Greubel Forsey is widely considered to be one of the most horologically important (and one of the most exclusive) manufactures in contemporary watchmaking. Since it was founded in 2004 by Stephen Forsey and Robert Greubel, the brand has released 22 in-house- built calibers and dominated conversations about where the future of watchmaking is headed.
One of the brand’s most popular timepieces, its take on a GMT, has also been one of its most culturally and horologically significant, with a three-dimensional globe, a 24-second tourbillon inclined at 25 degrees, and a world- time disk with 24 cities on the caseback. The GMT has seen a variety of small updates since it was first introduced in 2011 but none as large as the GMT Earth introduced by the brand at SIHH this year.
We recently had a chance to catch up with Stephen Forsey to discuss the evolution and importance of his GMT.
Logan R. Baker: Why was a GMT chosen as a feature complication in Greubel Forsey’s first timepiece that included a complication other than a tourbillon?
Stephen Forsey: When Robert [Greubel] and I first started out, we were told that everything had already been invented in mechanical watchmaking. Being rather stubborn, we were convinced that there was still an enormous scope for invention in mechanical watchmaking and many complications could also still be greatly improved upon. As watchmakers, we also wanted to perpetuate creativity, maintain the outstanding quality of craftsmanship and innovation, while exceeding the boundaries. Once we started to travel to meet collectors around the world, we realized we wanted to tackle the GMT as a complication and we were determined to offer the collector much more. The Greubel Forsey GMT redefines what a GMT watch is and what it offers the collector. The oversized terrestrial globe presents a unique and original day and night indication as well as an intuitive display of terrestrial time. On the movement side, a large rotating disk again provides an intuitive display for the exact hour for 24 cities spread out over the main 24 time zones and includes a unique daylight saving time display.
The three-dimensional globe is much more compact than a conventional worldtime we have a more accurate display, and we also free up enough space to include hours, minutes and seconds for local time, a traditional GMT indication, as well as a power-reserve indication and the unique movement architecture on the dial side.
LRB: The Tourbillon 24 Secondes, a 24-second inclined tourbillon tilted at 25 degrees, was your third proprietary invention. Why was it important to include this in the original GMT?
SF: The great advantage of the Tourbillon 24 Secondes is that it delivers great performance while at the same time taking up a fairly small amount of space. This makes it reliable but also very versatile.
LRB: How has your personal opinion of the timepiece changed over the past seven years? Looking back, is there anything that you would have approached differently from the beginning?
SF: Each Greubel Forsey timepiece is a unique creation, which fulfills a desire to share a unique vision of contemporary mechanical watchmaking. So, even after seven years, the GMT is much in demand and still holds up in that it offers the perfect balance between performance, architecture, aesthetics, and ease of use for the collector.
LRB: Why is it important for Greubel Forsey to continue to update and improve the GMT?
SF: This is intrinsic of the Greubel Forsey spirit and a key part of our philosophy: we refuse commonly accepted standards in order to continuously push the envelope and overcome each new challenge. The idea behind the GMT was to offer an intuitive and truly innovative timepiece introducing the oversized three-dimensional globe and terrestrial view. New advancements in technology often help us overcome existing challenges but more often than not provide us with new and even more difficult challenges to overcome. In the case of the GMT Earth, we have added to the Greubel Forsey GMT family. We see a new movement architecture in order to provide that full three-dimensional view of the globe, which also meant that we had to take the application of sapphire crystal yet another step further to create a complete sapphire crystal bezel. Each project provides us with a new equation and a new unknown variable “X” for which to resolve.
LRB: One of the first things many people noticed when looking at the original GMT was its asymmetrical case shape. How was the decision reached to expand the typical perimeter so each complication had its own area? Was it a conscious choice or a necessary one? And, what does it mean that this has been somewhat streamlined in the new GMT Earth?
SF: For the GMT, we created extra space to make room for the rotating globe with the lateral asymmetric case. For the GMT Earth, the globe takes center stage of the creation, so the unique form of the timepiece is very deliberate. We decided to build on the asymmetry idea in order to showcase the globe in its entirety and to provide the global view from the North to the South Pole. It now really appears to be suspended mysteriously within the timepiece and visible through the sapphire crystal dome on the movement side.
LRB: Was the addition of the sapphire hour ring in the GMT Earth specifically for aesthetic reasons or does it serve a functional purpose?
SF: A main focus of the GMT Earth is the concept of three-dimensionality. This is expressed by the 360°, three-dimensional view of the terrestrial globe. The local time dial with the sapphire crystal hour ring underlines the unique three-dimensional architecture allowing us a view into the mechanism of the movement and strongly contributes to the openness of the whole caliber.
LRB: One of the first thoughts I had when viewing the GMT Earth was of its increased transparency. Not only is the 3-D globe now visible from all angles but also with the “statement of purpose” etched directly into the bezel it almost feels like Greubel Forsey is wearing its heart on its sleeve. Can you speak on that?
SF: The words found underneath the sapphire crystal bezel and around the case represent the core values intrinsic to every timepiece. One of these values is bienfacture. While literally translated as craftsmanship, for us it takes on a whole new meaning. It denotes a state of mind to relentlessly seek to attain the very peak of fine handcraftsmanship. This state of mind becomes evident in material form through the technical and aesthetic quality of hand finishing found in our timepieces.
LRB: Greubel Forsey is considered by many as the most important watch manufacture of the 21st century. How do the GMT and GMT Earth t into that developing legacy?
SF: Each creation presents us with a completely new set of exciting challenges to overcome. At Greubel Forsey, each challenge includes making the most out of the available space, redefining watchmaking functions and mechanisms and improving comfort, performance, and reliability for the collector. All of these must be considered and coordinated while ensuring an engaging design and maintaining the unique character of the timepiece in our collection. The GMT and GMT Earth are perfectly in line with our modus operandi.