Since launching in 2004, Greubel Forsey has built its brand around the master-level watchmaking expertise of its founders Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. They’re known for combining innovative engineering with pristine finishing, attracting the kinds of collectors that already have a vault of Patek Philippes, Audemars Piguets or Vacheron Constantins and who, likely, long ago graduated from Rolex. While the duo prefers not to talk about prices, their elite watches often come with a price tag well over 5 times the average price of a Nautilus. And with just 100 watches made per year, it’s a rare wrist indeed that gets to wear one.
So, it was a surprise when the brand announced the introduction of a sports watch at the end of last year with its GMT Sport. Greubel Forsey watches are not exactly the kind of pieces you want to knock around on the court. But its success amongst GF collectors has already lead to a second iteration in the new titanium Balancier S. While it may look deceptively similar to last year’s sport entry, this is no simple update.
The new watch comes with a new caliber under its hood in an impressively slimmer case construction. Greubel Forseys are, generally, on the larger side to fit in the visual fireworks of its inner workings. The exercise was to remove the globe and the inclined tourbillon of its first sports watch while still incorporating an inclined balance wheel and working out how to trim down its waistline by over 2 mm. The GMT sport measured in at 45 mm by 15.6 mm, while the Balancier S comes in at 13.75 mm in height.
“The balance wheel is angled across the 7 o’clock marker, so it’s slightly off-centre, but with that angle we’ve been able to slide the balance wheel down and create a slimmer watch, while keeping the elegant profile of the case on the side view, but enable it to come up very close to the hour/minute display in the centre of the timepiece,” Forsey told Robb Report. “It’s on a cantilevered suspended arch bridge, which comes right up over the movement creating extra space, enabling us to bring together the different elements.”
First unveiled in the Balancier Contemporain in 2016, the large 12.6 mm balance wheel (developed and made in-house) provided a better timekeeping performance. In the Balancier S, it has been tilted to a 30-degree angle to limit errors resulting from the effects of gravity on the balance wheel, spring and escapement. “The inverted balance wheel improves performance in both a horizontal and vertical position,” says Forsey. “So when the watch is laying flat or vertical on the wrist, the balance wheel is still at an angle so it’s compensating for that position.”
Two large coaxial barrels, mounted in series across the centre of the movement, allow for the 308-part movement to have 72 hours of power reserve, which is indicated at 2 o’clock via an openwork red-tipped hand. The central hours and minutes are told with openworked polished steel hands, while the small seconds is located on the inclined escapement plane at 8 o’clock.
The movement construction, which is visible through the caseback, has a contemporary layout for the bridges but features traditional watchmaking with gold chatons surrounding the jewels, hand-finishing on the internal corners of the bridges and classically beveled and grained gear wheels. Circular and straight graining accent even the barely visible surfaces and the mainplate and bridges have been made in titanium, increasing the difficulty of their hand-finishing.
But despite the fine watchmaking flourishes, Forsey says great attention was also given to details that make it more wearable as an everyday piece. Although he says all of the company’s models have been created to use on a daily basis, they worked on raising the water resistance to 100 meters, which he says is an “added comfort to collectors” and integration the strap and the lugs so it flows more seamlessly on the wrist. They even had to create new tools to slim down the rubber strap to fit the new case dimensions.
“I think it’s a piece that’s going to invite the collector to wear it regularly, whereas a piece from our main collection might feel a bit too delicate if you’re looking to take it out for a cruise on your boat or something like that,” says Forsey.
But its last sports watch also proved to be a lure for new Greubel Forsey collectors as well. “One or two of them are already looking at some of our other pieces, which is always nice,” says Forsey. “The great thing about watchmaking is that there are so many different avenues to explore and I think we have brought something that is really quite different and refreshing.”
With only 18 pieces available at CHF 195,000 (close to £163,000 at current exchange), however, there will be very few spots for new collectors to get their hands on one.
From Robb Report USA