Greubel Forsey is a Swiss watchmaking company specialized in very high-end complicated timepieces. The brand was launched in 2004 by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey and is based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
Robert and Stephen play perfectly complementary roles. Robert is more concerned with the issues of design and creation, while Stephen excels in the more technical areas. But one thing is certain – they share a similar vision of contemporary fine watchmaking. For both men, each creation writes a new chapter in the story of watchmaking. They set out to invent original mechanisms to improve performance, such as the inclined tourbillon, the inclined double balance wheels or mechanical computer – and together to design the original architecture to house these mechanisms. This spirit of research goes hand-in-hand with the extreme care devoted to putting the finishing touch to each individual component of their Timepieces. Robert and Stephen set themselves no limits. Each technical impossibility leads to a new challenge. Each problem demands a solution.
For Robert and Stephen, the making of Timepieces today goes far beyond merely making watches. Their research has led them towards contemporary art and many of their working methods mirror those of artists. This has given rise to the Art Piece series, designed in tandem with a number of visual artists. However, their experimental activities – devoted to the future of fine watchmaking – are also balanced by a journey into the past. The aim of the programme known as Le Garde Temps – Naissance d’une Montre is to keep a number of traditional skills under threat from changes and progress in the watchmaking industry alive. The work of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey encompasses all this, and much more besides.
Born in Alsace, France, and Robert Greubel discovered his vocation for precision mechanics at a very tender age. As a child, he would spend long hours with his father, a watchmaker and later went on to join the family business “Greubel Horlogerie”. Passionate about complication movements, in 1987 he moved to Schaffhausen in Switzerland, where he joined IWC to work on their Grand Complication project. He moved to Le Locle in 1990 for a prototypist’s position at Renaud & Papi, where he rose up the ranks to Co-Chief Operating Officer and partner. In 1999, Robert Greubel left to work independently and in 2001 he founded CompliTime in partnership with Stephen Forsey, with the aim of creating and developing complication mechanisms for the key brands. They co-founded Greubel Forsey in 2004.
Stephen Forsey was born in St. Albans, England, where he inherited his father’s fascination with the intricacies of mechanics. From 1987, he specialised in antique watch restoration, and he subsequently became the head of Asprey of London’s prestigious watch restoration department; he then furthered his horological education at WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program). After moving to Switzerland in 1992, Stephen joined Robert Greubel’s team at Renaud & Papi where he worked on the most complicated mechanical movements. In 1999, he left to work independently and in 2001 he co-founded CompliTime with Robert Greubel. Together, they then launched Greubel Forsey in 2004.
When Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey teamed up and launched Greubel Forsey in 2004, they already shared the same philosophy and a certain number of principles.
Convinced that room still existed for creativity in the development of complications in watchmaking, they refused to accept a widespread reliance on 18th century mechanisms to curb their creativity. Their goal was to improve the performance of existing complications but also to invent innovative mechanisms. This spirit of research driven by insatiable curiosity has also allowed them to explore new areas of artistic expression. Over the years, they have honed their creative approach to fine watchmaking, notably with their Invention Pieces and Art Pieces – Timepieces created in collaboration with a contemporary artist. The technical and aesthetic aspects complement each another, giving rise to bold creations.
The quality and originality of Greubel Forsey’s work has rapidly become well known. Their regular output of fine Timepieces has been honoured with many prizes, (notably the Prix Gaïa in 2009 and the Prix du Concours International de Chronométrie in 2011). Furthermore, the Greubel Forsey Atelier now participates in the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, which brings together some of the most prestigious watchmaking brands.
During their first decade, barely nine-hundred Timepieces in total have been completed in the Greubel Forsey workshops – on average, not more than one hundred each year. This speaks volumes about the quality of their workmanship and attention to detail. The story is told in the «Grand Livre», in which the details of each exceptional creation are painstakingly inscribed by hand.
The Grand Livre
In former times, watchmaking establishments would carefully make a handwritten entry each day in a ledger, the “Grand Livre” recording each and every watch produced in their workshops. This Great Book therefore represented the company’s ultimate archive, a permanent record which would outlive the men who produced it.
