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Review: Greubel Forsey Signature 1

Full Review, with hands-on analysis, comparisons, high resolution photographs and price.
by  on February 20, 2016
Reviews
Overview
Brand

Greubel Forsey Signature 1

Complication / Type of Watch

Time only

Recommended Retail Price

CHF 150,000 for stainless steel model. Limited edition of 33 pieces, of which 11 will be a limited edition within the limited edition with a blue dial destined for the US market.

CHF 180,000 for red gold and white gold. Limited edition 11 pieces in each metal.

POA (likely CHF 200,000) for platinum. Limited edition of 11 pieces.

Positives

Lowest cost entry into the ultra high end world of Greubel Forsey.

Finish is top grade. Attention to detail is outstanding.

Only Greubel Forsey available in Stainless Steel case.

Negatives

Very expensive for a time only watch. See detailed comparisons in the review.

Some might find the aesthetics a bit showy, as the huge exposed balance takes center stage and becomes the center of attraction.

Rating
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Concept & Originality
Movement
Overall Finishing
Price Performance / Value
Future Outlook
Bottom Line

A new direction for Greubel Forsey where the talent who designed the watch gets his name on the watch, together with the GF branding. What you get is a well designed, well made and magnificently finished timepiece. The cheapest ticket to enter the Greubel Forsey world, now available in stainless steel case but still very expensive.

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Greubel Forsey makes grail watches. We said that. Many times. We will say it again. Greubel Forsey makes grail watches. And when they announce an entry level watch, to be available in stainless steel, we were excited. We wanted to see, touch, feel, experience, hear from Stephen Forsey (Robert Greubel speaks very little English, and we speak almost no French). As we imagined you, our dear readers, would be as well. So here it is. Our full hands-on review of the Greubel Forsey Signature 1.

 

Recommended reading: Our article introducing the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 for a basic background on the watch. While the Signature 1 is available in white gold, red gold, platinum and stainless steel, we only managed to photograph the red gold version.

 

The Greubel Forsey Signature 1

 

The background to this watch is rather interesting. With this Signature 1, Greubel Forsey embarks on the next phase of their development. The Signature series will bear the GF branding, of course, but will also carry the name of the talent who created the timepiece. In the Signature 1, this is Didier J.G. Cretin.

 

Didier J.G. Cretin, Responsable ADN Produit (DNA Product Director) at Greubel Forsey.

Didier J.G. Cretin, Responsable ADN Produit (DNA Product Director) at Greubel Forsey.

 

Diedier is a watchmaker who have been working in Greubel Forsey since 2006. Prior to that he spent a stint working for Philippe Dufour from 2004-2006, having cut his teeth in Audemars Piguet (2000-2004) and Breguet (1989-2000). Impeccable predigree.

For this project, he was basically given a free hand to create a watch which he envision as part of the Greubel Forsey universe. He was able to use the resources available. Interesting concept.

The Signature 1 will be limited to 66 pieces. Of which 11 will be in white gold, 11, red gold, and 11 platinum. Eleven being the normal edition size for Greubel Forsey watches. Read this article to find out why 11. But the Signature will also be offered in stainless steel. A first for a Greubel Forsey. A series of 33 pieces will be in steel. Of which 11 will be with a special blue dial designated for the US market. And the rest on order like a souscription basis. This is an old system where the customer orders a watch, pays a deposit which will be used by the watchmaker to fund the manufacture. And was common in the days of Abraham Louis Breguet.

 

The case, dial and hands

 

The case of the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 is classical Greubel Forsey, though in smaller proportions than regular GF offerings. The case is 41.1mm diameter, and 11.7mm thick.

The case of the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 is classical Greubel Forsey, though in smaller proportions than regular GF offerings. The case is 41.1mm diameter, and 11.7mm thick.

 

We begin with the case. This a rather classic Greubel Forsey shaped case.The case is three piece, with graining finish for the middle case and lugs, a polished bezel and a engraved back bezel with relief engravings. The case middle finish is rather interesting as it is straight grained finishing, but with the edges anglaged and polished.

The dial is also intresting. It is the usual open architecture dial, with a huge aperture to reveal the movement from fourth wheel onwards. The hour and minute dial is like a medallion sitting over the movement plate. A maillechort semi-ring is bolted on the blackened frosted movement, and is finished with Côtes de Genève.

 

Dial detail. Showing the polished sides of the main dial, and the subsidiary seconds sub dial. Also note the magnificent finish on the balance cock - black polished with nice angles. Brilliant design. Near perfect execution.

