Greubel Forsey Doubles Down with the New Double Balancier Convexe
The watchmaker/art studio’s latest masterpiece is, as expected, a deep cut in the world of horology. But the design and sculptural innovations are more about a visual invitation into that depth than the crevasse itself. We happily enter the abyss.
With the apt tagline of “Art of Invention,” Greubel Forsey’s iconoclastic constructions straddle the intersection of sculpture and engineering. But it is an oh-so-thin line upon which to balance. While there is certainly a visual flavor of the avant-garde in the brand’s timepieces, they are always exceptionally tempered by time-keeping function, creating a gorgeously restraining tension between visual beauty and wrist-worn purpose.
Descriptions of how Greubel Forsey parses and allocates real estate within a watch case inevitably fall short: The approach isn’t exactly architectural, like a building, but nor is it exactly technical, like an engine. The closest I ever got was comparing an earlier, deep-but-flat Greubel Forsey timepiece to an aerial view of a colorful Swiss primary school playground.
And while there might be some element of that “urban planning” direction in the new Double Balancier Convexe, this time, the makers have chosen to lay out a village on a sloping mountainside.
The Slippery Slope
Before we start our rappelling journey down, know that the case depth for the Double Balancier Convexe is really only 13.75mm, with a 43.5mm diameter. Big and deep, to be sure, but not overly so.
But let’s start at the top. A scalloped partial upper dial plate that simply carries the maker’s logo, signature concentric circle model label over the barrel cover, and an understated but boldly red-tipped 72-hour power reserve gauge occupies less than half the available dial space between about 10 and 4 o’clock. This platform lies just under the marvelously large, arrow-headed open-work minute and hour hands.
The upper-plate contours are cut circularly to accommodate views down to some of the watch works, but the effect also serves as a kind of cliff edge overlooking the base-plate plateau below. Your eyes can rappel right down, but Greubel Forsey has also included a sloping central-hand bridge at 9 o’clock that you can slide down to an interstitial platform before hitting bottom.
Once down and back on terra firma, the use of viewable space on the base plate carries the lion’s share of the mechanics. But overlapping is kept at a minimum, so the layout does not feel even a bit jammed up.
Each component is given ample negative space around it to make it its own attraction: A central-gearing golden tower, a classically bright-white small seconds at 4 o’clock, the two dramatic 30-degree inclined balance wheel beating hearts slipping off the edges of the mid-plateau like waterfalls, and the complex spherical regulating differential between them that harnesses, calculates and displays the average timing rate of the twin spinners.
The story of the Double Balancier’s inclined wheel started in 2007, with visible balance wheels cast at 20-degree angles. Additional executions upped that to a 35-degree incline. But, as in the Goldilocks fable, 30 degrees looks and feels “just right.”
Inventive, Sporty Package
The temptation to frame all this artful complexity in some fussy classic gravitas is potentially overwhelming. But, for the Double Balancier Convexe, the outside is unexpectedly clean, modern, and even (dare I say) sporty. However, this is not a disconnect in any way. That vibe actually serves to tone down the intricate work evidenced in the timepiece and make the whole thing appropriately fun and approachable without intruding on the more serious visual and technical delight.
The “Convexe” portion of the moniker is a nod to the unusual vertically convex angling of the titanium case and crystal; it’s a kind of top-down visual invitation to the timepiece’s depth only seen once before in this model’s forebearer from 2021, the Balancier S2. Moreover, Greubel Forsey’s use of titanium is a move into a more modern realm overall, with the mixture of smooth and angular case detailing further communicating a kind of subtle futurism.
Additionally, short lugs accommodate an integrated textured rubber strap seamlessly, which strikes more modern technical notes, but let’s linger over the optional integrated titanium bracelet option for a beat or two. While it embraces the common buffed-polished-buffed, three links across approach, the finishing, link bordering, and geometry of the titanium bracelet are exceptional in anyone’s book.
Enjoy the Ride
Plunging angular hour markers ride down the inside of the case as kind of visual sounding. Interrupted at each terrace level, these markers remind you that for each stop you make in your visual inspection of the case’s depth, there’s still more to go.
So, while I still prefer my “Swiss primary school playground” metaphor for Greubel Forsey’s general use of watch real estate from above, how about this descriptor for the Double Balancier Convexe? It’s a multi-level theme park from the future.
One of the 22 all-access passes available in 2022 will run you 295,000 CHF with a rubber strap and 335,000 CHF with the titanium bracelet. However, if you’re unable to secure one this year, twenty-two models will be available in 2023 and again in 2024, totaling 66 pieces over the course of its run. You can learn more at Greubel Forsey’s website.
(Images © Greubel Forsey)