In an era of the Internet and digitalisation, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey chose to continue the secular tradition of keeping a ledger -the “Grand Livre”- to record this deeply human dimension of their fine watchmaking. Each handwritten entry is synonymous to a birth certificate for the Timepiece, as well as the basis for a record of its future. An important milestone in this journey is the collaboration with Christie’s auction house. This ensures that collectors will be able to acquire a Timepiece which is fully compliant with Greubel Forsey’s exacting criteria concerning quality and craftsmanship.
Importantly, the original built of each Greubel Forsey Timepiece offered for sale by Christie’s is authenticated. Throughout the year and across the world, Greubel Forsey and Christie’s join forces to help collectors obtain expert advice as well as an assessment of their Timepiece. This innovative approach is a part of Greubel Forsey’s way of accompanying its enthusiasts to maintain and preserve their collection.
Inventions by Greubel Forsey
In 2014, Greubel Forsey celebrated their 10th anniversary. Since the establishment of Greubel Forsey luxury watch atelier in 2004, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have created seven inventions. They have also registered around fifty patents. Having explored and mastered tourbillons – notably the Double Tourbillon 30°, the Quadruple Tourbillon and the Tourbillon 24 Secondes; they then went on to develop the Double Balancier and the Computeur Mécanique (QP à Équation). These inventions are the beating heart of their numerous Timepieces. The Master Watchmakers love nothing more than exploring different architectural interpretations – as with their Invention Pieces – even if this means that the time display takes second place.
1. Double Tourbillon 30°
Greubel Forsey’s first invention, the Double Tourbillon 30°, features an innovative double tourbillon mechanism with one tourbillon – inclined at 30° and rotating in 60 seconds – inside another rotating in four minutes. The combination of the 30° inclination with the different rotational speeds of the two tourbillons improves timekeeping by averaging out positional errors due to gravity, especially in stable positions.
2. Quadruple Tourbillon
In the second invention, each of the four tourbillons connected to a spherical differential contributes independently to obtain a precise and reliable timing rate, especially in stable positions. Indeed, the Quadruple Tourbillon principle relies on the use of four separate cages grouped in pairs and connected to a spherical differential. The latter transmits the average timing rate of four tourbillons and thus improves the chronometric performance of the ensemble of regulating organs.
3. Tourbillon 24 Secondes
The third invention, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes, is based on a fast rotation speed to solve the problem of critical positions of the oscillator in relation to gravity. The 25° angle and the rapidly changing position of the tourbillon significantly improves the chronometric performance of a system using only one tourbillon, especially in stable positions.
4. Balancier Spiral Binôme
It was necessary to develop an inclined gearing profile and an ultra-light tourbillon cage to resolve the considerable mechanical constraints imposed by this system. In order to improve the interaction between the balance and balance spring, Greubel Forsey has explored the solution of using the same material for both elements. This patented invention is based on the use of a nonmagnetic material that is not affected by variations in temperature, lending these properties to both the balance and balance spring. A working prototype with synthetic diamond validated the approach, paving the way for research on other materials.
5. Différentiel d’Egalité
The fifth invention of Greubel Forsey transmits constant energy from the mainspring barrel to the regulator. The Différentiel d’Egalité is based on a spherical differential that receives energy from the mainspring barrel and releases it in constant amounts to the regulating organ. To achieve this constant flow of energy, the mainspring barrel feeds a secondary spring that is rewound every five seconds. Placed just before the regulating organ, the spring ensures a uniform transmission of energy and eliminates torque variations due to the constantly changing state-of-wind of the mainspring, correcting any variations in torque generated by the gear train.
6. Double Balancier
For their sixth invention, Greubel Forsey has explored a novel approach in order to obtain the average timing rate in a stable position. In the Double Balancier, two oscillators are arranged along two different axes at precise predetermined angles. Thanks to the combined effects of the spherical differential and the angle of the balances, this system helps to minimise the effects of gravity and maximise timing precision.
