Open your eyes and admire what proper ultra-high-end watchmaking is. Greubel Forsey is clearly defining what watchmaking can produce at its best: bold design, no compromise on the materials, exquisite execution, and hand-finishing of all the single pieces, mechanical inventiveness and the continuing search for extreme precision. Of course, when you’re willing to spend more than 500,000 Euros on a watch, that’s the least you can expect. But still, it’s always impressive to handle and strap on such a watch, even for us, poor satiated watch-journalists. Here is the Greubel Forsey GMT Rose gold 5N movement / Platinum case in the flesh and on the wrist.
The Greubel Forsey GMT is no stranger to us here at Monochrome-Watches (and it shouldn’t be to you either), as we covered it and handle it several times already (for instance here or here). But then again, it’s always a great pleasure when I strap on a watch with such attention to details and such movement on my wrist. Except if you’re a retailer of the brand or a billionaire, you certainly won’t have a Greubel Forsey on your wrist that often (not to say that you’ll probably never strap one, unfortunately). However, it remains a brand with quite difficult watches to comprehend, as the entry-level watch, the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision, is priced at circa 290,000 Euros (yes, that’s an entry-level…). And when it comes to the Greubel Forsey GMT, expect a minimum of 470,000 Euros for a Black DLC titanium edition – meaning that a gold or platinum edition will be even more expensive. Why these insane prices? Well, there is an explanation of course but that requires being highly educated about watches. Don’t try to explain this watch to your cousin from the midwest… He certainly won’t understand – and who cares, a Greubel Forsey is not made to be a mass product.
Let’s talk first about the movement and the functions. As you can see, the Greubel Forsey GMT has a quite busy dial (like most of the other Greubel Forsey Watches – the dissociation of the indications is a sort of hallmark for the brand – look at the Greubel Forsey QP à Equation for example). So the dial is busy at first but its display is far from being that difficult to understand (the large diameter of the watch and the large opening of the dial allow for quite large sub-dials). Let us list the indications on the front face (because there are more to come on the movement side): the local hours and minutes in the main sub-dial at 12, the seconds in a sub-dial stepping over the main dial at 2:30, the power reserve indicator at 3, the 24-second inclined tourbillon at 5, the globe indicating the time-zones around the world at 8 and the home time sub-dial at 10. Once you have the locations of every indications in mind, it remains not that complicated to read. The hands and the markers are large and highly contrasting and the display is quite clear.
Turning back the watch and what you’ll see is… not what you’d expect. No visible gears, wheels, levers here but mainly, plain bridges and a disc displaying the universal hours, represented by 24 major cities, each one located in a different time zone. The latest indication is both practical and aesthetic: the lighter sectors identify those cities that apply both summer and winter time regimes. Another thing you can notice is this gold wheel engraved with a 7-spoke star, that actually creates the link between the globe on the front and the universal hours ring – meaning that both are rotating simultaneously.
This movement, entirely developed and produced by Greubel Forsey, features several delicacies. As said, there are multiple indications but also some technical beauties. All of the indications can be controlled by the crown, except the GMT hand that can be adjusted in one-hour increments by the pusher at 10. It also comes with a 24-second tourbillon inclined at 25 degrees. Why such a speed and why an inclined tourbillon? Normally, a tourbillon rotates in 60 seconds (creating at the same time a natural and direct small-second indicator) and is located on a flat axis – check at our tourbillon page and you’ll see that it’s the case for most of them. As a reminder, a tourbillon is a device made to counteract the negative effect of gravity on the regulating organ. The balance wheel, the hairspring and the escapement are placed in a cage that rotates on itself every 60 seconds (usually) so the regulating organ is never in the same position (and thus the gravity has a lower impact on the accuracy).
Here, with the Greubel Forsey GMT, we have a tourbillon that rotates in 24 seconds and that is not on a flat axis. As the goal of a tourbillon is to counteract the gravity with a constant movement, you’ll easily understand that the faster the rotation, the better the result is. Then, applying a 25 degrees angle on the axis also tend to have more positions for the regulating organ and to have a balance wheel that is never parallel to the ground (where the gravity has the stronger effect on the regulating organ). Combining these two characteristics create a super-strong anti-gravity device that will (theoretically) increase the precision of the watch, due to a more stable rating (technologies that permits Greubel Forsey to win the International Chronometry Competition in 2011 with an exceptionally high score and a incredible precision, with a Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30 degrees).
So, this watch is technically impressive. It boasts real complications and has a pure devotion to precision (don’t forget that precision has been the main field of research in watchmaking for centuries). However, as impressive this Greubel Forsey GMT is on a mechanical basis, there must be more to justified its price. And the answer is in the details, the execution and the finishings. One example: the tourbillon bridge. A single piece of stainless steel with a complicated shape, with a hand-made (and stunning) black polish (called “poli au noir” or “poli cloqué” in French, because when observed in certain angles, the surface becomes almost black. And that’s something that only a trained hand can obtain, after several hours of work), several internal angles (sharp, acute angles chamfered. Something that no machine ca do), polished screw-slots, a gold chaton… well, this small and single piece sums-up the quality of the work done by Greubel Forsey.
However, such details are applied on the entire watch. The bridges are made from German silver (maillechort) with frosted surfaces (again only possible by hand), 5N rose gold plated, with large and shiny polished bevelled angles, polished screw-slots, thermally blued screws (with black polishing on the head and chamfered slit), manual engravings… All the elements of the movement (gears, wheels, pinions) are also finished and not a single piece is kept directly from machining. We can also note a polished titanium bridge for the cage of the tourbillon or dials made of solid gold.
Then comes the decorative parts (in opposition of the technical parts): case, hands, dials… As you can see, the globe at 12 is not flat but in 3D and engraved with raised continents. It is made of titanium and, as you can clearly see in a previous article here, it is finished with extreme precision. The hands are made of white gold and mirror polished. The dials are made of solid gold, with a grainy aspect in the center and a circular brushed finish on the periphery. Again, it’s very haute-horlogerie here.
Finally comes the case, with again quite a complicated shape. It’s curved, it’s opened (with a sapphire aperture next to the globe), it is here made of platinum with a hand applied mirror polish (and a hand-made satined finished on the flanks). Applying such a finish is not easy considering the curves of the lugs or the complicated shape of the bezel. The Greubel Forsey GMT is not a small watch, as it measure 43.5mm and 16mm in height. Having it in platinum makes it also heavy. However, it remains wearable. Furthermore, we have to understand that practicality is not the main goal of this watch. Just like a Ferrari Enzo or a Pagani Zonda are not the easiest cars in city-centers or in traffic jams, this watch is not made to be a daily beater (of course, if you can afford to have a Greubel Forsey on a daily basis, you should wear it as much as you can).
The Greubel Forsey GMT Rose gold 5N movement / Platinum case is an horology lesson, both for the technical side and for the execution. Finishings are tremendous. You can’t compare a JLC Tourbillon at 80,000 Euros with this. We’re on another planet. Every single micron of the watch is a feast. It’s a demonstration of what watchmaking can produce when not limited, when price is not the main consideration. Some will say that it’s outrageous or useless. In a way, they are right. However, just like a 1,000,000 Euros McLaren P1 or LaFerrari, it has nothing to do with rational justifications. It’s here because some can afford it and some can produce it. Is the price fully justified? Probably not. Do we care? Not entirely, mainly because there will always be possible clients and because it makes some people work and it maintains the know-how. And it’s a dream machine… and we all need to dream.
The Greubel Forsey GMT Rose gold 5N movement / Platinum case is a limited edition of 22 pieces, priced at 550,000 Swiss Francs (before taxes). www.greubelforsey.com.