A Year to Remember: A Look Back on Greubel Forsey’s 2022
Fully independent again and undergoing a smart strategic evolution, Greubel Forsey wowed us in 2022 with some of its most eye-catching models yet.
Since it was founded by complications specialists Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey 18 years ago, Greubel Forsey has been seen by many as the gold standard in haute horlogerie, and it will no doubt look back on 2022 as an important turning point in its short history.
Beyond once again achieving fully independent status from its outside shareholders (including Richemont), the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based brand has also used its new-found freedom to step up changes to how it designs, produces, markets, prices, and distributes its ultra-high-end timepieces.
Greubel Forsey’s tourbillon innovation, chronometric credits, and superlative hand-finishing have always helped the brand to uphold its tagline: “Art of Invention.” But the strategic tweaks it has implemented over the last 12 months, partly embodied in the trio of models it released in 2022 – the Double Balancier Convexe, Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture, and GMT Balancier Convexe – show that the watchmaker is equally adept at the “Art of Reinvention.”
Greubel Forsey CEO Antonio Calce is at pains to state that the changes he is helping to usher in are subtle and logical. “I don’t like the word change,” he told Watchonista. “It’s a more natural evolution.”
One of the more recognizable steps in this evolution has been to inject more modernity into the design of the watches. There is now a coherent sports watch styling across all of Greubel Forsey’s collection, at the heart of which are contoured titanium cases with solid water resistance, plus more openwork, three-dimensional dials with the brand’s architectural in-house movements on show.
Now a quarter of Greubel Forsey’s 100-strong workforce is dedicated to product development and design, making it the biggest department in the company. All the same, Calce and his team have been mindful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. “It is important to keep the [Greubel Forsey] codes even if our history is not so long,” the Neuchâtel native said.
Targeting a Broader, Younger Audience
Rolling out a more contemporary aesthetic has been part of Greubel Forsey’s drive to appeal to a broader, younger audience. “The reality is that there are fewer than a hundred dedicated Greubel Forsey collectors in the world,” said Calce.
So, in a further effort to tempt more youthful collectors, the brand has also lowered the price point on some of its entry-level models, such as last year’s Balancier Convexe S², whose price starts at CHF 205,000. “The watches are still handmade inventions, but they also appeal to younger connoisseurs who still respect the traditions,” Calce added.
Ramping Up Production & Streamlining Distribution
Calce, a trained precision mechanic, has also set the company’s sights on ramping up production: Following years of making about a hundred pieces annually, the aim now is to reach 500 watches per year.
To help achieve that, the brand has bought up the land surrounding its manufacture on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds, so it can double production by hiring more watchmakers and manufacturing its own hairsprings.
At the same time, there is still a commitment to protecting – and being transparent with – collectors. From the day of release, Greubel Forsey now announces the maximum number of pieces of a new limited edition that will be made annually over the coming years. And those watches are now available from a slimmed-down network of select flagship boutiques with outside partners.
Natural evolution, subtle changes, tactical tweaks: Whichever way you put it, Calce can’t hide his enthusiasm about the plans that are afoot: “It is a new chapter for the brand, and I’m excited about what we are doing.”
The Hills are Alive: The Double Balancier Convexe
And so, on to Greubel Forsey’s new releases for 2022, which have seen the brand spectacularly revisit some of its classic complications and inventions.
In March, we were treated to the launch of the Double Balancier Convexe. First unveiled in 2007, the Double Balancier concepts entails two fixed oscillators – now inclined at a 30° angle – linked by a spherical differential that averages rating differences to optimize chronometric performance. And while there have been previous openwork iterations of the Double Balancier, none of those past iterations compare visually to this Double Balancier Convexe.
This aesthetical prowess is thanks to the multi-level, blackened titanium center plate. It superbly sets off the two balances, four-minute spherical differential indicator, small seconds, and the gilded hour-minute gears. Also on show is the top of the two co-axial fast‐rotating mainspring barrels, which offer a 72-hour power reserve.
In his review, my colleague Mike Espindle described the Double Balancier Convexe’s exposed mechanics as looking as if they were “a village on a sloping mountainside.” And if you’ve ever been in an aerial tram above Verbier at night, it is hard to disagree with that assesment.
Packing a 43.5mm convex titanium case with 10-bar water resistance, the Double Balancier Convexe costs CHF 295,000 on a rubber strap and CHF 335,000 on a titanium bracelet. It is limited to 22 pieces annually until 2024, resulting in 66 pieces total.
City on the Wrist: The Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture
Come July, and Greubel Forsey was at it again by releasing what must be the most eye-catching version of another fan favorite, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes.
Over the course of its sixteen years in operation, the brand has periodically returned to its concept of an ultra-fast tourbillon, inclined at 25° and turning once every 24 seconds. But the 2022 Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture sees the dial torn back and the movement pared down like never before, with the resulting three-dimensional mechanics – including a pair of arcing, polished titanium bridges – resembling a “city on the wrist,” as aptly stated in the brand’s press materials.
What’s more, it’s not just via the dial side or through the display caseback that all the mechanical goodness can be appreciated: the titanium bezel and caseback sandwich a transparent, sapphire crystal caseband that allows full lateral views on to the movement.
Priced at $500,000 excluding taxes and delivered on a black rubber strap, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture is limited to 11 pieces in 2022, then to 18 pieces annually from 2023 to 2025, adding up to 65 pieces total.
Brave New World: The GMT Balancier Convexe
Finally, at the end of the summer, Greubel Forsey presented an all-new interpretation of its iconic rotating globe worldtime complication. Featuring a 30° inclined balance, the GMT Balancier Convexe is the watchmaker’s first worldtimer to not be equipped with a tourbillon.
Perhaps more significantly, though, is the three-dimensional titanium globe deployed to indicate universal time. In a change from the GMT Sport, where the Earth is on the dial’s periphery, the globe in the GMT Balancier Convexe is now in the center right of the dial. Plus, it is concentrically combined with the local time indicator. This location change arguably makes for a cleaner and more harmonious layout compared to the brand’s classic GMT design from 2011.
The Finest of Hand-Finishing
Of course, unifying the Double Balancier Convexe, Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture, and GMT Balancier Convexe is Greubel Forsey’s unparalleled hand-finishing, with each featuring frosted titanium mainplate and bridges, hand-polished bevelling and jewel countersinks, and straight-graining, as well as black-polished steel parts, among other decoration techniques.