7. The Mechanical Computer for the QP à Équation
Greubel Forsey’s seventh invention is a mechanical computer developed for their Equation of Time Perpetual Calendar wristwatch. This mechanical computer has redefined certain functions of historic astronomical clocks. From the start, it was specifically developed for the Quantième Perpétuel à Équation to manage date displays and the equation of time. It comprises a set of coded wheels mounted coaxially with movable programmed sections. Depending on their rotation speeds and number of teeth, these wheels provide a variety of information (months with 30/31 days and leap years [February 28/29 days]).The mechanical computer enables rapid and simple correction of the indications via the winding crown without any traditional calendar correctors. It directly drives a system of sapphire disks, which displays the equation of time, i.e. the difference between the «real» solar time and civil time. It can be adjusted in both directions without risk of damage. It is very easy to go back or forward in time to know the day corresponding to a specific date. This new invention is composed of 25 parts and is the subject of three new patents.
Greubel Forsey Work Shop
Located in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the heart of the Swiss Jura Mountains, Greubel Forsey workshop perfectly reflects the brand’s dual commitment to both heritage and ground-breaking innovation. Firstly, there is the Farmhouse, a splendid 17th-century rural building, which has been painstakingly restored.
Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have retained the spirit of the building with the vaulted cellar, the beams and even the sundial – a rare example of gnonomic art in the region. The understated combination of stone and wood creates a warm atmosphere in which to welcome visitors, live and exchange ideas. Directly linked to the Farmhouse, surges the contemporary building, which houses the Atelier and was designed by architect Pierre Studer. This building combines wood, metal, concrete and glass. Its sloping green roof creates the illusion that it could have risen from the ground through tectonic forces, yet simultaneously blending naturally into the landscape. From a technical standpoint, its double-skin glass façade acts as a natural thermal buffer zone. The building benefits from natural air conditioning, ensuring a constant temperature all year round.
In Greubel Forsey workshops, one can see a wide range of professionals working together at the various stages that go into the creation of extra-ordinary mechanical Timepieces. Each year, the brand highlights one of these highly specialised professions from the Creative Watchmaker to the Laboratory Technician, not forgetting the Prototypist, the Machinist, the Designer or the Movement Finisher. Each of these professionals contributes his or her expertise at a precise moment whether it concerns the architecture, decoration, approval or final assembly of a Timepiece.
Behind every great Timepiece is a Creative Watchmaker. He plays a role which can be compared to that of an Artistic Director in a top fashion house. From the very outset, he is actively involved in the creative design process starting with sketching out the project, both literally and figuratively.
The Creative Watchmaker is gifted with a creative talent. He must never let material constraints curb his creative extravagance. Therefore, he is not closely involved with day-to-day business matters, which mainly fall upon the CEO. The expert technical and historical knowledge of the Creative Watchmaker are tools that help shape his creative concepts. He is able to take inspiration from various sources, such as architecture, fine arts, design and nature itself. Urging his colleagues to push the technical boundaries of watchmaking, the Creative Watchmaker motivates and guides each team to ensure the final creation reflects the initial concept. He focuses on transmitting and sustaining an overall vision, (which involves technical, aesthetic and philosophical aspects) in order to ensure the future of the adventure.
At Greubel Forsey, Robert Greubel is the Creative Watchmaker. The initial creative impulses that he fine-tunes on a daily basis with his colleagues do not intially take into account feasibility studies or obey any marketing rules. This energy motivates each colleague to create tools and to come up with the solutions that make the project possible.
Prizes and Awards
Since its foundation in 2004, Greubel Forsey has won three most prestigious awards – The Gaïa Prize, The Aiguille D’or and the International Chronometry Competition – in the watchmaking industry. In 2009, the company won the Gaïa Prize for Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey’s ‘entrepreneurship’. This distinguished award conferred by the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds is commonly regarded as watchmaking’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. In 2010, the Double Tourbillon 30° “Édition Historique” was awarded the Aiguille d’Or in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and was named Watch of the Year across all categories. Thirdly, in 2011, the brand’s first invention, the Double Tourbillon 30° Technique won 1st prize in the International Chronometry Competition in Le Locle, introduced by the Le Locle Watch Museum, in partnership with the COSC (the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute), the Besançon Observatory and the Haute Ecole Arc Ingénierie school of advanced engineering in Le Locle.
