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Rare Watches: Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3

by Peter Chong on July 29, 2015
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Greubel Forsey is one of those watches which draws attention. Not only for its jaw dropping price tag, but also for the big volume, boldly designed complicated pieces. They came to fame with their concept of inclining the balance by an angle to improve the rate. All their watches offer a three dimensional look, allowing the owner to explore and experience the watch, like one would a landscape. This gave rise to the idea for us to coin the term Watchscape in 2010, to convey that concept being able to explore the watch like a landscape by total immersion in large images made with extreme macro photography.

Greubel Forsey background

Robert Greubel was born in Alsace, France and comes from a watchmaking family began his career in the family business: Greubel Horlogerie. In 1987, he moved to Schaffhausen to work at IWC on the Grand Complication project. He then moved to Le Locle in 1990 to be a prototypist at Renaud & Papi were he subsequently rose up the ranks to Co-Chief Operating Officer and partner.

Stephen Forsey was born in St. Albans, England where he inherited his father’s fascination with mechanics. From 1987, he specialized in antique watch restoration and subsequently became head of Asprey of London’s restoration department. He then moved to Le Locle and joined Robert’s team at Renaud & Papi in 1992 to work on the most complicated movements.

Both Robert and Stephen left Renaud & Papi in 1999 to work independently. In 2001,  they founded CompliTime together and lanched Greubel Forsey in 2004.

 

The Greubel-Forsay manufacture in La Chaux-du-Fonds. A combination of an ultramodern glass and steel facility, visible on the photograph on the left, to a 200 year old farm house.

The Greubel-Forsay manufacture in La Chaux-du-Fonds. A combination of an ultramodern glass and steel facility, visible on the photograph on the left, to a 200 year old farm house.

 

The current manufacture is in an ancient farmhouse in La Chaux-du-Fonds which is a listed rural building, restored by local artisan Gilles Tissot. Known as The Farmhouse, it is the reception area and houses the meeting rooms and a small kitchen for the staff, and an ancient cellar. Directly linked to the Farmhouse is a second building by architect Pierre Studder which houses the Atelier. This building is a thoroughly modern structure of wood, metal, concrete and glass, and rises as a sloping roof from the ground. Quite an amazing sight. We visited the ateliers last year, and was very impressed with the amount of in-house value addition and creativity in the premises. Click here to read that report.

 

The Inventions

The Invention pieces were initially explorations by Robert and Stephen to try to make themselves more than “just anothe watchmaking firm”. They wanted to explore other realms of possibility with their timepieces.

Invention Piece 1 featured their Double Tourbillon 30°, which took four years of research. This invention is a double tourbillon, the outer cage rotating in 4 minutes and a second inner cage containing the balance wheel inclined at 30° which rotates in 60 seconds. While this looks to be a given that it would work as intended now, when they first started to propose the idea, it was then an unknown concept. They had believed intuitively that by inclining the tourbillon cage, the timing rate would improve. This invention proved that it did indeed work. The watches were made in 5N red gold, white gold, and platinum, each available in a limited edition of 11 pieces.

Invention Piece 2 is the Quadruple Tourbillon.

 

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2.

 

Two sets of Double Tourbillons, connected to a spherical differential to obtain a more precise and reliable timing rate. These were made in either 5N red gold or platinum, each in a series of only 11 pieces. We carried a Watchscapes feature on the Invention Piece 2 which can be viewed on this link.

And Invention Piece 3 is the Tourbillon 24 Seconds

 

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3 in 5N red gold.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3 in 5N red gold.

 

This was a return to simplicity, where a single tourbillon is set at a 25° incline to rotate at a fast rotational speed to make one revolution every 24 seconds. Simplicity being hardest to achieve, and the challenge was to create the lightest possible tourbillon cage. Available in either 5N red gold, white gold or platinum, each a limited edition of 11 pieces. One of the red gold pieces is the subject of our article today.

