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Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Simple, approachable, steel. These are not words I would have readily used to describe a watch from Greubel Forsey before this year’s SIHH watch fair in Geneva. With the announcement of their latest creation, the Greubel Forsey Signature 1, they have packaged their penchant for animation and their top tier finishing into a wearable, ultra high-end time-only watch. This limited edition piece is made in collaboration with one of GF’s talented watchmakers and, as the first of their new Signature series, is co-signed on both the dial and the movement. While the Signature 1 may be their most simple watch to date, it marks a big step in the evolution of Greubel Forsey as one of the finest watch manufactures in world.

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

So let’s start with “simple.” While the Signature 1 is simple insofar as it’s a traditional time-only watch showing hours, minutes, and small seconds, its development, construction, and finishing exemplify all of the extreme attention to detail and multi-stage production we have come to expect from Greubel Forsey. In creating a watch without a tourbillon, Grebuel Forsey needed a traditional balance system. They searched for three years to find a suitable supplier before opting to simply create the balance in-house. The result is their own design and can easily be seen (drooled over) thanks to an open view of the balance wheel which is mounted into a beautiful black polished bridge. The movement, dubbed the GFS1, runs at 18,000 vph and, thanks to the wide 12.6 mm balance wheel, you are still treated to a great deal of animation when viewing the dial and its three dimensional asymmetrical layout.

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The execution, especially the manner in which the Signature 1 is finished, is astoundingly detailed and represents some of the finest finishing I’ve ever encountered on a watch. Just like on the award-winning 24 Secondes Vision, the main time and sub seconds dials are (for the 18k gold versions) white silvered-gold with diamond finished bevels, enamel markers and hand-finished blued steel spear point hands. Beneath the dials we find a stage of mixed bridging, the top layer in nickel silver with wide dazzling geneva striping while the sub layering features a frosted black PVD treatment.

Wherever you look, you see painstakingly polished counter sinks, perfect bevels and mirror-like polishing on the inclined facets. When editing the photos I was struck by strange marks in the polished side profiles of the bridging. Under magnification, I realized the profiles were so well polished that they were simply reflecting the image of other nearby screw heads.

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Signed both front and back by Didier Cretin, one of Greubel Forsey’s talented watchmakers, the Signature 1 is a collaboration that is still intrinsically a Greubel Forsey watch, but with a slightly different perspective. The hand-wound GFS1 movement is comprised of some 190 parts (for reference, the Double Tourbillon 30º has some 326 components) with 21 jewels and 54 hours of power reserve. With a sapphire display case back offering a wide view of the movement, the somewhat more minimal architecture has been spared none of GF’s core competencies. The Signature 1 exhibits their recognizable frosted and spotted finish, straight grained flanks, polished beveling and inclined profiles. From any angle, the Signature 1 is an absolute treat and, under magnification from a camera or a loupe, the detailing is impressive for a watch of any price point. The Signature 1 may be simple in terms of traditional complication, but “time-only” and “manually wound” is where that ends. Just look at the photos.

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Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Moving on to “approachable,” by which I mean to suggest the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 is the most straightforward watch they have ever produced. While I can appreciate their wild GMTs and unbelievably complex Quantième Perpétuel, those watches are very large and certainly not the kind of thing I imagine many wear day to day (though I’d be thrilled to learn otherwise). While Greubel Forsey moved towards a more wearable platform with the somewhat smaller 24 Secondes Vision, the Signature 1 wears like a normal watch. Case width is 41.4 mm (almost identical to my Omega Seamaster) and just 11.7 mm thick (thanks no doubt to the 7.4 mm thick GFS1 movement). With short lugs and a soft alligator strap, the Signature 1 is easy wearing and looks glorious on the wrist. It fit under my cuff and with its domed crystal and less-flashy straight-grained case profile, it’s surprisingly subtle to wear, given its eye-catching design.

