In this article are two versions of the limited-edition Greubel Forsey Signature 1 watch that we originally debuted earlier in 2016 here. You might recall that the Signature 1 is the most accessibly priced watch that Greubel Forsey currently produces. All that really means is that it has a sub $200,000 price. Still, it is almost half as expensive as the next step up in the Greubel Forsey brand catalog.
Greubel Forsey will produce a total of 66 Signature 1 watches, with 33 of those pieces in steel. My understanding is that those 66 watches will represent six smaller limited edition sets of 11 watches each. The blue watch is one of the steel models, and it is an exclusive for the United States - again, being part of a limited edition of 11 pieces. I also wanted to share images of the 18k red gold model. It is perhaps worth mentioning how traveling is an important part of our ability to cover these stories. I got to see the blue and steel model here in Los Angeles, and we photographed the 18k red gold model while in Dubai for Dubai Watch Week 2016. The previous article with the 18k white gold model was viewed in Geneva. It really takes a lot of travel and effort just to track down these rare items sometimes.
Taking into consideration the debut article on the Greubel Forsey Signature 1, which was an 18k white gold model, we've now covered the three available Greubel Forsey Signature 1 watches that have been produced, representing half of the total production of the series. I am not sure if I have yet seen the platinum version, which does exist (and it has a black dial, for the time being). I'd personally love to see a Signature 1 watch in a scratch-resistant-treated titanium case, which would be really interesting for me given that it would also be nicely finished per Greubel Forsey's standards.
I will say that the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 is the most easy-to-wear watch from the brand I've ever put on my wrist. It used to be that when you thought of the exclusive brand's watches you imagined a sort of round case with a bulge in it (that sounds weird in writing). The Greubel Forsey Signature 1's case is perfectly round, traditionally rendered, but also very finely finished (for those prices, you'd certainly hope so). In steel, the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 has the most unique personality. I am not sure, but this might be the first steel watch that Greubel Forsey has produced. At least, it is the first one that I remember. In gold, the watch feels more "understandable," but in steel I think it has more personality - especially given the theme of the watch.
At 41.4mm wide and just 11.7mm thick, the Signature 1 is also probably the smallest watch Greubel Forsey has made. With prices typically over $500,000, having such a mechanically simple watch that wears this comfortably is not something I would have guessed to come from the brand a few years ago. That said, market and client pressure on brands like Greubel Forsey compel them to produce a limited series of watches like this. Don't expect these prices or materials to typify the brand, but as a nod to collectors who demand it, you can get the finishing and aesthetics people have come to love from a company like Greubel Forsey, in a package that is a lot more convenient to tote around on your wrist regularly.
Clearly, this type of timepiece qualifies as stealth wealth. While it is clear that you are wearing a nicely made mechanical watch, all but the most highly aware horological aficionados will be able to separate it from the crowd. Also, if you want a similar aesthetic experience on your wrist (for a small fraction of the price), you might be interested in a Maurice Lacroix Gravity (hands-on here), which actually predates the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 by a few years.
What you will not get in lower-priced watches is Greubel Forsey's utterly meticulous level of movement finishing and decoration. Even though this is the most simple mechanical movement produced by the brand, its components are each given loads of hands-on attention. A close inspection of the dial and movement reveals an obsessive level of decor including a series of polish styles and techniques. These range from frosting to striping and a lot in between.
Inside the Signature 1 is Greubel Forsey's carefully produced caliber GFS1. Manually wound, the movement is produced from 190 parts operating at 2.5Hz (18,000bph) via the large 12.6mm-wide balance wheel under the nicely designed balance wheel bridge. The movement has a power reserve of 54 hours. Dial layout is attractive and invites a lot of visual inspection. The hours and minutes are indicated clearly on their own eccentric dial, while there is a rather small yet legible running seconds dial closer to the exposed view of the balance wheel. Under the balance wheel is the name of Didier J.G. Cretin, who the brand worked with on creating the watch. It is rather uncommon for a collaboration such as this to have a reminder placed on the dial in this way, but I think that collectors will find it interesting.
The overall dial presentation is the biggest asset to the overall design, being legible, beautiful, and mechanically interesting. Moreover, it is comfortable to live with on a daily basis. If anything, the Signature 1 watch is Greubel Forsey's answer to "what Greubel Forsey can I wear every day?" Still, as a fan of the brand's great interest in the fine horological arts, it is hard not to miss other features such as the beauty of a delicate tourbillon or other complications such as a power reserve indicator. Those are all easily available in other models for just a few hundred thousand dollars more!
Gorgeous, ergonomic to use, and comfortable to wear, the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 watches will easily be gobbled up by fans of the brand looking for something new. Further, I hope that Greubel Forsey dedicates about 10% (not more) of their production moving forward to watches in the $100,000 - $200,000 range each year. I would like to see further variation and new movements which represent more accessible, yet obviously very high-end watches to enjoy the beauty that we find in how nicely these watches are both designed and decorated.
As I mentioned earlier, the steel-cased blue version of the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 is a USA-exclusive, known as the reference 9100 9004. It, like all the steel models, is priced at $170,000. The 18k red gold model is the reference 9100 8409, also limited to 11 pieces, and is priced at $185,000. greubelforsey.com