A total of 6 inventions were patented by Greubel and Forsey, the fourth being the Balancier Spiral Binôme, where they explored the use of a non-magnetic material that is not affected by variations in temperature and used the same material for both the balance and the balance spring. A working prototype of synthesised diamond has validated this approach, but to date, no watch has been announced bearing the invention.

Invention no 5 is the  Différentiel d’Egalité to allow a constant force to be transmitted from the mainspring barrel to the balance wheel. The Greubel-Forsey patent uses a spherical differential that receives energy in gradually decreasing amounts from the mainspring (as it unwinds) and releases it in constant amounts to the regulator. This is achieved by a 5 second remontoir: a spring that is rewound once every 5 seconds placed just before the balance. We have also not seen this in a Greubel-Forsey watch yet.

Invention no 6 is the Double Balancier: where two completely separate balance systems are connected by a spherical differential . Each of the balances are set at an angle between them. This was to prove that their initial concept of tilting the balance was the key to a better rate, and a tourbillon was not necessary. This invention has been realised in the GF Double Balancier, the only Greubel-Forsey wristwatch to date which does not feature a tourbillon. Interestingly, Greubel-Forsey does not label this watch Invention Piece 6, but rather the Double Balancier 35°. The series was made in a limited edition of only 6 pieces in white gold with an Antracite gold dial. Technically, this watch can be seen as an extension to Philippe Dufour’s idea realized in his Duality by adding inclines to both the balances.

 

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3

 

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3. The watch is rather more discrete than one would initially imagine with the unorthodox design of the dial, and the tourbillon sticking out as a buldge in the case side. A curved sapphire glass is placed on the buldge to allow the incline tourbillon to be visible from the side.

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3. The watch is rather more discrete than one would initially imagine with the unorthodox design of the dial, and the tourbillon sticking out as a buldge in the case side. A curved sapphire glass is placed on the buldge to allow the incline tourbillon to be visible from the side.

 

The subject watch in our article today is the Invention Piece 3 in 5N red gold, no 9/11 in the series. The watch has been recently acquired by a good Deployant friend and collector, and we now have this exclusive set of photographs to show the magnificence of the watch. This is not a full review of the watch, and is just a photo exploration of this truly magnificent timepiece.

 

The Invention Piece 3 dial is a bit unusual. The red triangle indicates the hour over a 24 hour dial, and the blue triangle the minutes. A small seconds hand is visible at about 4 o'clock on the dial, and a separatte small red triangle shows the power reserve available out of a full autonomy of 72 hours.

The Invention Piece 3 dial is a bit unusual. The red triangle indicates the hour over a 24 hour dial, and the blue triangle the minutes. A small seconds hand is visible at about 4 o’clock on the dial, and a separatte small red triangle shows the power reserve available out of a full autonomy of 72 hours.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1080 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

Please do note that as this is a watch is owned, loved and worn, it bears the marks of its use, as is intended. The case bears light hairline scratches, and dust and dirt accumulated in the crevices. We make no attempts to touch up these, and allow it to shine with the patina of use.

 

The dial in detail. An extract of a message from the inventors describing their creation and their philosophy is very finely engraved on four gold plates. The complete message can be viewed through the display back where it is engraved on a crescent-shaped plate.

The dial in detail. An extract of a message from the inventors describing their creation and their philosophy is very finely engraved on four gold plates. The complete message can be viewed through the display back where it is engraved on a crescent-shaped plate. Of note is the different levels on which each of these subdials live. And the depth perception which gives rise to the landscape/watchscape effect.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1080 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

 

The entire Invention message is relief engraved on a crescent shaped plate.

The full text of the message is available on the back. This message from the Inventors, is in relief engraving, in French, and is intended only for the owner. Stephen repeatedly asks not to reproduce the entire text in a photograph, so here we show a part of the engraving. The keen eyed may still be able to make out parts of the message. The message is unique to each Invention.

 

 

A detail of the tourbillon bridge. The bridge is specular polished, and the finishing is exceptionally well done. Note also the tourbillon staff is beautifully anglaged.To enable the tourbillon to be still visible  under the part of the dial which is cut-out, a portion of the dial is reproduced on a sapphire glass piece.

