Greubel Forsey marks 13 years of watchmaking in 2017. For nearly that long, founders Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have been secretly working on the horological chef d’oeuvre that made its debut at SIHH 2017: the brand’s first Grande Sonnerie wristwatch. Here is a detailed look at the watch, along with some hands-on photos taken at the timepiece’s U.S. debut.
It required 11 years of research and development, the assembly of 935 parts for the movement and case, and the filing of two patents, but this year, Greubel Forsey — which in its relatively short existence has created numerous boldly inventive (and in many cases, industry-award-winning) haute horlogerie inventions — finally joins the very exclusive ranks of watch maisons that offer a grande sonnerie. A grande sonnerie is among the highest echelon of watch complications, featuring a chiming mechanism that strikes, on its own, in passing, every hour, and repeats the hours and indicates the quarters at each quarter-hour; this differentiates a grand sonnerie from, and puts it on a higher plane of complexity than, a minute repeater, which chimes the hours, quarters, and minutes only on demand.
Greubel Forsey has equipped its Grande Sonnerie timepiece with a specially developed acoustic resonance cage, which helps the watch’s cathedral gongs produce a sound the brand describes as “extremely pure,” and incorporated 11 security functions into the mechanism. The ergonomically designed, titanium case measures 43.5 mm in diameter and 16.13 mm thick and is water-resistant to 30 meters. Inside is the new movement, which represents 855 of the watch’s 935 total parts (including 86 parts for the cage of the 25º inclined tourbillon — a Greubel Forsey innovation — which rotates in a large aperture at 8 o’clock).
The movement is manually wound but also includes a separate, self-winding system that provides a 20-hour power reserve for the watch while it is in grande sonnerie mode. Using a pusher beneath the crown, the wearer can choose three modes for the watch’s chiming mechanism: Grande Sonnerie (striking the hours and quarters in passing), Petite Sonnerie (striking only the full hours in passing) and Silence (in which no striking is done in passing; in this mode, the wearer can use the watch as a minute repeater, i.e., to strike the time on demand). In its regular timekeeping mode, the watch has a power reserve of 72 hours, held in two co-axial, series-coupled, fast-rotating barrels.
The displays on the multi-level, black-coated gold dial include a window between 10 and 12 o’clock showing the hammers and gongs of the chiming mechanism; a power reserve indicator for the grande sonnerie at 2 o’clock; another power reserve indicator at 5 o’clock; chiming mode indicator at 3 o’clock; and small seconds display on a sector bordering the tourbillon aperture. The hands and hour markers are in gold, as is the crown, which incorporates the pusher for the chimes.
The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie, both watch and movement, includes the plethora of technical savoir faire and high-end finishes that fans of this brand have come to expect. Notable among these is the tiny, relief-engraved text, which most often appears on the cases of Greubel Forsey timepieces, here deployed on the plates of the movement and on the platinum micro-rotor that drives the grande sonnerie power reserve. The watch, which comes on a hand-stitched alligator strap with a titanium folding clasp, will be produced in very limited quantities — just five to eight pieces per year — and priced at 1,150,000 Swiss francs. We had a chance to see the watch up close and personal, both at SIHH and at a special appointment in New York; scroll down for some live photos.