August 30, 2014
by Ariel Adams
To be honest, I am not sure if this is the Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 or perhaps the Art Piece 1.2, etc… There have been few more mysterious ultra luxury watches released from legitimate brands than the Art Piece collection from everyone’s favorite metal finishing fanatics over in Switzerland. I am told that the first Art Piece watch was finally delivered this summer in 2014. This is after the watch’s “debut” in 2012. What you see here hands-on isn’t even a finished model, but rather a prototype.
Two years ago, aBlogtoWatch covered the Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 here, and explained that it was to be a collaboration watch model done with Greubel Forsey and miniature artist Mr. Willard Wigan. No, Mr. Wigan himself is not miniature, but rather his compositions are incredibly small and designed to fit on the head of a match or nail, or in the threading hole of a sewing needle. Willard Wigan has enjoyed some celebrity, especially for some of the taxing techniques he must use to hand-create his compositions on such a small scale.
When the Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 watch was released, only a side view of the watch was available, and it wasn’t even of a complete timepiece. What we saw was a sort of lens in the crown that seemed to contain one of Wigan’s miniature works. It appeared that the work was right in the lens, but what we have since learned is that the lens acts as a magnifier and that the actual piece of art is a bit deeper inside of the watch. Photographing this effect is difficult to say the least. Let’s just say that when you look directly at the crown you get a good view of the small character or item that Willard Wigan created for the watch.
Greubel Forsey has confirmed that each Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 watch will have its own unique artistic composition. Thus, there will be a series of Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1 timepieces, none will have the same art in them, and Greubel Forsey will produce very few of them. It isn’t clear whether or not the customers can request specific work from Mr. Wigan, though I am pretty sure a degree of bespoke artwork is part of the deal. Part of this is why the price of the watch has been rumored to be anywhere from one million to over five million dollars.
The funny thing about Willard Wigan’s work is that much of it is a bit cheeky or based on pop culture and popular media. If his stuff was larger and not hand-made, it would be the type of things you’d find being sold in tourist shops along Hollywood Boulevard. Subjects he has enjoyed in the past are cartoon characters, animals, politicians, and items people use in their normal lives. Greubel Forsey themselves offer a PDF that shows off a lot of his work and talks more about who Willard Wigan is.
Even though the nature of Wigan’s work is different from what Greubel Forsey does, they have similar values and goals. Each works on a small scale and each is a fanatic for details that few people will notice. I think the idea of putting tiny pieces of art in highly exclusive super luxury watches makes sense. Of course, Greubel Forsey is going to nevertheless be a bit selective about those items they place in their watches. The watch you see here for example has a tiny sail ship that Mr. Wigan produced.
I don’t even have full tech specs for the watch, so my apologies for not getting specific with dimensions or the size. I do know that the case is in 18k white gold, and of course it is rather large, in typical Greubel Forsey style. The finishing also happens to be quite amazing (of course), and the design of the case is a nice blend between classic and cool. The main point of the prototype was to show the overall look and feel the watch, the tourbillon, and of course how Wigan’s work is to be displayed.
According to Greubel Forsey, “A miniature microscope set into the caseband will allow full appreciation of this chef-d’œuvre.” By that, they mean the nano-sculpture, but it sounds like in addition to the lens in the crown-style appendage at 9 o’clock, there will be another microscope-like item attached to the strap? Is that what they are saying? You can now begin to understand how I feel like this is one of the most mysteriously discussed watches around.