Last week, the HODINKEE editorial team spent time with watches that display all kinds of information, from the essential (the time) to the unnecessary-but-neat (the position of the Earth during its annual revolution around the sun, for example) to, in some cases, the downright absurd (a tachymeter scaled to the speed a Bugatti Chiron).
The truth is, collector’s are spoiled for choice these days. Personally, with every passing SIHH, I find myself increasingly disinterested with everything that isn’t a time-only or an ultra-complicated wristwatch. To me, this is where the magic happens. On one end of the spectrum, what you get is the purest expression of a company’s design philosophy, while the other often provides a perverse pleasure in trying to rack the human brain around some of the technical challenges the company chooses to overcome.
Very few watches tend to be both of these things. But when they are, they’re something extra special. The Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision is one of these watches. To call it extra special is even something of an understatement. When it was introduced in 2014, the watch simultaneously became the most affordable Greubel Forsey tourbillon and yet remained one of the most expensive watches in the world, and it raised the question, who spends so much on a time-only (tourbillon) watch?
On paper, this was a watch most independent companies would have released as their first watch – an introducing to the brand, of sorts. A watch that follows the basic fundamentals of classic design, but does just enough to set the tone of a new collection. A perfectly round watch. A conservative watch in terms of sizing. A watch that displays only the hours, minutes, and seconds. And since it’s a Greubel Forsey, there’s a tourbillon, but a single tourbillon – if you needed three more, Greubel Forsey would also have you covered, by the way.
The introduction of a simplified watch was definitely a surprise move by Greubel Forsey, since every model up to that point seemed to take the company in the opposite direction. But it was incredibly well received by the critics, who awarded it the highest prize at the GPHG in 2015, and the initial white gold version spawned a red gold model, which allowed a few more to gain membership into one of the world’s most exclusive owners’ clubs.
Less surprising was Greubel Forsey’s decision to introduce the same reference in platinum a year later, for a more restricted group of enthusiasts. But, in this case, it proved to be extremely popular amongst a significant portion of GF’s following – enough, in fact, to encourage Greubel Forsey to create a small series of three additional dials, in black, blue, and chocolate, following requests from collectors for an alternative to the salmon dial of the first platinum model.
Personally, I thought the chocolate dial was a surprising choice, and the initial rendering of the brown dial had me worried a few days before the fair. Black felt like a safe choice, and we’d seen dials like it before from Greubel Forsey. Same with blue. But, as you and I know, watches often look drastically different in the metal, and this time was no different. In fact, I left the meeting with Greubel Forsey thinking the chocolate dial was the best out of the three new options. It’s rich, nuanced, and just a little bit different.
This is the closest thing Greubel Forsey has to a daily wearer that’s unmistakably elegant but doesn’t bring the unwanted attention that typically comes with super-high-end timekeepers. In combination with a white metal, a brown dial automatically dresses down this reference, much more so than when the same case is paired with a white dial (as with the original model) or with a black dial (as with another of the new platinum models), both of which are touchstones of classic high-end watchmaking. Chocolate is a much more contemporary choice, adopted recently by Patek Philippe (for the Nautilus 5711R) and A. Lange & Söhne (for the Saxonia Automatic), not to mention the Havana brown dials we recently got from F.P. Journe. So, to the original question, who spends that much on a time-only tourbillon watch, I suspect the answer is someone who doesn’t want the world to know he or she is spending that much on one.
This is the first platinum reference from Greubel Forsey that comes with multiple dial options, which include salmon, anthracite black, blue, and chocolate brown. All of them retail for $345,000 and each one is delivered with a matching platinum tang buckle.
For more information, visit Greubel Forsey online.