Dial detail. Showing the polished sides of the main dial, and the subsidiary seconds sub dial. Also note the magnificent finish on the balance cock – black polished with nice angles. Brilliant design. Near perfect execution.

 

The dial proper is in gold, and features small details like polished side edges, and a small cutout to allow the entire balance to be seen. A small subdial, seemingly unsupported emerges from the fourth wheel and carries the direct subsidiary seconds hands.

The hour and minute hands are lance styled and in blued steel with hand anglage.

Pride of place on the face of the watch is the enormous balance wheel. The balance cock is done traditional style, like many tourbillons and is set at an angle to the dial layout. The balance itself is not inclined, but is very large, and made in-house. The balance is variable-inertia with 6 gold mean-time screws and measures 12.60 mm diameter.

 

The movement: GFS1

 

The main focus of the watch, and in fact any Greubel Forsey has to be the movement. The GFS1 which adorns the Signature 1 is no different. The amount of care and attention lavished on the movement is evident. The finishing techniques are a blend of the traditional, like the magnificently finished anglage and Côtes de Genève but also less common techniques like frosting, spotting.

 

The GFS1's caseback reveals a movement which is interestingly specified. A black frosted plate holds the bridges which are in maillechort.

The GFS1’s caseback reveals a movement which is interestingly specified. A black frosted plate holds the bridges which are in maillechort.
Didier Cretin’s name is engraved on the movement. And the Greubel Forsey signature appears in relief engraving on the back bezel, with the model designation and serial number.

 

Of note is the huge bridge which holds the mainspring barrel. It is massive.

 

The barrel bridge is three armed, and massive.

The barrel bridge is three armed, and massive. Note the differential finishing treatments to the various parts of the bridge, showcasing Greubel Forsey’s virtuosity in finishing.

 

The movement is otherwise traditional in every other way. Time indication is hours, minutes and small seconds only. And no other complication is present.

 

Finishing

 

The watch bears the Greubel Forsey signature, and with that comes the expectation that finishing is top grade. The Signature 1 does not disappoint. Not only are the traditional finnisage details supremely executed, Didier has elected to treat each of the parts within the movement (and the case) with a different finish. A showcase of the capabilities within Greubel Forsey to finish. This may end up as a trashy riot of finishing if not for the eye for detail that Didier has, and restraint in the design. Suffice to say, the Signature 1 has its place among the Hall of Fame of Best Finished Watches of all time.

 

Detail of the balance and bridge. Note the black polished bridge with sharp edges. Although the degree of difficulty of a black polished bridge with edges is somewhat lower than that of a conical one, it still requires a very high degree of skill. In the end result, the edges must remain straight. Note that Didier's name is also engraved at the mainplate, and visible below the balance.

Detail of the balance and bridge. Note the black polished bridge with sharp edges. Although the degree of difficulty of a black polished bridge with edges is somewhat lower than that of a conical one, it still requires a very high degree of skill. In the end result, the edges must remain straight.
Note that Didier’s name is also engraved at the mainplate, and visible below the balance.

 

Concluding Thoughts

 

As we draw our conclusions, we find the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 to be a model of excellence. The design carries the traditional GF DNA (afterall Didier is DNA Product Director at GF). With this, the pluses. The design is well balanced, pleasing to the eye. It has the volume to showcase finishing and details. The finishing is superb. And the attention to detail outstanding. But with it is also the negatives. The design can be viewed as loud as it displays its guts for all to see. The watch, though smallish for a Greubel Forsey at 41.1mm diameter, is still not small watch.

 

At 41.4mm diameter, and 11.7mm thick the Signature 1 is not a small watch. But on the author's wrist, it is a good fit, and even slips easily under the cuffs.

At 41.4mm diameter, and 11.7mm thick the Signature 1 is not a small watch. But on the author’s wrist, it is a good fit, and even slips easily under the cuffs.

 

For comparisons, we might draw from the Dufour Simplicity (not in production anymore. Current secondary prices are around S$110,000) A watch designed to be simple. Time only. But very classical in dimensions and design. Very Valee de Joux in finishing style, and perhaps the reference standard for fine finishing.

And its corollary: the Seiko Credor Eichi ( sold out but the the newer Eichi II is now available at ¥ 5.94 million, about S$74,000). The Seiko is equally classical in proportions. And the finishing at a very similar level to the Dufour, as indeed Philippe Dufour himself acted as a consultant to the Japanese team in Shiojiri. But it is a hybrid movement. Interesting in and of itself, but not really a classical movement.

