machining, turning, chamfering process. For instance, every Double Tourbillon takes a total of 10 months from start to finish, including 450 hours of finishing. Its tourbillon cage alone, with 130 components, requires 130 hours of decoration.
And then more work
A regular movement is assembled, checked, encased and then shipped. Greubel Forsey assembles, checks and then takes the movement apart. Only after the second assembling stage, when every single minute detail of matching, fitting and gearing has been checked, is the watch deemed worthy of an actual “réglage”. Greubel Forsey are adamant about precision. They use the tourbillon because it keeps great time. The brand is so focused on chronometry that it has been entering the International Chronometry Contest for each of its three editions. In 2011, the Double Tourbillon Technique won first place with a score of 915, just 8% shy of absolute perfection. Conception, manufacturing, watchmaking, finishing, design, every aspect of the watch aspires to perfection. Greubel Forsey’s watches are the full package.