A cathedral dedicated to Time

Set in the Jura mountains of Europe at an altitude of over 1000 m, Greubel Forsey’s Atelier is the first building of its type built at this altitude

A hymn to beauty, a cathedral of watchmaking expertise—the Greubel Forsey Farm and Atelier draws its roots from a 17th century farmhouse restored with the utmost respect. Inspired by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey who, together, shaped the Greubel Forsey Workshop in their own image. It’s a place that is filled with spirit, a building that asserts consistency and an architecture that expresses itself with audacity. In contrast, the modern and functional Atelier seems to rise from the earth, breaking ground to venture into the future.

“For Mr Greubel and myself as watchmakers it was natural for us to find a home for creating our timepieces here. The farm itself dates back to the 17th century and probably had some watchmaking activity here. Back in time 300 years ago some watchmaking took place in cottage industry in farm-houses like these,” says Stephen Forsey, co-founder.

To enter the Greubel Forsey Atelier is to enter a unique place, to experience something that goes beyond simply visiting a watchmaking manufacture. There are workshops like those of painters or sculptors where one feels the abundance of ideas and creativity through the works being created, in a joyful mess of colours and aromas. You step into an area where there is no noise, no dust, but light and serene calm for the precision work of the watchmaking craftsmen.

Inside, an immense atrium reveals itself, with a voluminous sloping roof open to light and, below, an elevator whose facades are decorated with sketches of tourbillons. On either side of this perspective, the workshops are arranged like aisles, dedicated to the watchmaking excellence of Greubel Forsey.

It is indeed a true manufacture, where by definition everyone works with their hands, but also their soul and heart. That which the Greubel Forsey Atelier rightly calls ‘handmade’, crafted with the intelligence of the hand, guided by the sensitivity of the heart and the soul. The search for performance, aesthetics and perfection are also expressed in the concept of its buildings.

Outside, the new building emerges from the ground as if pushed by a superior earthly force, rising like the geological formation of the Jura Mountains. The workshop rises to the summits, an irreversible movement in complete transparency, drawing its strength from the foundations of a farmhouse with stone walls that are several hundred years old, which once housed local watchmakers. The two united buildings express the spirit of Greubel Forsey: protecting ancestral heritage by inventing the mechanical watchmaking of the future.
Concentrated technology, combining tradition and modernity, the site reflects Greubel Forsey timepieces perfectly. Here are the two most exceptional timepieces from the Manufacture:

Grande Sonnerie

The Grande Sonnerie is the most exceptional of watchmaking complications. Eleven years of research and development were required to conceive and perfect this extraordinary creation. The timepiece features a resolutely contemporary and intuitive asymmetrical dial. It’s pure, crystalline chime is generated by the hammers and cathedral gongs within a unique titanium acoustic resonance cage. Its mechanisms can be distinguished on the movement side, revealing some of the 935 components. An extremely rare feat: Greubel Forsey’s Grande Sonnerie is water-resistant, without compromising its remarkable sound. The most important elements and indications (such as the tourbillon, the cathedral gongs, the striking hammers, and the power reserve and mode indicators) were incorporated with the greatest care to ensure architectural balance. This timepiece has three modes to choose from: Grande Sonnerie (which strikes the hours and the quarters in passing), Petite Sonnerie (which strikes the full hours in passing) and Silence (which does not strike in passing). The pure and rich sound of the Grande Sonnerie is enhanced by an acoustic resonance cage made from titanium. Greubel Forsey is now part of the very exclusive circle of the few watchmakers offering a Grande Sonnerie.

GMT Quadruple Tourbillon

In bringing the Quadruple Tourbillon and the GMT mechanisms together, Greubel Forsey not only accomplished a major technical feat that led to the creation of a new hand-wound calibre comprising 705 parts, including three fast-rotating barrels. The Inventor Watchmakers also tackled this challenge from an architectural angle to create a timepiece in which the three-dimensional approach is expressed on many levels.

The main hours/minutes dial between 1 and 2 o’clock forms the highest point of the dial, where it is underlined by the subtle asymmetry of the case and complemented by a 72-hour chronometric power-reserve display. The next level is it at 4 o’clock, with the coaxial small seconds and second time zone display which is adjustable in one-hour increments by means of a pusher. Located between 8 and 9 o’clock, observers can admire the spectacular sight of the Earth in motion, surrounded by a fixed 24 hours ring around the Equator and displaying local time for all the longitudes – simultaneously taking account of the day/night indicator (on respectively light/dark zones).

Universal time is visible through the case back, with a fixed 24-hour scale bearing day/night zones and a disk with three-letter abbreviations of 24 cities representing the various time zones. This disk also distinguishes between the time zones that implement Summer Time (Daylight Saving Time) appearing in a light colour; and those that do not (shown on a dark backdrop). The case back also provides a chance to admire the Quadruple Tourbillon as well as frosted bridges with jewels set in gold chatons. The two complex asymmetrical convex sapphire crystals protecting the dial and case back also called for the utmost expertise.

(Pictures: Rahul Sawant)