Another comparison might be to the Voutilainen Vingt-8 (CHF 72,000, approximately S$102,000). The Voutilainen features a detent style escapement, and a classical, Breguet style aesthetic (although Kari has and can make to order special execution of dials, some in garish and loud colors.)

All of these are quite a bit less expensive than the Signature 1, and none are made with a stainless steel case. In gold, the comparison price to the GF is an even larger gap as the Signature 1 is priced at CHF 180,000, approximately S$255,000. Perhaps the closest in terms of pricing is the Roger Smith Series II (£100,000, approximately S$201,000), but still a fair bit less expensive. The Smith is hand made by the grandmaster himself, and has his name on the dial. This is worthy of some premium. And the manufacture is in the tradition of George Daniels. So perhaps the Smith is closer to the Greubel Forsey Naissance d’une Montre project than with the Signature 1.

In conclusion, the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 stands on its own. Its unique aesthetics, its interesting conceptualization. In the field of spectacular finishing, the competition described above provides it with a good run for the money. And always at a far less expensive price. Which to choose? As always you have to make up your mind. And at this level, you can do no wrong. So one may view the Signature 1 as a very well designed, very well finished time only watch, with a huge price tag. Or as the cheapest Greubel Forsey ever made. Take you pick.

 

Greubel Forsey Signature 1 Unique edition Technical Specifications

11 pieces in white gold, 11 pieces in 5N red gold,
11 pieces in platinum and 33 pieces in steel
Hand-wound Calibre GFS1 movement
Greubel Forsey timepiece with 3 hands (hour, minute and small second) co-created
with Didier J. G. Cretin • GREUBEL FORSEY balance wheel system
Movement
Movement dimensions
• Diameter : 34.40 mm
• Thickness : 7.40 mm
Number of parts
• Complete movement : 190 parts
• Escapement platform : 61 parts
Number of jewels
• 21
• Olived-domed jewels in gold chatons
Power reserve
• 54 hours
Barrel
• Barrel equipped with a fixed mainspring-bridle
Winding system with sliding click
• Black polished click incorporated
into the barrel bridge
• Snailed click wheel and ratchet, polished
and bevelled ratchet teeth
Balance
• In-house variable-inertia with 6 gold mean-time
screws (12.60 mm diameter)
Frequency
• 18’000 vibrations/hour
Balance spring
• Phillips terminal curve
• Geneva-style stud
Main plates
• Nickel silver, frosted and spotted,
with straight-grained flanks, polished bevelling
and countersinks, large polished inclined facets,
black PVD treatment
Bridges
• Nickel silver, Côtes de Genève, frosted and spotted,
with straight-grained flanks, polished bevelling
and countersinks, large polished inclined facets,
nickel-palladium treatment
• Circular-grained steel barrel bridge, hand-polished
bevelling and countersinks
• Gold plate engraved with the individual number
Escapement platform
• Straight graining steel escapement platform,
hand-polished bevelling and countersinks
• Polished steel pillars
• Flat black polished steel balance wheel bridge,
hand-polished bevelling and countersinks
Gearing
• Involute circle profile
Displays
• Hours and minutes
• Small seconds
Exterior
Case
• In 18k gold, platinum 950 or steel
with convex synthetic sapphire crystal
• Transparent back with synthetic sapphire crystal
• Raised engraving “Signature 1”
and “Greubel Forsey”
• Gold security screws
• Polished and straight-grained bezel
• Polished and straight-grained caseband
• Hand-engraved individual number
(for the 18k gold and platinum 950 versions)
Case dimensions
• Diameter : 41.40 mm
• Thickness : 11.70 mm
Water resistance of the case
• Water-resistant 3 atm – 30 m – 100 ft
(standard NIHS 92-20/SN ISO 22810:2010)
Crown
• In 18k gold, platinum 950 or steel
with engraved and black lacquered GF logo
Dial
• 18k gold and steel versions : white silvered gold,
GREUBEL FORSEY, hours and minutes in black,
diamond finished bevel
• Platinum 950 version : black-anthracite gold dial,
GREUBEL FORSEY, hours and minutes in white,
diamond finished bevel
• Small second in white silvered gold, diamond
finished bevel
Hands
• 18k gold and steel versions : hour and minute
hands in polished blued steel, hand-polished
countersinks
• Platinum 950 version : hour and minute hands
in polished gold, hand-polished countersinks
• Small second in polished blued steel,
hand-polished countersink
Strap and clasp
• Hand-sewn, alligator and leather
• 18k gold, platinum 950 or steel pin buckle,
hand-engraved Greubel Forsey logo
(for the 18k gold and platinum 950 versions)

 

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