Greubel Forsey is a cult brand for the initiated, for those who pursue the very highest echelons of watchmaking. Their debut back in 2005 made an unequivocal mission statement as they unveiled a double tourbillon inclined at a 30º angle, only to be followed by their near-decadent quadruple tourbillon. And yet, while their prices do not deter collectors, the design of their timepieces always generates debate. The Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain fits the bill perfectly, and although it is a more contained take on the company’s DNA, it will still raise a few eyebrows, especially the Diamond Set version.
The Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain watch has been around in various iterations for some time now (Hands-On of the “Royal Blue” version here), and we’re taking a look at the latest in white gold with titanium, 5N red gold with titanium (more on those titanium pieces here), and white gold in diamonds with blued titanium. Greubel Forsey also produces a 5N red gold model with silver dial and made 33 of the blue-dialed versions in platinum and red gold, respectively. All the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain watches share the same specifications: a completely round case with no protuberances (most unusual for the brand) and a 43.50mm diameter, which sits nicely on the wrist thanks to the shape of the lugs. The height, on the other hand, is noticeable at 15.20mm, which can inevitably collide with the cuffs of your dress shirt. Then again, it’s very likely these are not the kind of timepieces with which you want to go incognito all the time.
As with other Greubel Forsey watches, each side of the case features a lengthy inscription that unabashedly praises the creators as well as the wristwatch itself. Both hand-finished plates have a sense of classicism to them, reminiscent of Roman inscriptions, and through which they want to establish an intimate relationship between themselves and the watch owner. It’s a unique way of welcoming them into the secret domain of very haute horlogerie (“Notre savoir-faire exclusif et bienfacture se reflètent dans la complexité de cette réalitation élaborée à votre intention”).
The back of the watch is a little surprising to me. We are used to the baroque styling applied to the case back of a watch like the Invention Piece 3, which was the Greubel Forsey 24 Secondes Tourbillon’s first appearance, and compared to it, this caliber is strikingly simple. It might have been conceived with such sobriety to match the relative austerity (by GF standards) of the dial, and while I like calm-looking movements (check this Panerai, for instance), this one has little appeal for me. The nickel silver bridges are frosted and spotted wonderfully, but the puzzle-like shape is not for me. Is it a deal breaker? It might very well be, because when you spend so much money on a watch, you want perfection all over – and for me, just knowing it is there would torment me endlessly.
The Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain watch can’t have any run-of-the-mill tourbillon, given the complication is the heart of the watch, and considering Greubel Forsey’s near-obsessive preoccupation with tourbillons. This one is much faster than many tourbillons on the market because it completes its rotation every 24 seconds, instead of the usual 60. I must admit I don’t know why it’s exactly 24 seconds, though there is probably a reason. In any case, even though tourbillons solve a problem that wasn’t really there in the first place for wristwatches, this one is a beauty to admire and even more so when it runs as fast as this one does.
The complete movement of the watch has 267 parts, of which 88 (nearly 1/3) are for the tourbillon cage, alone. Despite the amount of energy needed to move the complication, the power reserve provides 72 hours of autonomy thanks to the two coupled barrels, one of which is equipped with a slipping spring to avoid excess tension. Also, it is inclined 25 degrees to counteract the adverse effects of gravity. The position of the tourbillon results in a 10.90mm thick caliber, which explains why the height of the case is 15.20mm. On a normal, flat dial, this thing would protrude obnoxiously and that is why the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain is built in two layers. The result is a very attractive construction that results in a deep-looking dial, a sensation increased by the fact that the tourbillon is attached to the dial by a synthetic sapphire bridge which gives the appearance that it is floating.
In terms of legibility of the dial, the sturdy-looking hands that Greubel Forsey use in virtually all of their watches offer a fast and accurate reading even in the dark, since the arrow head and the indexes are painted with SuperLuminova. The retrogade power reserve and the simple red isosceles triangle used for the small seconds are easily read too. The result is, both in white and red gold, two elegant and sober-looking watches which can be worn even on a daily basis without being too loud. I find the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Tourbillon to be the dressiest watch of the manufacture along with the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision (hands-on here) that earned the Aiguille D’Or for GF last year.
I must say I have mixed feelings about the Diamond Set Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Contemporain. There is nothing to quibble with the quality, of course. The 272 diamonds that cover the case, bezel, upper section of the dial, lugs, and clasp are individually certified before and after the invisible-setting and are of the highest degree of clarity and color. Just as with the diamonds, there is nothing inherently wrong with the Royal Blue. In fact, it’s a gorgeous color that provides great legibility.
I find that diamonds and royal blue don’t quite work when experienced in tandem, however, sort of as if you were listening to classical music while your daughter is playing Abba at full blast in the next room. The legibility is still there, even if the hands struggle through the sea of diamonds and the watch remains appealing on the wrist, but I believe it is only because of the tone of blue. Obviously, Greubel Forsey wanted to make a louder statement with this, but for me, it is a mismatch: the bling can overshadow the horological value, which is what you look for when you buy GF in the first place. That’s why I think the combination of diamonds with the titanium would have had a better and more balanced outcome.
However, if it appeals to you, you may have to wait a while since Greubel Forsey will produce no more than two pieces in a year. Price for the diamond version is $860,000 and price on the non-diamond versions is $470,000. greubel-forsey.com