Greubel Forsey’s timepieces have often had the honour of receiving recognition from the public as well as the specialist press. In 2007, Invention Piece 1 won the prize for ‘Grand Complication Watch’ awarded by the international magazine Revolution. That same year, the Swiss magazine Montres Passion awarded the ‘Special Jury Prize – Watch of the Year’ to the Tourbillon 24 Secondes. In 2008, Revolution magazine awarded the Quadruple Tourbillon the prize for ‘Best Technical Achievement’. In 2009, this same Quadruple Tourbillon received the prize for best ‘Grand Complication Watch’ presented by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie Asia. The Double Tourbillon 30° Technique was also awarded the ‘Grand Complication Watch’ prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
In 2011, Invention Piece 2 was honoured with the ‘Limited Edition Watch of the Year’ prize at the Watch World Awards in India. In the same ceremony, Greubel Forsey was also awarded a prize for its ‘contribution to Haute Horlogerie’. In 2012, Invention Piece 2 received two prizes in succession: it ranked first in the ‘Best Design Watch’ category at the Middle East Premier Awards, then won the ‘Grand Complication Watch’ prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. For its part, the GMT watch was also awarded the ‘Best Complication Watch’ prize at the Watch World Awards in India. On 27th November 2014, the “Middle East watch of the year awards” granted Greubel Forsey QP à Equation, with the Best Technical Innovation Watch award 2014.
Greubel Forsey doesn’t just create watches. The luxury watch manufacture also spend some of its time and energy on long term projects. The main two projects undertaken by Greubel Forsey are Le Garde Temps-Naissance d’une Montre and the Time Art Gallery.
Le Garde Temps – Naissance d’une Montre
Launched in 2011, the ‘Garde Temps – Naissance d’une Montre’ project is a fundamental part of Greubel Forsey. Due to the widespread use of industrial methods, traditional craftsmanship and expertise could disappear forever from watchmaking workshops. In collaboration with master watchmaker Philippe Dufour, Greubel Forsey has decided to collect and compile traditional watchmaking techniques in order that they can be passed on to future generations. This desire to stem the disappearance of skills is demonstrated in «Le Garde Temps – Naissance d’une Montre», a unique project that will result in the creation of a wristwatch, from the drawing board to the finished timepiece. To carry out this mission, Greubel Forsey selected Michel Boulanger, a certified French watchmaker and lecturer at the École d’Horlogerie de Paris. Since then, he has been learning traditional techniques to create a limited number of timepieces: a wristwatch with three hands with tourbillon and manual winder, made entirely by hand. During the SIHH 2014 in Geneva, Michel successfully presented a functioning prototype of the tourbillon cage.
Time Art Gallery
Inaugurated at the end of 2011 in the prestigious Bund18 building in Shanghai – a nerve centre for the contemporary arts, Time Art GalleryGF – is the fruit of a reflection on the points of convergence between the watchmaker’s art and contemporary art. It is an unconventional space designed primarily to exhibit Greubel Forsey creations and to showcase to the general public the spirit of invention which drives the brand.
Here, Greubel Forsey also exhibits the co-creations resulting from the luxury watch atelier’s collaborations with contemporary artists. For example, in 2012, Greubel Forsey has created The Art Piece 1 in partnership with British micro- sculptor Willard Wigan. In 2012, the exhibited the Art Piece 1 at the Shanghai Art Fair, the FIAC (International Contemporary Art Fair) in Paris, and at the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles. In 2013, this exhibition was held in the Museum of Antiquities (Jaffa Museum) in Tel Aviv, Israel, then at the Museum of Modern Art in Saint-Étienne, France.
Time Art GalleryGF is an environment in which to exhibit the horological art of others. Certain master watchmakers are an inexhaustible source of inspiration because they truly embody the values of perfection and excellence that the brand hold dear. They evoke a lineage of sorts in transmitting a certain philosophy of watchmaking avant-gardism. Among these luminaries is acclaimed independent Philippe Dufour, who remains one of the staunchest defenders of traditional fine watchmaking and whose creations are characterised by superlative workmanship and sublime hand finishing. Also featured is the work of Vianney Halter who revolutionised the architecture of complicated watches by deconstructing them and whose multiple dials include aesthetic references to other domains.