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Finally, “steel,” as in Greubel Forsey’s first steel watch. The Signature 1 will be limited to just 66 units total, half of which will be steel. With 11 each for red gold, white gold, and platinum, the first 11 steel Signature 1s will feature a stunning blue time dial. The final 22 steel examples will be realized over the next 18 months and we’ll be sure to fill you in once they have been announced. So again, simple, approachable, steel.

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The Signature 1 is not what we would have expected from Greubel Forsey and not only does it challenge both preconceived notions of the brand itself and the current market for a high-end time-only watch, it opens the door for future collaborations within the Signature series. Pricing, as you may well expect, is considerable, with the steel models starting around $170,000 and the precious metal versions starting around $180,000. Within the market of high-end time-only watches, that’s essentially the new top tier. I had a genuine gut reaction to seeing the Signature 1 in person, and have no reservations in saying that it was definitely my favorite watch of SIHH 2016. While I am far from being a future Greubel Forsey client, if I imagine myself in that situation, I’m not entirely sure the price matters. There will only be 66, and just 33 in steel. And while the Signature 1’s direct competition may be less expensive, no watch in this segment is affordable. The Signature 1’s time-only, steel, and everyday wearable platform is unique within Greubel Forsey and the brand has a proven that there is a lasting market for their amazing watches. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. greubelforsey.com

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  • J O

    Not a fan of this one. The design ….why?

    • J O

      The more I look at it the more tolerable of the design I become but it is still not one I would choose. Something about the white faces makes it look off to me…cheap..which it isn’t of course. However, it is clear to read as a timepiece. Just a first impression.

  • BrJean

    Dial layout reminds me Maurice Lacroix Gravity (see here: http://ablogtowatch.com/maurice-lacroix-masterpiece-gravity-watch-hands/ ) which in turn was probably inspired by Breguet. However it’s difficult to compete with Greubel Forsey if we talk about quality of finishing, each detail here is a real pleasure for eyes. The only flaw I can point is a small cutout on the main dial. I don’t think it’s necessary to fully see balance wheel.

    • Roma KLM

      I couldn’t expect Greubel making replicas. ))

  • benjameshodges

    GF and Didier Cretin: “Let’s make a watch that Hodinkee would like!”

    • srs144

      So true! I laughed when I read this. And like clockwork, Hodinkee went nuts for the watch saying how $150k is a great “entry price” for GF

  • speedy

    Beautiful watch, but I can’t help finding it ridiculously expensive, compared to other perfectly-finished 3 hands watches. I’m thinking of Philippe Dufour, obviously, but also Kari Voutilainen, Credor, and others…

  • Roma KLM

    For such indecent price there should be a tourbillon at the place of an ordinary balance wheel.

    • iamcalledryan

      What’s crazy is the labor for the balance bridge is probably not too far behind a basic tourbillon!

      I quite like that is one has a 3Hz balance that stays put.

  • So nice, so elusive (at that price point). As I recall this series (of which this is the first) is a more personal expression of the named watchmaker and not GF as a brand per se. As BrJean noted, there are similarities to a number of other watches – but they are also watches that I like so it’s all good for me in the lust department. Thanks for the review James.

    • Berndt Norten

      Please see my response above to iamcalledryan. I sense you’ll get it all….

  • IanE

    At long last, a Greubel Forsey beater! (If only) The only problem with viewing these super-high-end watches is that (as with hi-fi) it’s hard to return to considering ordinary watches like PP and ALS! For me (if I dare criticize such paragons), I would quite like the second-hand dial a little bigger, or possibly replaced with a sapphire dial.

  • iamcalledryan

    Gorgeous. I have got to see this thing in the flesh.

    • Berndt Norten

      Flesh for fantasy? Don’t get me wrong, Bruce, I love the watch. But my love DOES cost a thing, and it don’t mean a thing if it’s all about dat bling…. In the spirit of Skeletor, your nemesis, I’m going to up vote myself. There’s a first time for everything!

      • iamcalledryan

        May his rotten bones rest in piece!

