The Balancier 3, Greubel Forsey’s New Magic Number

The Balancier 3, Greubel Forsey’s New Magic Number

Mechanically simple, at least for a Greubel Forsey timepiece, the new Balancier 3 is the most affordable offering among the brand’s current line-up while managing to uphold the company’s tradition of fine hand-finishing.

By Steven Rogers

When Watchonista sat down with Antonio Calce in 2022, the Greubel Forsey CEO outlined his strategic vision for the high-end brand for the next few years. His idea was to push the “reset” button by plotting a new path for the watchmaker, not through radical change but via “a more natural evolution.”

Since our interview with Calce, Greubel Forsey has gone some way to accomplishing the goals the former Corum and Sowind Group CEO shared with us. Regain its full independence: check. Streamline its distribution network: check. Ramp up production to 500 watches per year: still a work in progress, but the foundations are in place with the acquisition and development of land adjacent to the company’s existing La Chaux-de Fonds manufacture.

When it came to pure product, the gist of Calce’s plan was this: It was time to make watches that were more contemporary, better looking, more wearable, and more affordable, all to appeal to a broader, younger demographic.

However, at the same time, the brand needed to do all this while retaining the essence of Greubel Forsey, namely its status as an inventor of some of the most laudable chronometric solutions in watchmaking and as an exponent of some of the industry’s finest hand-finishing.

Slimmer & Simpler

So, having ushered in a modern sports-watch styling across its collection based around lightweight, contoured Convexe cases and openwork dials, the brand has released increasingly simple (relatively speaking), slimmer, and more accessibly priced (again, relatively speaking) timepieces over the past 18 months.

We’ve seen the release of the titanium-cased Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture (47mm, starting at CHF 500,000) and GMT Balancier Convexe (43.5mm, starting at CHF 360,000), followed by carbon fiber editions of the Double Balancier Convexe (42.5mm, CHF 345,000) and Balancier Convexe S² (41.5mm, CHF 255,000).

Now, in December 2023, Greubel Forsey has unveiled what could be considered the crystallization, if not the culmination, of Calce’s product plan by launching the very cool Balancier 3 in natural titanium.

At 41.5mm in diameter, it is the joint slimmest piece in the brand’s Convexe line-up, along with the Balancier Convexe S² in carbon. And with a price tag of CHF 160,000, it is also Greubel Forsey’s most affordable watch among all its current offerings.

The absence of an inclined regulator and the minimalist HMS and power reserve indications make this one of the mechanically more straightforward entries from the brand. However, it manages to uphold Greubel Forsey’s tradition of fine hand-finishing with some exquisite decorative touches.

Titanium Triptych

Let’s start with the dial, where a trio of titanium bridges (two of which are shaped like Vs while one is shaped like a Y) immediately catch the eye above the frosted, anthracite dial plate.

Between 9 and 10 o’clock, the first V-shaped bridge supports one of the exposed double barrels. Next, between 4 and 6 o’clock, the other V-shaped bridge holds the brand’s signature variable-inertia balance wheel. Finally, stretching diagonally across the dial, a large, arcing Y-shaped bridge buttresses the hour and minute hands and the small seconds sub-dial.

Each bridge bears Greubel Forsey’s hallmark of fine hand-finishing, with mirror-polished top surfaces, hand-polished bevels, and straight-grained flanks, plus screws and jewel counter sinks are hand-polished.

The fact that the bridge geometries entail a number of internal angles and that the bridges are made out of tough titanium makes the manual task at hand all the more challenging – and the results all the more impressive.

More sober is the back of the watch where, among the generously sized matte blackened bridges with polished borders, we can spot an elegant, pared-down power reserve indicator.

Harmonious Layout

On a functional and mechanical level, the Balancier 3 keeps things relatively simple: No tilted tourbillon or double (or single, for that matter) inclined balance wheel this time, and no spherical differential or rotating titanium globe. It “just” has hours and minutes, small seconds, and the caseback power reserve display (plus a flat-configured balance).

We do, though, see a return of GF’s series-mounted, rapid-rotation barrels, decorated with a concentric motif and providing 72 hours of chronometric power reserve, i.e., the period during which the timing rate is at its most stable.

The trick that Greubel Forsey has managed here is to arrange all the indications and expose selected mechanics across the dial in an especially harmonious manner so that the dial doesn’t look too “busy.”

For example, this time, rather than placing them coaxially (i.e., one on top of the other, as on some previous models), the two barrels are on the same plane, which helps to fill out the watch’s face.

There is also a surprisingly rich verticality to the dial, with at least four layers at play: cut-outs and recesses in the dial plate, the dial plate itself, the triumvirate of bridges, and finally, the hour and minute hands topping the lot.

The barrels rotate once every 3.2 hours; however, the oscillating balance (quite the spectacle at 12.6mm in diameter) and, to its side, the small seconds sub-dial with its fixed red indicator and rotating disc provide more dynamic animation.

Screwless Lugs

The brushed and polished natural titanium case features the wrist-hugging curved profile we have now come to expect of the Convexe collection. That shape, plus the light material and 41.5mm size, all contribute to the Balancier 3 wearing extremely comfortably on the wrist.

Whether holding a rubber strap or bracelet, until now, the lugs of the Convexe case have been screwed to the caseband. But the Balancier 3 introduces screwless lugs that are now part of a one-piece caseband, making for cleaner, lateral case lines.

Final Thoughts

The Greubel Forsey Balancier 3 may be mechanically simpler when compared to the brand’s historical catalog. But in terms of superlative hand-finishing, the watchmaker has made its efforts count by really going to town on the three titanium bridges placed center-stage on the dial.

Priced at CHF 160,000 (excluding taxes), the Balancier 3 is available in two limited editions of 88 pieces each – one black-toned, one blue-toned – and comes on a supple rubber strap. A Greubel Forsey titanium bracelet can also be requested for a supplement.

For more information, please visit the Greubel Forsey website.

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