In the realm of tourbillons, there are tourbillons, and then there are Greubel Forsey tourbillons. Since its establishment in 2004, the company has been on a dedicated journey to refine Breguet’s centuries-old invention. This pursuit commenced with the introduction of the iconic multi-axis Double Tourbillon 30° – a pioneering adaptation of the pocket-watch-oriented innovation for the wristwatch. This ingenious creation orchestrates a complex rotational motion, ensuring that the balance, balance spring, and escapement gracefully traverse both vertical and horizontal positions, ultimately enhancing wristwatch precision. The latest creation in this field, the brand’s 8th Fundamental Invention, is named the Tourbillon Cardan. And here’s what you need to know.
In 2011, a production model featuring the Double Tourbillon 30° from Greubel Forsey achieved an exceptional score of 915 out of 1,000 in the rigorous precision and accuracy competition Concours de Chronomètrie. This remarkable accomplishment proved that the concept not only worked but excelled. In pursuing even greater heights of chronometric precision, Greubel Forsey has dedicated the last three years to developing a new type of tourbillon, recently unveiled as the Tourbillon Cardan. Having had the opportunity to experience Greubel Forsey’s 8th Fundamental Invention firsthand, we are delighted to share our insights with you.
A typical Greubel Forsey Look
The Tourbillon Cardan, designed in the distinct Greubel Forsey style, ensures a profound visual impact and has been meticulously decorated to showcase many different textures and finishing techniques. Every Greubel Forsey timepiece is infused with often subtly concealed technical marvels, and while comprehending the intricate mechanics is a choice, it is not essential to appreciate these creations. For the sake of humanity, I do hope that people capable of buying GF have a reasonable degree of understanding of how their watches work… The newly unveiled Tourbillon Cardan is no exception. Its movement components on the dial side and visible through the exhibition caseback contribute significantly to the overall aesthetic.
Though seemingly straightforward, the round-shaped, hand-finished titanium case stands in stark contrast to the wondrous horological structures displayed beneath the seriously domed sapphire crystal. The case, with a generous 46mm diameter and standing at 18.5mm height with the crystal, is quite large as it needs to accommodate and display all the mechanical marvels. Still, the watch remains wearable, thanks to well-proportioned lugs, particularly as the strap, crafted from “non-animal material,” loses its initial stiffness. On the caseback side, the unusual shape of the bridge with spectacular polishing catches attention, also note the titanium security screws and raised polished engraving “Tourbillon Cardan” and “Greubel Forsey” on a hand-punched background.
The multi-level dial, with the lower plate frosted by hand, makes the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan a timepiece of striking beauty. The time is presented on the upper right-hand side of the gold-crafted dial, with the running seconds sub-dial positioned below at 4 o’clock. Meanwhile, the power reserve indicator is placed adjacent to the hours and minutes on the upper left-hand side at 10 o’clock. Crafted from precious metal, the running seconds and power reserve indicator registers undergo meticulous engraving and lacquering to achieve their final appearance. All hands are polished and made of steel, with Super-LumiNova on the hands for hours and minutes.
The attention-consuming Tourbillon Cardan prominently occupies a lot of dial space; it is the most significant element here and draws undivided attention with its gravity-defying motion. The mounting rings for the tourbillon have a matte finish with polished bevels and brushed flanks, and the titanium tourbillon cage is finished with straight-grained sides, polished angles, and a barrel-polished arch.
The 8th invention
Now, what does the Cardan Tourbillon do? Greubel Forsey’s 8th Invention achieves an enhanced ratio of angular velocity to chronometric performance, surpassing the average rate of a traditional tourbillon by effectively minimizing positional variations. This improvement is grounded in three crucial technologies: a familiar 30º angle solution, a high-speed tourbillon, and innovative moving mounting rings. Dating back to Abraham-Louis Breguet’s 1801 patent, the mechanism was initially devised for pocket watches to offset rate differences proportional to amplitude changes. As a pocket watch’s position – either vertical in a pocket or flat on a table – affects its speed, a traditional tourbillon, with its axis parallel to the movement, provides a single average rate for vertical positions.
In contrast, a wristwatch experiences various positions throughout the day. The 30° angle in the Tourbillon Cardan ensures that the large 12.6 mm balance with six gold screws and the balance spring are never in extreme situations for an extended period. With a swift 16-second rotation, as you can see in the video above, the Tourbillon Cardan moves through multiple positions rapidly, resulting in significantly improved average performance.
The mobile mounting rings, connected by two 90° axes tilting every 48 seconds, play a pivotal role. The rings’ +/-30° tilt aligns with the fixed 30º angle of the tourbillon, resembling a gimbal-like construction. This unique design ensures the tourbillon remains inclined at all times.
Notably, the manually-wound movement of the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan incorporates four coaxially mounted fast-rotating barrels, one of which is equipped with a slipping spring to avoid excess tension, delivering a chronometric power reserve of 80 hours and operates at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations/hour.
Impressive technically and aesthetically, the Tourbillon Cardan is very much in line with what we could expect from the brand. Despite all the exquisite finishes and decorations, it does feel a bit minimalistic in appearance compared to some other top-of-the-line Greubel Forsey creations, which, in the case of Tourbillon Cardan, seems intentional – and welcome. With tourbillons recently becoming a somewhat commonplace complication, losing the fascination, admiration and chronometric value they used to create, the Tourbillon Cardan brings it all back and proves the potential – and the well of GF creativity – to improve Breguet’s invention is far from dry.
The Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan is offered with a hand-sewn strap closed with a titanium folding clasp with an engraved GF logo. This emotionally charged and technologically advanced timepiece will be produced in limited quantities, 11 per year for five years, and the price is CHF 470,000. For more details, please visit www.greubelforsey.com.