Recently, the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 was awarded the prestigious “Men’s Complication Watch Prize” by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).
With 95% of this timepiece – including the hairspring – made using only hand-operated tools, Hand Made 1 required an extraordinary 6,000 hours work, equal to three years man-hours for one single timepiece. This timepiece, unique in the history of watchmaking, is the fruit of a technical and human endeavor of epic proportions, enlisting extraordinary talents. Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey express their sincerest thanks to the GPHG Jury and Academy for this distinction which rewards their work and that of their whole team, honoring hand watchmaking and with it all our watchmaking heritage.
An extraordinary challenge
Greubel Forsey is well known for pushing back boundaries in its research and creations to accomplish what had never even been thought of before. Throughout their training and careers, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have amassed extensive experience of hand craftsmanship. Deeply attached to these ancestral skills, the core of such a rich irreplaceable watchmaking heritage, and determined to pass on their know-how to future generations, Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey have gone to unprecedented lengths by creating Hand Made 1, the first incarnation of this out-and-out approach.
For Greubel Forsey, it is not only about reviving ancient techniques, forgotten gestures, and skills. The aim is to take these skills and know-how to a previously unattained level of excellence and precision, furthering them in the same spirit of constant improvement that has always guided the Inventor watchmakers. The goal is to resurrect the ancestral art of hand-craftsmanship and reinforce it with standards of workmanship and precision rivaling even modern production equipment. To fulfill this exceptional challenge and reach micron-scale accuracy using historical tools, the artisans must obtain a precision that traditional machines themselves cannot easily offer. They rely on “the intelligence of the hand”, endlessly correcting minute details to edge ever closer to perfection, achieve the required quality, and ensure perfect and flawless operation. In this process, the time spent is of secondary importance.
A project of this scale could not be simply incorporated within existing structures or even to just one or two watchmakers. To complete this epic feat, Greubel Forsey had to build a team of the most skilled craftsmen in each field, principally from its workshops, as well as several external talents. This true “family” worked together in complete harmony.
An almost unimaginable feat
Finally, an entirely handmade timepiece, from the movement to the case, to the leather strap, the dial and the hands –the only exceptions being the sapphire crystals, the case gaskets, the spring-bars, the jewels, and the mainspring. To achieve the 95% handmade level with such a high standard of excellence required an astronomical 6,000 hours, considering only the time to hand-make one single timepiece – and not counting the development process. To obtain the 308 components of the Hand Made 1 respecting Greubel Forsey criteria, over 800 parts had to be produced. It took almost 35 times longer to produce the complete tourbillon cage than for a standard high-end tourbillon. Finally, the manufacturing time of a single wheel of the Hand Made 1 is 600 times longer than that of a high-end industrial wheel.
Greubel Forsey’s attention to detail naturally includes the performance of the timepiece. Here, Hand Made 1 displays unprecedented prowess for a hand-made watch, its performance certified by Greubel Forsey.
Hand Made beauty
In this unique endeavor of Greubel Forsey’s handmade craftsmanship, each component has its own development process and journey that makes it unique, undergoing long hours of cutting from the raw material guided only by the eye and the human hand. The technical and aesthetic perfection of this Hand Made 1 timepiece is immediately visible and in true Greubel Forsey style, it attributes equal importance to the invisible beauty of all the parts concealed inside the case. The journey begins with the regulating organ, entirely produced by hand in Greubel Forsey’s workshops, including the balance spring, fashioned from an alloy in the Atelier. The balance wheel is also entirely hand-made with an extraordinary standard of precision and finish. The escape wheel, with its 20 individually cut teeth, each with four surfaces that are later ground, is a true tour de force. Meanwhile, the machining and finishes of the escape lever alone require a month and a half of work.
All the movement’s components are of course then hand-finished true to the finest watchmaking tradition, including the bridges with their polished inner and outer vertical flanks, the unique “Gratté” main plate, and the wheels with hand-polished bevels top and bottom. The open dial stands out with its hand-enameled chapter rings, paired with elegant, finely shaped flame-blued steel hands. Naturally, the 18k white gold case is also, handmade, thanks to a pantograph mechanical lathe fitted with turning tools, before being patiently satin-finished on the sides and polished on the upper surfaces. Created as just two or three timepieces per year, the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 is destined to become a new watchmaking landmark that unites both past and future.
This new step towards the summit in the finest of craftsmanship is signed on the dial at 6 o’clock, where the inscription HAND MADE replaces the usual SWISS MADE.
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com.