Many of the techniques used in creating the Hand Made 1 are such that we now consider as ‘endangered know-how’. It was the Naissance d’une Montre 1 project which took stock and catalogued the ancient techniques and conserved and perpetuated the savoir-faire for the future. Below a few detail shots to illustrate the masterful work:
(tourbillon cage assembled; image (c) Greubel Forsey)
(simple, but superbly made hands)
(have you ever seen such quality in polishing?)
(case flanks and wheel spokes shining brightly)
(detail of the ‘impressionist’ plate decoration)
(what an abundance of delicately composed surface elements!)
A result to savour – and not necessarily obvious!
The Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 is a watch conveniently sitting at the apex of watchmaking – yes, we would be very self-assured to voice such a blank statement. It is the approach chosen, the means employed, and the practical implementation of and perpetuation lessons learned from the Naissance d’une Montre 1 project, which essentially brings it to real life.
We don’t want to hide the fact that when one appreciates the images, or better even holds the watch in the hands, one is tempted to compare it to way less expensive revered watches from the likes of Dufour, Voutilainen or Rexhepi, and one starts to wonder…
… yet here is the point where (specific) knowledge jumps in. All of the above follow the ‘Genevan’ style of finishing, with broad, sparkling and lustrous anglage at the edges and feathery striping of the surface areas. It is very much a ‘rounded’ approach, and thus at its core is fundamentally different to the more exacting ‘Neuchâtelois’ approach to decoration followed by Greubel and Forsey (for those who are not that familiar with Swiss geography, La Chaux-de-Fonds is located in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel).
So what you won’t see in a Greubel Forsey watch are those deeply loved (and easily appreciable) substantive and brightly polished edges on the movement bridges. This is not ‘Neuchâtelois’ … Instead, what is so typical for their watches is the utilisation of finest finishing to emphasise the definition of a work piece:
(Tourbillon bridge; note how precisely the finishing is used to emphasise the sharp definition of the tourbillon bridge)
If you look at the tourbillon top bridge you get a nice illustration of what we refer to here: super-exacting finishing really carved out and expose the tack-sharp juxtaposition of rounded, flat and straight elements. Greubel Forsey is already a master at this, but the Hand Made 1 brings this all to a new (even superior) level.
The way a polished part shines is marvellous, excellent on a level we have not seen before. Note the hands, simple in shape, yet to supremely executed down to the microscopic detail.
This incarnation is all devoted to precision afforded by the mastery of traditional watchmaking tools and techniques to the highest level of skill, and employed such that it can match or even exceed what can be done with machines.
(Hardening of wheels (top); finishing of wheel spokes (bottom). Images (c) Greubel Forsey)
Of course, this cannot come cheap, and particularly so if such a watch comes from the house of Greubel Forsey. This is north of CHF 700K (significantly so…). Start breathing again, please!
The Hand Made 1 is a look back to the past (in terms of traditional watchmaking by hand, but also in there very personal terms of the two founder’s watchmaking upbringing and their tools), and at the same time it offers a pathway to the future, putting the vast amount of know-how compiled through the Naissance d’une Montre 1 project to a practical application.
Appreciating the Hand Made 1 this way, the watch tells us a bit: First, it is a story of diminishing returns to investment, a first-year classical theme for students of economics: if you are already at a very high level, moving further up requires increasingly higher efforts per unit of advancement. If we compare the watch to the best possible fit within the Greubel Forsey range, the Tourbillon 24 Secondes, which is about two times more ‘affordable’, the message is clear. The flip side of the equation is the insight of how much modern techniques have ‘democratised’ finest watchmaking. Yes, we think this statement even applies to watches of the ranks of Greubel Forsey and comparably accomplished watches.
That is a rather rational observation, and it certainly begs the question whether this is a proper approach to such an outstanding watch. What we see is a deeply personal expression of a human-centric watchmaking ethos of both Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. This is important to note as the ‘perfection’ expressed by the remainder of their collection often comes about as ‘cold’ compared to the spectacle of other finestly made watches (finestly – we had to invent this superlative…).
But we need not forget about the regional context of each watch (if considered conceptually at all), the watchmaking terroir if you like, and this is by definition more down to earth in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Make no mistake, this does not mean ‘cheap’…
With the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1, both Robert and Stephen and the entire team of craftspeople involved have put a less discussed watchmaking savoir-faire firmly on the table. They created a new star on the horological firmament, one which we hope many aspiring watchmakers might use as their inspiration and guiding light!