Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

At SIHH 2017, ultra-high-end Swiss watchmaker Greubel Forsey will debut a timepiece that they reportedly spent 11 years "researching and developing." It isn't just a musical chiming watch, but also an automatic. Fans of the brand and other makers of high-end complications are sure to agree that the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie watch is going to be epic.

Greubel Forsey has been taking it nice and easy when it comes to their developing and debuting of watches fitted with new complications. It was only three years ago that we saw them release their first watch with a perpetual calendar (hands-on here) and it is now, in 2017, that they debut their first ever chiming watch with the simply called Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie.

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

Ask any noteworthy watchmaker and they'll tell you, movements with chiming complications are the most difficult to develop from scratch – closely followed by complex split-second chronographs. The grand sonnerie is, as its grandiose name implies, the most challenging of them all as it can chime in three different modes. In grande sonnerie mode the movement will chime every quarter and hour in passing (that means automatically), in petite sonnerie mode it will strike the hours in passing automatically and, last but not least, it also serves as a minute repeater like any other, meaning it can chime the hours, quarters and nearest minute on demand at any moment. It really is no wonder, then, that it took over a decade and 935 parts for Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey to get to the point of finishing up their first sonnerie piece.

Still, we have seen a number of renowned brands have their go at creating a sonnerie watch (check out our hands-on articles on this Ulysse Nardin, the properly insane Magsonic by Bulgari, or the Audemars Piguet Supersonnerie for more drool-inducing sonneries), so how is this one by Greubel Forsey different?

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

First of all, and this is a real shocker, it is a grand sonnerie that was designed to be worn – because yes, there are a few people out there (more than likely to be repeat-customers of Greubel Forsey) who might have encouraged the brand about the idea of a daily-wearer, seven-figure-priced grand sonnerie. Wrapped not in soft 18k gold or super-heavy platinum but in light-weight titanium, the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie packs all those 935 components into a case that is 43.5mm wide and 16.13mm thick. Yes, that thickness is considerable, but it isn't considerably (or at all) more than other sonnerie watches - plus, thanks to the lightness of the titanium, it won't flop around like crazy at the slightest movement of the wrist.

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

"Wearing 935 parts wrapped around your wrist has never been this comfortable!" – this could be the sales slogan for the Grande Sonnerie... but it isn't. That said, Greubel Forsey didn't stop at cramming all those parts into a case that is as small as it could possibly be but went on to address another notorious issue linked to chiming watches: poor power reserve.

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

As such, this is one of only a handful chiming watches ever made to feature automatic winding – a rare combination partly because sonnerie/minute repeater movements already require a lot of space and the automatic mechanism simply can't fit into most, and partly because the frantic movements of the decidedly heavy winding rotor can cause vibrations that don't do much good to extremely fine and complicated mechanisms packed millimeters away.

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

There is a twist to the automatic winding, though: the movement itself remains hand-wound and offers 72 hours of power reserve (indicated on the dial at 5) thanks to two, coaxial, series-coupled, fast-rotating barrels (horological-nerdyness levels reaching hitherto unknown levels!) and hence the automatic winding is reserved solely to recharge the separate power source of the chiming mechanism.

You see, the problem is that for the grand sonnerie to consistently chime every 15 minutes for the passing quarters, it requires a lot of energy. That energy in most all chiming watch movements cannot come from the same barrels that power the timekeeping mechanism because setting the heavy hammers into motion to create the chime would take so much energy from the main barrels that it would considerably affect timekeeping accuracy. Just image your watch had a big power outage every 15 minutes... not ideal.

Thanks to the platinum oscillating weight (that in itself sports some pretty darn intricate decorations), the dedicated striking barrel's 20-hour power reserve (that's in grand sonnerie mode, it lasts longer in petite sonnerie that only chimes once every hour automatically) is replenished quickly. It's here where we should mention that you can turn off the sonnerie altogether by selecting SL (silent mode), as indicated on the sub-dial at 3.

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

If all this weren't enough, Greubel Forsey say they've added as many as eleven "securities" – these are additional mechanisms that are engineered into the movement to help protect the extremely complex and fragile chiming complication. A mechanical disaster happens (and a mind-alteringly expensive repair bill follows), for example, when you try to set the time while the chime is in progress or if some major discrepancy happens to the power source when it would be needed to supply the mechanism.

Acoustics enjoyed a priority as well, but the watch's performance in that department we'll discuss once we have had the watch in our hands – that should be soon enough, as we are eager to listen to this piece in person during SIHH next week. Be sure to follow @ablogtowatch on Instagram because that's where we'll be uploading all the craziest hands-on videos and images (live!) during SIHH (we will of course embed them into our hands-on articles on the site also)!

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

Did we mention that there's a 24-second, 25°-inclined tourbillon in there as well? No? Well, now we have. The tourbillon assembly takes up 86 of those 935 parts, and yet the whole thing just weighs 0.37 grams – that's an average weight 0.0043 grams per nicely finished component!

Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie Watch Watch Releases

The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie being, well, a Greubel Forsey, there are numerous intricacies that we shall discover (and cover) in our hands-on article about the piece – like how the titanium resonance cage for the sonnerie works or how nicely the 43.5mm wide titanium case wears. Until then, just two more important facts about the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie: it's priced at 1,150,000 Swiss francs and there will be between five to eight pieces made a year. greubelforsey.com

  • Jab for the nano mech, uppercut for the sonnerie, enough GF I’m on the floor already!

    I am wondering how much of an over-privileged WIS I have become that I bypass the chiming comp and the tilted high-speed tourb to simply admire the hell out of that rotor.

    • Steve Bowden

      Ok Ryan, I had to look up WIS on the Urban Dictionary…did you write the entry there? 🙂

  • ??????
    • I prefer to think of it as bubbles emerging from a frothy horological primordial pool.

      • Berndt Norten

        A primordial swamp??

      • DanW94

        Kind of like the horological evolutionary process at work. You can see how the dial is asymmetrically getting bigger, feeding off smaller, weaker, derivative dials. Only a matter of time before it grows to 50mm and chokes out all the species 45mm and under.

        • Ultimately everything becomes one big inclined tourbillon.

    • King Midas

      Truly, the John McCain of watches.

  • SuperStrapper

    I haven’t smoked in about a decade, but after reading and looking through this I’m pawing for a cigarette, collapsed in my chair. Talk about the definition of a horological tour de force.

    I would wish that they used some kind of steel alloy over titanium, highly polished titanium makes me wince, and seems to me it defeats that ‘daily wear’ comment. For this much time, effort, and ultimate cost I don’t know why some ultra-hard steel-or-similar alloy couldn’t have been developed: the harder the metal the better the chime, right? Also, the dial side could have been better implemented with a finish other than this flat black. I’d suggest black was wrong regardless of finish (although this does need a dark dial) and a sunburst or similar finish would breathe a whole lot more life into it.

    Purists don’t like the asymmetrical case shape, which is not new to this brand, but the watch was certainly not developed for purists of that cut, so who cares.

    Funny that we get such clear views of the ‘secret text’ on the movement (which always looks awesome) as I thought they were highly protective of that and got all lawyer-y when people post pictures of it. Not that it says anything overly interesting.

    Regardless: want.

    • IanE

      Some good points there. I think titanium is a metal of choice for sonneries because it’s low density is good for the acoustics.

      • SuperStrapper

        To be clear: I agree that Ti is a fine material for a chiming watch, I just don’t like how easy to scratch it is. And highly polished titanium will swirl if you just look at it hard enough. And on that, in real life this watch will never look like this, and I’m sure that will br proven once the SIHH photo come out. Ti just doesn’t have a colour that lustrous, and even master-level polishing techniques still show a dull grey colour.

        If the supersteel I asked for was developed, then you’d have great acoustics as well as much higher scratch resistance, ensure those highly polished section stay lovely longer, and helping to promote this ‘daily wear million dollar baby”.

    • That text is the end user agreement. By winding the watch you agree to all of its terms and conditions. I even think the mailing address is there for where you sent off your first born.

      • SuperStrapper

        I can’t believe Russ hasn’t popped by yet to sip spirits and tell tall tales on this one.

  • harveyspecter

    great article and for sure a technical tour de force – achievement. This said I can’t really understand the price. In spite of the merits I tend to get blocked by this huge amount. It is probably the way other people feel about spending 15-20-50K on a watch that I can justify..so to each his own. For me less is more. Thanks for the great article.

    • Berndt Norten

      You just Litt up ABTW with that?

  • Raymond Wilkie

    $1,131,397
    Stunning.

    • Berndt Norten

      Clunk?

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Are you nuts ? ok, granted , this piece falls into realms of fantasy but by god what object of beauty.

        • Berndt Norten

          And yes haven’t you figured it out yet? I’m absolutely nuts. I’ve always been crazy Crazy. But it’s kept me from goin insane….

        • Are you sure Ray? It doesn’t even have a date.

        • Shinytoys

          Ray likes it…huge, huge bonus…:)

  • palettj

    I will wait for it to hit the grey market before I purchase mine!!!!!!!!!!

    • Just get the Petite-only Sonnerie version. They will take $300k off and put a smiley emoji on the GS section of the indicator.

      • palettj

        I already have that one, jomashop was blowing them out for $5,500!!!

  • MEddie90

    I’ve already said most of what I think of this on the dink article but its nice to get ABTW’s take. Given the shorter reserve of the sonnerie having that as an auto makes sense and still allows you the pleasure of winding the watch every few days.

