There’s no denying that the “luxury sports watch” segment is, by quite a margin, currently producing some of the hottest watches on the market. The demand for such pieces simply surpasses production. For this reason, we see more and more brands entering this market (and there will be more), some foreseeable, some less – Maurice Lacroix on the accessible side, Urban Jürgensen on the higher-end. And today it’s time for one of the masters of elegance to come with his own vision of a luxury sports watch. Meet the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport.
Luxury Sports Watch…?
We often hear the name “luxury sports watch.” But what exactly does that mean? A luxury sports watch is a concept that dates back to 1972 when Audemars Piguet and designer Gerald Genta drastically changed the industry and the notion of high-end watchmaking with a new, unprecedented and disruptive piece named the Royal Oak. The idea was to offer the same level of watchmaking and prestige as the rest of the brand’s collection, however in a steel case with a modern and bold design… The luxury sports watch was born.
Many of the competitors followed suit: Girard-Perregaux in 1975 (the Laureato), Vacheron Constantin in 1977 (the 222), IWC in 1976 (Ingenieur SL Jumbo) and even Rolex, in a way, with the Oysterquartz. But the “other” heavyweight luxury sports watch, apart from the RO, was the 1976 Patek Philippe Nautilus (and Laurent Ferrier has something to do with that one…)
The idea of a luxury sports watch is a precise definition: a steel case, usually shaped (no round watches but often barrel- or cushion-shaped), a bold bezel that sits over the central case, a textured dial, an integrated steel bracelet (an integrated strap works too), a thin profile, a high-end movement (usually an ultra-thin automatic) but with decent resistance to water and shocks.
The Patek background
As some might know already, Laurent Ferrier spent most of his career working for one of the most renowned watchmakers of the lot: Patek. Knowing the watch you’re about to see, this has its importance here. Ferrier is the son and grandson of watchmakers. He spent his childhood in the family apartment above his father’s workshop. Although watches were not immediately a passion for Laurent, he pursued watchmaking more “as a tradition of family values” and started to work at 22, in 1968, at Patek Philippe’s movement-prototype department… But only for three years, as he would resign to fulfil his true passion (more on that below).
However, in 1974, Laurent Ferrier returned to Patek and was in charge of the “bureau technique d’habillage“, a department in charge of the external parts of the watches (case, dial, hands, bracelets) – meaning that Laurent was no stranger to the Nautilus… He spent 37 years at Patek Philippe, culminating his career as head of the creative department.
From motorsports to his own brand
Even though Ferrier liked watches and working in the watchmaking industry, his true passion was motorsports – which incidentally opened the door to the creation of his own brand. During his time out of the industry and still during his career at Patek, Laurent made his way in motorsports, being a semi-professional car racer, driving various models such as the Lotus 18, Porsche 934, Porsche 935, and the BMW M1. He competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans seven times, coming first in the two-litre prototype category in 1977.
The pinnacle of this “side-job” was in 1979 when Ferrier raced the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the N° 40 Porsche Kramer Racing 935/77A, finishing the race in 3rd position, behind Paul Newman (the links between cars and watches are tight…). It was during this period that he met fellow driver and industrialist François Servanin. The two men shared a passion for both speed and mechanics. In 2009, Laurent resigned from Patek Philippe and, together with Servanin, formed the Laurent Ferrier watch brand.
This combined background of 1970s sports cars and high-end watchmaking is the raison d’être behind Laurent Ferrier’s latest creation, the Tourbillon Grand Sport.
The Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport
So here it is, Laurent Ferrier has just launched a luxury sports watch. There’s no typo here, dear reader. It is indeed very surprising… Or is it really? In fact, maybe not that much, but let’s first look at this new Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport.
While Laurent was all about vintage (or should we even say ‘antique’) looking pieces, inspired by pocket watches and early wristwatches until now, he’s now exploring another part of his life, as this watch is a true child of the 1970s – a reference to Laurent’s career in both watchmaking at Patek and racing at Le Mans. Certainly, it is different from all his other creations but is still a Ferrier after all.