- 1999: After leaving Renaud & Papi, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey begin working together and soon realise that they share an identical vision of the tremendous untapped potential to invent new mechanisms and innovative movements in the field of Technical Haute Horlogerie.
- 2001: Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey create CompliTime SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds, an organisation entirely dedicated to the development of complicated movements for the prestige watch segment. In parallel, they prepare the launch of their own Greubel Forsey brand.
- 2004: Their dream comes true as they present their Greubel Forsey brand and their first invention at Baselworld : the Double Tourbillon 30°, a patented movement specifically adapted to the wristwatch. The launch is successful and Greubel Forsey begins developing a highly selective network made up of the world’s finest retailers.
- 2005: The Inventor Watchmakers present their second patented invention: the Quadruple Tourbillon à Différentiel in which four Tourbillons are linked to a spherical differential. Greubel Forsey presents its EWT® – Experimental Watch Technology® research platform – a working method and a laboratory dedicated to the development of experimental watches.
- 2006: At Baselworld, Greubel Forsey presents its third invention – the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné, with a patented movement still in its initial experimental phase and which derives maximum advantage from the fast rotation of a single inclined Tourbillon cage. Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey join forces with independent watchmakers Philippe Dufour, Vianney Halter and Kari Voutilainen to launch Time Aeon Alliance, which aims to support, promote and develop the Watchmaking Art at its highest level. To everyone’s surprise, Harry Winston and Greubel Forsey unveil the unexpected Opus 6 at the opening of Baselworld 2006. Richemont International S.A. acquires a minority shareholding in Greubel Forsey S.A. This partnership confirms the quality of the relationship with several Richemont Group companies that has been consistently cultivated by the Inventor Watchmakers Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey for almost 20 years.
- 2007: At this year’s Baselworld, Greubel Forsey extends its collection and presents the Double Tourbillon 30° Secret, a new version of the 2004 model. This time, the dance of two tourbillon cages can be viewed exclusively from the back of the case. The Invention Piece 1, created to honour the first Greubel Forsey invention, the Double Tourbillon 30°, symbolises more than four years of reflection that the two watchmakers have dedicated to researching and developing this new mechanism. The Invention Piece 1 will be issued in a unique edition comprising three series of 11 watches in white gold, red gold and platinum respectively. The Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné emerges from the EWT® and is presented in its asymmetrical white gold case with lateral window and dial in black or silver-coloured gold. 4th year, 4th invention: as part of its EWT® endeavours, Greubel Forsey presents the balance-and-spring binomial in diamantchrone®. The central idea behind this invention lies in associating the balance and spring with isochronically stable materials.
- 2008: Presents Quadruple Tourbillon.
- 2009: Presents Double balancier 35°. Presents Double Tourbillon 30° Technique and Invention Piece 3. The Double Tourbillon 30° Technique receives the ‘Grand Complication Watch’ prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. The brand wins the Gaïa Prize for Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey’s ‘entrepreneurship’.
- 2010: Presents Double Tourbillon 30° Edition Historique. The Double Tourbillon 30° “Édition Historique” wins the Aiguille d’Or award in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
- 2011: Presents Invention Piece 2 and launches GMT. Opens the Time Art Gallery in Shangai, China. The Double Tourbillon 30° Technique wins 1st prize in the International Chronometry Competition in Le Locle. Launches Le Garde Temps – Naissance d’une Montre project.
- 2012: Presents Art Piece 1. Launches Quadruple Tourbillon Secret and Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain.
- 2013: Unveils the Double Tourbillon Asymétrique, the Double Tourbillon Technique Titanium Black (the first Greubel-Forsey movement in titanium) and the Double Balancier 35°, Greubel Forsey’s first non-tourbillon movement.
- 2014: Greubel-Forsey celebrates its 10th anniversary. Launches white gold, 5N red gold and platinum versions of GMT model. Presents Diamond set Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain and Double Tourbillon 30° Technique Bi-colour. Introduces Robert Filliou Art Piece. Introduces the mechanical computer for the QP à Equation (7th invention).
- 2015: Unveils the unadorned Montre-ecole.
Eplatures-Grise 16 – P.O. Box 670
2301 La Chaux-de-Fonds – Switzerland