        • Berndt Norten

          I am amazed that he seems to have left us. What a character. Now, on another note, in a post from last year did you not hint that you had a book coming out? You seem to possess an encyclopedic command of all things watch-related. An enquiring mind gots to know….. Of course, I will buy the book. But then you’ll have to reveal your identity I suppose….

          • iamcalledryan

            You are correct sir! Book comes out this Fall/Autumn and I shall be shouting it from the rooftops with a louder voice than 5 Skeletors! I would be honored if a few of my fellow enthusiasts might buy it.

  • BNABOD

    Aside from Cretin staring at me all day which in French is a not so nice word it is a nice piece not my fav from GF. the polishing looks out of this world. You have got some poor soul polishing bridges all day long to get the perfect mirror shine so the least we can do is decent macro shots so thanks for that. the price is meaningless in my view at this price point since it merely reflects reality but the dream of owning such a piece.

  • DanW94

    I really like the small second hand dial as it offers enough of a glimpse of the wheel train to keep it visually interesting. Not a noisy, notice me watch, but the superb finishing and confident straightforward design would certainly garner attention. (If you’re fortunate enough to wear one).

    • iamcalledryan

      Yes it’s the kind of thing to draw a gasp from a meter away, but a swoon with a loupe.

      • Nateb123

        Please introduce me to these women who swoon at watches.

        Unless you’re referring to men swooning but I can safely say a man should never swoon.

        • iamcalledryan

          LOL, in horology a man-swoon is the litmus test for excellence.

  • Marius

    In my opinion, this watch has two problems. Firstly, the design would be more appropriate for their complicated tourbillons. For a three-hander, even if highly finished, it looks a bit strange, trying to make the watch appear more interesting than it really is. If I wanted a highly finished three-hander, I`d rather opt for the timeless, elegant design of a Voutilainen, Laurent Ferried, or P. Dufour. This Greubel model has a bit of a flavour of the month approach: it’s somewhat cool now, but in 10, 15 years it might look really dated.

    Secondly, given that watches made by Vutilainen, Dufour, or Laurent Ferrier are also finished by hand, to the highest standards, why is the Greubel&Forsey much more expensive? Does it use some special finishing technique that the other makers don`t?

    Lastly, a few readers mentioned Hodinkee, so is it true that there will be a Hodinkee limited edition. If there will be one, count me in as I already have the MB&F for Hodinkee clock, so getting the Greubel&Forsey for Hodinkee watch would complete my collection, and so to speak, close the circle.

    • DanW94

      It might fall out of style in 15 years as design trends change, but it certainly won’t fall out of favor among high end watch collectors and aficionados.

      • iamcalledryan

        Yes I don’t believe timelessness has ever been a design brief for a single GF watch! Not really what brings collectors to them.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I judge people on the watch they are wearing ( doesn’t need to some expensive piece, it can be anything ) , if that’s a tad shallow, then I accept that’s a negative trait to my personality. If I saw this one the wrist of a gentleman I would think ” this is a guy who knows understated, beautifully crafted pieces” , nothing to bling, just ………………………taste.

  • Berndt Norten

    Gorgeous. And priced so Mr Forsey can pay the insurance on his Bentley. The quality level is beyond reproach; the price is a Giffen Good signal, nothing more.

    • MEddie90

      “Gorgeous” I agree 100%

      How is a greuble forsey a giffen good? It certainly wouldn’t strike me as something inferior in any way and doesn’t really fit the description, you may be thinking of a veblen good?. Then again i’m no economics major so I may well be wrong.

      • Berndt Norten

        My mistake. I get them mixed up. Like Emmental for brain matter…. Thanks for pointing it out

  • Ulysses31

    This GF went to the surgeon and has those awful tumors removed – $180,000 represents the medical expenses. Too plain for my liking. Their impressive finishing for some reason always looks crude to me. Razor edges, sharp corners everywhere – how I would imagine a robot would design a watch.

  • funNactive

    A skeleton, yet not. Solid watch face while still being able to see some inner workings. Good case size – not too large (41.4 mm). Love the seconds dial.

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