The watch you’re looking at is a legitimate member of the “luxury sports watch” category, a watch segment that was, until now, more or less the Holy Trinity’s “preserve” – Nautilus, Royal Oak, Overseas. But indies are now starting to explore it, with Urban Jurgensen and its “One” collection. More and more contenders are coming on the market and Ferrier’s offering is a worthy member of the group.
The Tourbillon Grand Sport is housed in a 44mm stainless steel case, mostly brushed with polished accents. Don’t get too scared by the dimensions, the watch actually wears smaller than expected. It might lack a bit of “finesse” and restraint, but it isn’t the behemoth such a number implies. The integration of the strap into the case helps to create a rather compact watch on the wrist. Considering the complex movement inside, the case sits higher than some of its competitors.
The shape is also in line with the luxury sports watch category and Laurent Ferrier’s signature style. The case is a soft barrel with curves and rounded profiles. The case is asymmetrical with integrated crown guards to protect the small, round crown – which is probably not the best choice of crown for this watch. On top of this central case is a cushion-shaped bezel with a round dial opening. It features a combination of convex and concave lines, something that is usual in Ferrier’s designs. A rubber ring sits in between the case and the bezel. Altogether, the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport is a surprising but pleasant mix of the brand’s design codes with bolder attributes.
Also in line with the “luxury sports watch” category is the use of an integrated rubber strap, centrally mounted into the case. It is secured by a folding clasp in steel. This rubber strap, done in dark taupe, is supple and comfortable. The option of a steel bracelet would have been nice but considering the exclusivity and limited nature of this watch, developing such a bracelet would have been difficult (bracelet manufacturing is indeed harder than most can imagine).
To remain consistent with the theme but without rejecting the brand’s DNA, the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport presents a “strengthened” version of LF’s classical dials. The base is a matte, gradient dial with nickel opaline in the centre and dark brown on the periphery, protected by a slightly tinted sapphire crystal. On this dial are bolder versions of LF’s ‘’Assegai-shaped’’ hands and applied indexes, all crafted in polished white gold and filled with bright orange Super-LumiNova – a reference to the Porsche 935T driven by Ferrier and Servanin.
Turning the watch over, you’ll discover that the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport is powered by the same high-end tourbillon movement as other watches of the brand. Being the 10th anniversary of the conception of this movement and the 40th anniversary of the founder’s podium at Le Mans, the choice was to have an exclusive and high-end movement for this model.
This movement is state of the art, with an opposite double balance spring and a balance at variable geometry, with screws. The precision of this watch is chronometer-certified by the Besançon Observatory. Being a sports watch, the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport is here executed with straight brushed, dark ruthenium-plated bridges. The decoration is, as always, very pleasant with hand-polished bevels, angled spokes on the wheels, polished countersinks for the screws and the jewels, and special attention to details on the tourbillon bridge.
It would be hard not to mention the Nautilus when looking at the Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport. It has a similar vibe, a certain resemblance, however, it also has its own personality. In fact, this is one of the major issues with the “luxury sports watch” category. The definition is so narrow that all watches end up being compared. This was the case in 1976 when the Nautilus came out. It was the case in the early 2000s when Hublot launched the Fusion. It happened again a few years ago with the Polo S. Knowing Laurent Ferrier’s background at Patek, this Tourbillon Grand Sport is actually more original than some will want to concede.
Secondly comes the question of “legitimacy.” Is it legitimate for Ferrier to create a watch of this nature? Straight answer: yes! When Patek and Audemars launched the Nautilus and the Royal Oak, their catalogues were full of small Calatrava watches and a few elegant complication pieces. Still, they dared to produce something different. Today, Ferrier presents a superbly executed piece, which isn’t perfect in some regards (orange indexes, height of the case at around 13mm) but that both respects the brand’s and the category’s codes.
Price and availability
The Laurent Ferrier Tourbillon Grand Sport will be a limited edition of only 12 pieces, which will be priced at CHF 172,000 before taxes. What we don’t know yet is if this watch is the inaugural model for an upcoming collection of sporty pieces. To us, it would make sense to have a non-tourbillon version, powered by the same base movement as the Galet Square, with its micro-rotor. Combined with a steel bracelet and a price of around CHF 40,000, that would be quite a winning combo.
More details at www.laurentferrier.ch.