In the world of haute horlogerie, that’s to say high horology, the concept of an artisan-made example of craftsmanship is commonly thrown about. However, extremely few watches, even at the highest levels, actually come close to being entirely handmade. This is what immediately differentiates the new Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1.
The new Greubel Forsey is a true rarity, as even the incredible Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime includes a significant amount of automation in its creation. By contrast, 95% of the 308 components of the Hand Made 1 are made without automated assistance and so any machinery is operated entirely by hand. Beginning with the exterior, we see an 18K white gold case which is made with a pantograph mechanical lathe and then brushed and polished by hand to perfection.
“…a single screw can require 8 hours of work…”
The movement, visible as a component of the dial, is clearly the centrepiece of a project designed to show true handmade watchmaking. Putting aside case components such as the spring bars, gaskets and sapphire crystal, the only movement components of the 272 parts needed which are not handmade are the jewels and mainspring. This is to say that everything from the tourbillon cage to the wheels have been made by hand. The former requires 35 times longer than a standard tourbillon cage to produce whilst the latter takes 600 times longer. This is put into perspective when one considers that a single screw can require 8 hours of work and the completion of the escape lever needs a full month and a half.
“The bevelling on the carriage is sublime…”
From a technical perspective, the production of each part by hand requires significantly more than simply time (which, in the case of this watch, is a scarcely-believable 6,000 hours). It has also required the redesigning of parts in order to make hand production a possibility. This is the result of modern watchmaking often working to the limits of automated manufacturing with little consideration for still being achievable by hand. An example of this is the tourbillon carriage which is composed of 69 parts in this watch, a marked increase on a CNC-made equivalent. We should briefly pause on the tourbillon as it is, in truth, a speciality of Greubel Forsey. Having produced a quadruple tourbillon, this more simple arrangement seems more basic, yet this should not detract from its unadulterated beauty. The bevelling on the carriage is sublime, and even the circular shape of a balance wheel has been reformed to allow weighting screws to not increase its diameter.
Unlike the usual works of the origin of this project, found in the team making prototypes for Greubel Forsey, the Hand Made 1 is finished in complete accordance with the standards expected of this name. The bevels of the plates and wheels are all executed with immense care, thus giving sharp inside angles to the anglage — a finish beyond the capabilities of machinery. To further add to the gentle matted effect on large areas of the movement, we are given a view of gold chatons around jewelling and a charming “Gratté” (French for “scratched”) effect on the rear side.
“…the ultimate goal of showing the fruit of the craftsman’s hand.”
Due to the skeletonised nature of the display, dial components are sparse. What we are given is of the highest standard, though. The chapter and second rings, seemingly floating over the movement, are hand-enamelled whilst the hands are flame-blued steel for a rich colour. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the appearance of the watch echoes the brand from the hands to the proportions. Crucially, though, it does not allow any distractions from the ultimate goal of showing the fruit of the craftsman’s hand.
Greubel Forsey plans to make two or three of these watches each year, which means that it will command a very significant price. I do not, however, view this as a necessarily bad thing considering that it is the rarity and the time taken to make each watch which makes it so special and such an incredible spectacle.
Pricing: As of yet unavailable, and produced in 2 – 3 examples per year
- Dimensions: 43.5mm x 13.5mm
- Material: 18K White Gold
- Crystal: Sapphire Crystal
- Dial: Skeletonised dial with exposed tourbillon, chapter ring and seconds ring are hand-enamelled
- Hands: Arrowhead shaped spade hands in flame-blued steel
- Water Resistance: 3 ATM / 30m
- Movement: Manually wound, one-minute tourbillon, 60-hour power reserve, 3Hz / 21,600 vph / 6 ticks per second
For more, take a look at Greubel Forsey’s website