On 18 August, Greubel Forsey unveils a new timepiece featuring a large, high precision and inclined balance wheel within a water resistant titanium case tailored for the most active lifestyle. I sat down virtually with Stephen Forsey to talk about the birth of the piece, before the pre-release webinar on YouTube Live.
UPDATE: End of August we had the chance to see the timepiece in metal in Geneva at the Les Ambassadeurs boutique – please a few own pictures below.
The Greubel Forsey brand name is a synonym for the finest qualities in haute horlogerie. Exclusivity, details crafted with indivertible attention and innovative solutions in high complications have been attached to the brand image forever. Creating sports watches however, is not what you associate them with. Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey surprised us at the end of 2019, when their exploratory soul crafted the GMT Sport, a sport version of their hallmark GMT. They doubled it up today, when their announcement of the Balancier S confirmed sports as a lasting theme for the brand.
Because of the Covid-19, watch companies had to completely rearrange the presentations of their novelties. Many of them used web meetings for the first time for demonstrations and digital platforms such as Instagram Stories and live chats have received greater emphasis. Earlier this year we could experience the first ever online Watches & Wonders event too. Here we are with Stephen Forsey in front of a virtual manufacture background in a Zoom meeting talking about the new Balancier S and how they tackle the currently unfolding situation.
‘The pandemic has definitely changed my days’ – he says. He always had a globetrotter life; flights to Dubai, Singapore, Mexico and back to Switzerland. Now he got to really experience and enjoy the whole spring surrounded by the Swiss mountains.
‘The manufacture was closed down for 4-5 weeks around mid-March, but we tried to make the most out of the situation. Greubel Forsey has always had a very strong connection with clients. So the shift to the Zoom, Skype and other online meeting platforms was more of an extension of how we converse with them. In fact, we have already used these in addition to our in-person interactions – the pandemic just shifted our interactions online drastically from one day to another. It’s not ideal, but it works. We do not aim to increase the production, so our relationships will always be close and personal.’
I can agree, web calls are a definite yes to nurture relationships and you can do much to build an exclusive circle. Yet, when the details and finishes highlight a Greubel Forsey piece from the thousands of high-end timepieces, you are missing the touch and feel sessions where all this difference truly reveals itself. Nevertheless, the new Balancier S is very impressive via webcam too.
The right ergonomics, wearability and comfort are key in the design of sports watches. The Balancier S has a slim profile case which is circular from above, but it shows its arched ovoid shape from other angles. Stephen showed the two Greubel Forsey ‘sports’ watches side-by-side; the Balancier S is definitely slimmer than the GMT Sport (the movement of the latter consists of 435 components). Both feature the integrated lugs and strap, and a satin-finished bezel engraved with Greubel Forsey’s key values. The rubber crown and case-band with rubber inserts assure excellent grip and protection of the timepiece.
‘Creating sports watches does not change a thing in terms of how we craft it. All the elements inside and outside follow our principles about the highest standards of craftsmanship and our attention to the smallest details.’ – Stephen says. If you have ever seen a GF timepiece in metal you know that he means it.
They used titanium for the mainplate and bridges. Hand-finishing these is much harder than steel and requires a different technique. The titanium can burn the surface very quickly so it increases the challenges watchmakers have to deal with. (If you would like to learn more about their manufacture, check out our article here.)
For a sports watch, testing is crucial. ‘We test all Greubel Forsey timepieces with the same rigour regardless if it’s “normal” or sports. The Greubel Forsey EWT Laboratory (with climate chamber and shock testing machines for example) assures their reliability and chronometric performance.’
The manufacture has the different functions in-house – Robert Greubel oversees the creative design side with the Greubel Forsey designers and collaborates closely with the technical team. The large 30 degree inclined balance wheel poses many challenges. Among others, it requires more space to fit in the case, which is water resistant up to 100 metres and has a special profile in order to sit on the wrist comfortably. They ended up with a unique layout for the 308-component movement. The 12.6 mm diameter balance wheel which debuted in the Signature 1 model is situated this time at 7 o’clock. The two coaxial barrels mounted in series gives the possibility to have 72 hours power reserve.
‘I was very happy to see the collectors’ reactions to the GMT Sport. They received it well as it offers a bit more day-to-day choice. With the 18 piece limited edition Balancier S we would like to give them another option. The best options of every world.’
Photo credits: Greubel Forsey, Loupiosity.com
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