In creating the Balancier Contemporain, a white gold 33-piece limited edition, Greubel Forsey imagined providing a particularly compact showcase for its exclusive balance-wheel system. Creating such a moderately-sized new movement and dial imposed the challenge of maintaining well-balanced forms and pleasing proportions, along with clear legibility and cutting-edge performance. Mission accomplished with this powerfully structured timepiece featuring all the Greubel Forsey signature characteristics.
Inventor Watchmakers Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have made their mark on watchmaking history through a number of mechanical creations, notably the Double Tourbillon 30°, the Quadruple Tourbillon, the GMT, the QP à Équation with its Mechanical Computer, along with the Différentiel d’Égalité and the Grande Sonnerie. Artists at heart, they set the scene for these Fundamental Inventions through timepieces featuring unprecedented aesthetics, mastering asymmetry and balance to provide fresh momentum and playing with depth and volume in exploring all three dimensions. Each of these unique architectural accomplishments is crafted with extreme attention to detail with a particularly consummate skill applied to hand finishing. The result is a unique universe perfectly embodied in the new Balancier Contemporain.
This highly original creation is distinguished by its 39.6 mm diameter, a first from Greubel Forsey which generally builds larger timepieces. The challenge here was not only to house the large balance wheel within a limited space, but above all to achieve optimal proportions and an attractive three-dimensional construction, as well as safeguarding the emblematic aesthetic codes of the timepieces built within the Atelier. A daunting endeavour that required several years of development in order to create an appealing and unmistakably Greubel Forsey creation.
High-performance balance wheel
Since 2004, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have devoted a significant amount of time to opening up whole new horizons for the most daring mechanical complications. They have also turned their attention to the “fundamentals” of watchmaking, investigating them in a spirit of efficiency and perfection. 2017 saw the unveiling of an exclusively designed balance wheel system, entirely developed and crafted in the Greubel Forsey Atelier just outside La Chaux-de-Fonds. The innovative balance wheel is distinguished by its large 12.6 mm diameter ensuring optimal timekeeping stability. To enable fine adjustment of its moment of inertia, the balance rim is fitted with six gold mean-time screws, recessed in order to guarantee optimal aerodynamics by reducing air friction. This results in enhanced chronometric performance and facilitates adjusting by the watchmaker. This exclusive regulating organ was initially launched in a limited edition named ‘Balancier’, within Greubel Forsey’s iconic asymmetrical case in a white gold 43.5 mm-diameter version measuring 13.94 mm high.
With the Balancier Contemporain, Greubel Forsey is offering an entirely new movement within the compact 39.6 mm-diameter, 12.21 mm-high case. An original and engaging display of three-dimensional architecture, this timepiece is suited to all wrists and asserts itself as a new creation in its own right. While maintaining the emblematic large balance wheel, the Inventor Watchmakers entirely rethought this new movement construction so as to trim the dimensions without compromising performance in any way. The manual-winding calibre comprises 225 components, all crafted and finished in the Greubel Forsey spirit of the finest workmanship. It is endowed with a 72-hour power reserve ensuring chronometric performance by means of two series-coupled fast-rotating barrels – one of which is equipped with a slipping spring to avoid excess tension. The movement is also equipped with a crown-activated ‘stop balance’ system enabling timesetting to the nearest second. The white gold case flows into three-dimensional lugs formed from geometry – a subtle and elegant expression of creative skill. These original volumes are accentuated by alternating finishes – polished bezel and lugs, satin-brushed caseband and caseback – creating a play on contrasts that has become a signature of Greubel Forsey timepieces.
Geometry in motion
The entirely reimagined display side plays with split levels as well as various materials and finishes. In this three-dimensional transparent architecture, drawing the gaze into a rotational movement, each of the indications is perfectly highlighted so as to ensure optimal legibility. The offset hours/minutes dial appears at 2 o’clock with its blued steel hands featuring hand-polished countersinks and flat-polished centres, along with its apertures revealing the exclusive Greubel Forsey balance wheel, gear train and three-dimensional tripod bridge. At 10 o’clock, on a slightly lower level, a finely hand-frosted bridge houses the power-reserve display graced by a slender blued steel hand. Just below it, between 8 and 9 o’clock, the small seconds rotates steadily, supported by a frosted and bevelled bridge providing a glimpse of the gilded barrel drum with Greubel Forsey engraving. Proudly showcased at 6 o’clock in keeping with its stature, the exclusive balance wheel is set against the background of a bridge meticulously hand-polished by an experienced craftsman to obtain the famous mirror polish that is a supreme goal for watchmakers. The balance wheel pivots at the top in a slim, carefully bevelled and flat black-polished bridge. This perfectly balanced composition is framed by a slim white gold bezel, while a high-domed sapphire crystal ensures optimum transparency.
Despite being generally hidden from sight, the caseback side of the new Balancier Contemporain, a work of art in itself, is protected beneath a high-domed sapphire crystal and crafted with the same expertly mastered artisanal touch embodied in all Greubel Forsey timepieces. The centre is occupied by an engraved circular red gold plate bearing the GF logo and the individual limited-edition number. It is surrounded by a white gold bridge, relief-engraved with the key Greubel Forsey values and black polished. This credo is further enhanced by characteristic olive-domed jewels in gold chatons, with finely polished countersinks reflecting the deep red hue of the stones. Held by gold security screws, the caseback is signed with raised polished engraving – “Greubel Forsey” and “Balancier” – on a hand-punched background. This timepiece is fitted with a hand-sewn leather or alligator strap, secured by a white gold pin buckle hand-engraved with the Greubel Forsey logo.
The Balancier Contemporain: a unique new combination of technical sophistication and aesthetic elegance, creativity and expertise, signed Greubel Forsey.