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One might say that the history of watchmaking since the first mechanical inventions of the 15th century is the evolution and the refinement of the art of creating a perfect timepiece. It is this singular ambition from design, research, invention, dedicated expertise and craftsmanship to the application of exacting manufacturing techniques that has led to the creation of the great time pieces of today.
Despite the quartz crisis which seemed to take over from mechanical watchmaking for a time, the creation of authentic timepieces is certainly in its renaissance for the connoisseurs of quality and aesthetic beauty. One eminent custodian of the long traditions of creating the perfect timepiece is Greubel Forsey’s workshop in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
The location reflects the long tradition of Swiss watchmaking with the town once being the world capital of watchmaking. Established in 2004, Greubel Forsey’s state-of-the-art facility is light and airy allowing technical expertise and craftsmanship to flourish under the driving passions of maitres Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. Despite its modernity, the workshop reaches back to earlier times when watches were created in small workshops under a master using the top floors of houses to receive natural light.
For the past decade, the Greubel Forsey team has worked on creating timepieces of absolute unique refinement, aesthetics and design. Forsey and Greubel continue to take technical expertise and invention to the next level with several innovations at the cutting edge of the finest watchmaking traditions. The two watchmakers are the creators of seven mechanical inventions, five of which are now on the market. These complications form the heart of exceptional timepieces, generally only produced in limited editions.
Greubel, who was born in 1960, and grew up in Alsace, France, discovered his vocation for precision mechanics very early on. As a child he observed the work of his watchmaker father, before joining the family firm Greubel Horlogerie. His passion for watch movements with complications was to determine the development of his professional career.
Forsey, who was born in 1967, is from St Albans, north of London, and was mentored in the subtleties of the mechanics of watchmaking from his father. His grandfather had been an engineer with Bentley Motors and Forsey was inculcated at an early age with a passion for cars and all things mechanical.
From 1987, Forsey specialised in the restoration of old watches including a period as restoration service manager with Asprey, London. In the 1990s, further training at the Swiss school WOSTEP (Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program, Neuchâtel) followed, further honing his expertise.
For Forsey, a watch is all about a relationship with time and his challenge is to constantly improve technical performance and mechanical precision.
“With 100 people in the Swiss manufacturing facility and with 100 watches manufactured each year, the skills and artistry required are profound and intense,” Forsey says.
The two watchmakers met in the early 1990s, and later collaborated to perfect the tourbillon movement, creating a separate company that designed and produced mechanisms with complications for leading watch brands.
A more perfect tourbillon allowed Greubel and Forsey to develop higher accuracy than in conventional movements.
Originally developed by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1801, a tourbillon aims to counter the effects of gravity on a watch by mounting the escapment in a rotating cage.
Following the establishment of Greubel Forsey in 2004, the company’s first model, a double tourbillon 30 degree, was presented at Baselworld, the leading show for the world’s watch and jewellery industry. In 2005, Greubel Forsey presented a quadruple tourbillon using two double-tourbillons working independently. Every year, the Greubel Forsey workshop has presented innovative designs and inventions to the world based upon the creative and mechanical expertise of the two master watchmakers.
“The level of sophistication and discernment by our clients is very deep and their expectations are also extremely high. In fact, the owners of our timepieces are perceived as custodians of the long and deep traditions of watchmaking as well as unique high-value piece of expert craftsmanship,” he concludes.
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