It takes a lot of confidence to wear a watch that costs more than most Ferraris. It takes even more confidence still to buy and wear such a watch when there is nothing about it – other than the name perhaps – that signifies it is particularly special. Then again, in the right circles sometimes a name carries far more weight than any overt display of wealth ever could, especially when that name is Greubel Forsey.
Now I’m willing to bet that for most of you if and when that name comes up in conversation with your fellow watch aficionados, your mind instantly begins to conjure up images of complex timepieces with wonderfully exotic dials that defy belief. This is not surprising really given that the brand has become somewhat legendary for its innovative creations featuring two, three, sometimes even four tourbillons!
As you might expect each of these timepieces require months, often years of research and development to bring to fruition and so it seems only fair that the results of all that hard work are revealed via the dial for the world to see and appreciate. Plus, when a watch comes with a six, or sometimes even seven-figure price tag attached it kind of needs to stand out a bit from the crowd to justify its extravagant expense to its new owner.
At least that’s the traditional thinking anyway, why else do you think super cars are so outrageously curvy? Aerodynamics are certainly important, but turning heads is even more so. And yet, Greubel Forsey, as with everything they do, chose to buck this trend on at least one occasion and I have to say the results are rather spectacular.
This subtle beauty may not be immediately apparent to all however, which is why today we will be comparing and contrasting two of my favorite Greubel Forsey timepieces; the aptly named Secret Quadruple Tourbillon and the rather more technical sounding (and looking) Asymmetrical Quadruple Tourbillon.
The Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon
As you may have surmised from the names, both pieces featured in this article share a number of things in common, the most obvious being a complex movement featuring four tourbillons. Don’t take that as Greubel Forsey being lazy however, in fact quite the opposite is true. You see the original GF03 movement that powers the Asymmetrical Quadruple Tourbillon actually took five years to develop and is comprised of 531 individual parts, each designed specifically for that timepiece.
The Secret Quadruple Tourbillon – which was released two years later in 2012 – meanwhile features an updated version of this incredible movement, which incorporates Grebuel Forsey’s learnings over those intervening two years. Called the Calibre GF03J, it is comprised of 519 individual parts, 11 less than the original, reflecting the company’s commitment to constant improvement through innovation.
Minor variations aside however, the movements are more or less the same, which is a good thing because they are spectacular. The main drawcards of course are the four tourbillons, although at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking there are only two (or in the case of the Secret version, none at all but more on that later.) This optical illusion stems from the fact that there is actually a tourbillon within the tourbillon, or in other words both escapements are what are known as ‘double-tourbillons.’ This means there is an outer tourbillon and inner tourbillon, each rotating on a different axis from the other. In the case of the Quadruple Tourbillon the outer tourbillon completes one full rotation once every four minutes, whilst the inner tourbillon – which is angled at 30° – completes a full rotation every minute.
The overarching goal here is to achieve the maximum level of accuracy possible with a mechanical movement. That is why both sets of tourbillons are coupled together via a spherical differential (visible on the back side of both pieces) to further improve overall performance. I won’t go into detail about the theoretical effects of tourbillons on the impact of gravity on the movement in different positions but suffice to say before the timepiece leaves Greubel Forsey’s facilities it is regulated for a -1 / +2 seconds variance per day. Compare that to the COSC requirement of -4/+6s and quickly see that Greubel Forsey hold themselves to a completely different standard.
Here’s where things get interesting though, at least for me. On the Asymmetrical Quadruple Tourbillon all of the above is clearly visible thanks to the open-worked nature of the dial. You can see the two double tourbillon cages – each made of 128 parts – in intimate detail and it is immediately apparent why this incredible timepiece comes with a seven figure price tag attached.
The Secret Quadruple Tourbillon is another matter entirely however. As the name suggests the beguiling complexity of the movement is completely hidden away, its secrets known only to its owner who can admire them as his leisure through the sapphire caseback. According to the brand the Quadruple Tourbillon Secret represents a special link between Greubel Forsey and the collector, it is the ultimate expression of sophistication and refinement. This is a timepiece you buy for yourself, not anyone else.
In total there are four different variations of the Quadruple Tourbillon; two versions of the Asymmetrical in platinum and rose gold respectively, and two versions of the Secret, also in platinum and rose gold respectively. All four are presented in the same asymmetrical 43.5mm case and all four are truly spectacular to behold.
The only question that remains therefore is which would you choose?