    That back is just gorgeous, plenty of depth going on and beautiful finish work. I love the rotor design, modern yet unusual and unmistakably GF. The only major complication category not taken care of yet is the chrono though I cant really see how that would fit into their styling it’d be interesting to see.

  • loydb

    Man, I want a GF-of-the-month club.

  • Grumpy Cat

    If I could afford this watch, I would need to buy short sleeves everything. Do they sell short sleeve winter coats?

  • Word Merchant

    If I set up a JustGiving page to raise money to buy myself one of these, would anyone here donate? It’s for a very good cause. Chip in with $100,000 or so each and I’ll be there in no time at all. I will even post photos of what your generosity has accomplished, here, or on Hodinkee.

    • Word Merchant

      Silence. What has the world come to?

  • Sheez Gagoo

    Love Greubel & Forsay. Beautifull watches containing very interesting technology. Was deeply impressed, when they made the 45 degree tourbillons, but then lost a little bit interest when double axis tourbillons came up.

  • Ok, I love it so I’m hesitant to nick pit. But that’s what we do here. For over a million why couldn’t the rotor (or a larger one) power both the timing and sonnerie barrels? No doubt a differential would be needed to apply even torque – very socialist- each according to its need. That way you *could* keep it on a winder and it would all set when you decided the PP Grand Master Chime had to take a day off.

    • My guess is this: it’s pretty clear from their models to date that GF is not a fan of automatic winding for timekeeping and there is probably an obscure bit of theory to support the concept of keeping the mainspring as isolated as possible during its prime torque reserve life. However, with their Sonnerie demanding so much power, that power being independent to timekeeping, it makes a strong case for the rotor.

      • Well, I’m not the one to know, but as a layman I’d think that using an automatic rotor would keep the mainspring barrel more consistently wound so there would be less torque variation in general. And certainly almost none when on a winder. Maybe GF doesn’t like to do automatics as their watches are already not exactly thin with their angled tourbillons. Cheers.

        • On your last point I thought the same thing, but then their architecture is absolutely perfect for a micro-rotor, which would allow them to deliver without adding to the width.
          Perhaps they are not against them, just not inclined to deliver them, and it was the demands of the sonnerie that made them decide. Perhaps therefore it’s simply that you would need to significantly ramp up the gearing to wind both mainsprings, which might be too much for a rotor. I will find out and report back (or not!).

          • Uranium rotor would heavy enough to wind both barrels I’d think. Not sure how long you’d live but then again this GF is probably not your only watch.

          • Berndt Norten

            Rotors alienate us from the beauty of the wind.

        • Berndt Norten

          I always thought of u as a leiman ?

          • I’m just hoping to be a laid man, ha ha.

          • Timestandsstill

            Don’t you mean lei-ed man? Mahalo?

      • Berndt Norten

        Maybe it’s an ethos. Rotors kill the mystique as well as the man-machine relationship. This watch has the look. Let’s get to winding! And heck I’ll play some Kai Winding now!

  • Buy and Sold

    Over $1m for a hand wound watch. Has to be hand wound so that it chimes, and because it chimes there is no room for complications like the date. I guess you can just count the days in chimes.

    • “Hmmm, let’s see. That was 37 chimes so that date is… No wait, was it in grand sonnerie or petite sonnerie mode? Do I divide by 96 or 24 per day?”

  • 11 years in the making, and in all that time, no one poked their head into the design studio and pointed out that it’s freakin hideous? Utterly, mindblowingly hideous. Yeah, the movement finishing and decoration is superb, I’m sure, and it’s technologically incredible, but the dial is mess of pointless text, mixed fonts, perplexing subdials, random abbreviations, and, oh, what the hell, a tourbillion, which somehow also needed a label. Overall, with the bulbous outcroppings at 2 and 8 o’clock, it looks like a mitosis diagram from an 8th grade textbook labeled in code. Call me a Philistine, call me a heretic, but I’d be embarrassed to admit I spent a million dollars on something that looked like this.

    • Berndt Norten

      No. I’ll call you brave and honest. And I can call you Al if you like? ?

  • Ulysses31

    The craftsmanship is impeccable. I’d love to know how they make that tiny text on the movement so clear and legible. The problem I have is, despite all that skill, they couldn’t find a way to fit everything in there without those ugly lumps jutting out from the case? Actually, i’m sure they could have if they’d wanted to, but their artistic choices look clumsy here.

    • Shinytoys

      I’m pretty sure the lumps were placed there purposely 🙂 One man’s lump is another man’s sexy curve 🙂 Cheers…

  • cg

    I have confirmed that the chime tune is a mix of ABBA’s greatest hits.

  • Shinytoys

    You had me at “Sonnerie” Now that’s a GF that I am falling madly in love with. A masterful piece of mechanical art that sings…in more ways than one.

  • frauss

    Ah, at last, the perfect beater!

  • Reprobus Marmaritarum

    A shiny polished dog’s dinner. Kibbles, anyone?

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