January 22, 2023
by David Bredan
Designed to remind its wearer of the sunrise over Le Mans, the Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit watch is as odd a choice of a watch to wear in a racing car’s cockpit as it is a fantastic one to have on seven more ordinary days of the week. Inspired by a very peculiar aspect of motor racing but designed for regular wear, there is a lot under the hood of the Grand Sport Tourbillon for us to marvel at.
It was in 2019 that Laurent Ferrier introduced its Grand Sport watch in steel and followed it up just a year later with an integrated steel bracelet to match. It was an honorable effort from an ultra-niche brand to be at least a little ahead of the curve when it comes to the integrated steel bracelet luxury sports watch trend that dominated luxury watch brand product decisions in 2021 and 2022.
Where’s all the racing inspiration from? Fans of Laurent Ferrier will know it’s a legitimate one — Ferrier and his business partner, François Servanin, have both competed in numerous racing events, and Ferrier won the two-liter prototype category at the 1977 24 Hours of Le Mans. This Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit is, in essence, a sports watch designed by a Le Mans winner. Notice how it nevertheless lacks a chronograph — as I pointed out in my Five Ways The Rolex Daytona Is A Better (And Worse) Watch Than You Might Expect, a chronograph and a tachymeter scale are ridiculous propositions in a racing environment.
The Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit takes a rather more poetic approach to high-profile motor racing inspiration: The aforementioned duo admits loving to reminisce over the perfect time of day to be behind the wheel on the famous Sarthe circuit: sunrise. Anyone who’s ever had the privilege to watch, attend, or compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race will know that when the sky begins to light up after a grueling and seemingly endless night, this is the light at the end of the tunnel for every driver.
Although Laurent Ferrier calls this a salmon-pink dial — probably a more relatable term for its blue-blooded watch collector customer base — the brand also goes on to say that its color was carefully picked to mimic the blazing pink sky when blasting down the Mulsanne straight. And: “Once met by this rosy hue, any notion of victory or defeat, fatigue or ardor — even ambition for the final ranking — faded away. All that remained was an immense joy and the thrill of imagining that they were the sole privileged spectators of this extraordinary ballet of light. It was a moment beyond time, a brief oasis of peace amid the frenetic pace of the race.”
The design of the 44mm-wide and 13.40mm-thick grade 5 titanium case is also said to have been inspired by the curves of race cars, although it is no surprise that it is rather more intricately and elaborately finished than any purpose-built racing machine. Brushed and polished surfaces work in tandem with a cushion-shaped bezel and a rather more curvaceous middle case to trick the eye — is this a round watch or a square-ish one? It’s both at the same time. By contrast, the integrated lugs make for a much more familiar sight than we have seen on countless other watches these days, but it is arguably cool to have such a “sporty” aesthetic on a watch that, as one is always aware, contains true haute horlogerie inside.
Protected by 100 meters of water resistance and featuring a sapphire crystal on the front and the back, the LF619.01 hand-wound movement forms the heart of this design. Measuring just 5.57mm-thick, it’s a 188-part movement with 80 hours of power reserve and, in case you forgot, a tourbillon with two balance springs — head-to-tail mounted — and with peripheral carriage drive. It is ticking away at 3Hz, which is a neat compromise between the old-school, leisurely 2.5Hz and the more modern and stable, but also more frantic-looking 4 Hz operating frequencies. The dark gray ruthenium bridges and plates work beautifully with the darker, muddy shades of grade 5 titanium and are also associated with a sportier aesthetic when compared to the much more common silver-toned movement architectures.
Paired with a three-link titanium bracelet, this “if you know you know” tourbillon stands out in a sea of high-profile luxury integrated bracelet sports watches. The dial, both with its pink base and opaline finish, as well as its oversized hour markers in 18k white gold and generous amounts of Super-LumiNova, has a sporty vibe. The fact that hardly anyone will know the brand and that there’s a beautifully crafted, double-balance-equipped tourbillon within still makes this a “sleeper” in some sense, however (to reference a car enthusiast phrase used for cars that look rather more ordinary but have immense performance).
Fitted with a high-performance engine and inspired by a racing moment certainly relatable to every motor racing enthusiast who’s ever watched a 24 Hours of Le Mans broadcast, the Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit will speak to many watch and car enthusiasts but can only ever be owned by just 15 of them. Price for the Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Pursuit watch is 175,000 CHF. You can learn more at the brand’s website.