A detail of the tourbillon bridge. The bridge is specular polished, and the finishing is exceptionally well done. Note also the tourbillon staff is beautifully anglaged. To enable the tourbillon to be still visible under the part of the dial which is cut-out, a portion of the dial is reproduced on a sapphire glass piece.

 

 

The caseback. Movement finishing is exceptional.

The caseback. Movement finishing is exceptional.

 

The watch from the front still looks amazing.

 

Greubel Forsey Invention 3 in red gold.

Greubel Forsey Invention 3 in red gold.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1247 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

 

Detail of the tourbillon bridge from the case back.

Detail of the tourbillon bridge from the case back. Note the rich patina of the German Silver mainplates giving a warm glow to the movement.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1200 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

 

Another view of the tourbillon bridge from the front. In this angle, the incline of the tourbillon is clearly visible.

Another view of the tourbillon bridge from the front. In this angle, the incline of the tourbillon is clearly visible.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1200 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

 

The detail on the dial,. showing the large red triangle for the hour hand and the small blue triangle as the minute hand.

The detail on the dial,. showing the large red triangle for the hour hand and the small blue triangle as the minute hand.

A wallpaper sized image 1920 pixel x 1200 pixel of the above is available on a license free basis only for non-commercial and personal use by clicking this link.

 

A mood shot, with the owner’s Chrome Hearts silver jewellery. Note the beautiful patina on the silver bracelet and ring.

 

gf-inv3-chromeheart

Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 3 with Chrome Hearts bracelet and ring.

 

And finally, a wrist shot

 

gf-inv3-wrist

Wrist shot of the GF Invention 3. The glass cutout window at the bulge of the case side is visible, and one can peek into the case to view the incline tourbillon.

Technical Specs

Mechanical hand-wound movement, Calibre GF 01n
Tourbillon 24 Secondes Incliné, hours and minutes display,
Seconds display and power-reserve indicator.
Unique series of 33 pieces
Patented Movement
Movement dimensions
– Diameter : 36.40 mm
– Thickness : 11.51 mm
Number of parts
– Complete movement : 370 parts
– Tourbillon cage: 87 parts
– Weight of the cage : 0.39 g
Number of jewels
– 42
– Olive-domed jewels in gold chatons
Power reserve
72 hours
Barrels
Rapid rotating twin barrels (1 turn in 3.2 hours) equipped with a slipping spring to avoid excessive tension
Balance wheel
Variable-inertia with gold mean-time screws (10 mm diameter)
Frequency
21,600 vibrations/hour
Balance spring
– Phillips terminal curve
– Geneva-style stud
Main Plates Nickel silver
Bridges
– Nickel silver
– “Message from the Inventor Watchmakers” relief engraved on gold plates
Gearing
– Involute circle profile
– Tangential inclined gear with profiled teeth, on fixed wheel and escape wheel pinion
Tourbillon cage
– Inclined at a 25° angle, 24-second rotation
– Cage pillars in Avional
– Titanium cage bridges
– Gold counterweight
Displays
– 24 hours
– Minutes
– Small seconds
– 72-hour power reserve on a sector
Exterior
Case
– In 5N red gold, white gold or platinum with asymmetrical convex sapphire crystal, 11 watches each
– Transparent back with asymmetrical convex sapphire crystal
– Lateral window with shaped sapphire crystal
– Raised polished engraving of the name of the Invention on a hand-punched background
– Gold security screws
– Polished bezel and centre band with hand-finished straight graining
– Hand-engraved individual number
Case dimensions
– Diameter : 43.50 mm
– Thickness : 16.11 mm
Water resistance of the case
3 ATM – 30 M – 100 FT
Crown
Gold with engraved and black lacquered GF logo
Hands
– Hours (red triangle) and minutes (blue triangle)
– Small seconds in flame-blued polished steel
– Power reserve (red triangle)
Strap
Hand-sewn black and brown alligator leather with gold folding clasp, engraved with the Greubel Forsey logo

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