The Watchnerdiest Prize Ever: The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30° Meccano Model. And One Could Be Yours!
Toys! For almost every person in the world, toys are a staple of childhood. Depending on your place of birth and socioeconomic background they may have been the newest video game, hottest action figure, or a hand carved figurine passed down from a grandparent.
Whatever they were, the toys of your childhood helped you develop your imagination, motor skills, and understanding of complex concepts only discoverable through play.
Every child plays with toys of some sort and in my case, they also provided me with the perpetual fascination to learn about mechanisms and assemblies. Like many children before me, my formative years consisted of putting things together and taking them apart (or vise versa). Beginning with Lincoln Logs and culminating in advanced Lego and Erector sets.
Oh how I loved those toys. They turned me into a racecar mechanic, a ship builder, an architect, a roller coaster designer, and a bridge engineer. Of course, all of those things would fit on a table and were made out of bits and bobs taken from other contraptions.
Nevertheless, I created marvels, in my eyes, out of nothing more than standard components available to anyone.
I would love to say that I invented cool machines or made news-worthy constructions, but realistically my creations only wowed my easy-to-please parents. Some other children, however, were truly destined for bigger and better things, and those simple toys of their childhood helped them on their way to greatness.
What this has to do with watchmaking?
One of these toys culminates in a coveted prize here on Quill & Pad. What prize might that be? Well, if you have to ask, I know someone who isn’t getting a participation lollipop this week.
The answer to my question and proof you have been paying attention is listed on the giveaway page for the launch party of Quill & Pad. It is none other than the rare, and historically significant Meccano model of the Double Tourbillon 30° from Greubel Forsey.
When I say rare, I mean so rare that only the most honored and loyal friends and collectors of the brand can get them. They aren’t for sale, and even the wealthiest of clients have been turned down if they aren’t in the inner circle simply because there are so few. Oh, and they are entirely spoken for, so if you weren’t already notified that you were getting one, you are sadly out of luck.
But – wonder of wonders – we have one for you! On a personal note, please don’t rub it in when you win, everyone here would LOVE to own it but, alas, it is destined for only one very lucky fan of this publication from our good friends at Greubel Forsey.
More on the rarity factor later, what is probably more intriguing and important at this point is why it is historically significant. And what a doozy of a story this is.
Let’s begin with Stephen Forsey’s childhood, when his father gave him a toy from his own childhood, a very well-used Meccano set. Forsey undoubtedly played a lot with the set, like I did with my erector sets, and even bought more pieces to expand what he could construct.
He perhaps doubled what his father had originally given him and thus had a solid collection of Meccano pieces to make concrete whatever his mind could think of. As he grew, the set stayed with him, though he might have played with it less as the years passed.
Down the road, Forsey worked on complications at (Audemars Piguet) Renaud & Papi (APRP), where he met Robert Greubel, and they instantly connected as like-minded professionals. In 1999, Forsey and Greubel left APRP to work independently, and in 2001 they co-founded CompliTime SA to specialize in developing and producing complications and mechanisms for watch brands.
During this time, an idea emerged to tackle the longstanding issue of consistency with the balance and tourbillon mechanisms. Their idea, an inclined tourbillon, led to many drawings and proposals to brands in the industry. At a time when resources were not as abundant as they might be now, the duo lacked the technical capability to develop a three-dimensional model to properly visualize their idea.
One weekend in 2002 while Forsey was wracking his brain to think of a way to quickly get the idea of a double-inclined tourbillon into three dimensions, inspiration struck. He got out his old Meccano set and got to work.
On Monday, Forsey brought his weekend project to show Greubel and the rest, as they say, is history. The very first physical model of the Double Tourbillon 30° had been assembled out of well-worn pieces of a children’s toy. This, however, proved to be the catalyst they needed. Armed with new confidence in their idea now that they had seen it “in the flesh,” they set to work.
They shopped their concept around and met enthusiasm dampened by hesitation since, at the time, super complications were still considered a millionaire’s toy belonging in the realm of bespoke commissions – their Double Tourbillon just didn’t look to have commercial appeal.
Running on the heels of this response, Greubel and Forsey thought the complication was too good to waste, so set about developing it themselves, which in 2004 gave birth to the Greubel Forsey marque.
Since then, this ultra-exclusive boutique brand has exploded onto the scene, and the duo’s ideas have created a revolution in the industry, aiding in ushering in the era of super complications that we live in today.
And it all started with a simple childhood toy, the ever popular Meccano.
Put to good use
Occasionally, the Meccano model came out in presentations to journalists to help illustrate how the double tourbillon mechanism worked, and it was always popular with those lucky few who had the good fortune to have seen it.
As a friendly reminder, that “childhood” toy eventually gave rise to a timepiece, the Double Tourbillon Technique, which won top honors and boasted a record score in the 2011 Concours International de Chronométrie (a top score that still stands today). That’s an achievement that is always worth mentioning.
I bet Stephen’s father could not have known what eventually would become of his toy as he passed it on to his young son. Oh, the places you’ll go! Random book-nerd side note: that was a quote from the distinguished Dr. Seuss.
With brains in his head and Meccano in his hands, Forsey unknowingly created the legacy for his future brand and helped to cement the idea as a winner. Now, in 2014, Greubel Forsey turns the ripe young age of ten.
To celebrate the brand’s beginnings, it has created a very exclusive and limited set of that Meccano model of the Double Tourbillon 30°.
And that is where the concept gets complicated again. Many of the parts needed for the new Meccano models have not been in production for ten years or more. So a worldwide search for the required components began (thank you, eBay), and once located, many had to be cleaned, modified, and repainted to match the originals.
The idea now in planning for more than six months made its own debut at SIHH 2014 with the first models made available to a highly select clientele. And I do mean select. In all, Greubel Forsey sourced enough parts for 150 models, each numbered, with the first gifted during SIHH. And all are already spoken for, so don’t get your hopes up.
Completely, absolutely unavailable
I guess completely and absolutely unavailable would be a fitting description for this Meccano model. And since it was never – and should never be – for sale, it can be considered a much rarer piece even than a Greubel Forsey timepiece. As limited and unique as those are, if you have the cash (which is no small sum), you might possibly score one eventually.
But a Meccano model, each of which is ultimately unique due to its handcrafted nature, doesn’t require cash, it requires a close personal connection to the brand, its founders, and a relationship of merit that cannot be bought but must be earned.
In this instance, it truly is about how many Greubel Forsey timepieces you have in your collection rather than who you know, though the chances are that if you have more than one Greubel Forsey watch, you are very likely to know the right people, i.e. Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey.
But there is another chance!
Or for one fortunate SOB (Seriously Obsessed Bloke/Blokette) who follows Quill & Pad, it is a matter of luck! All you need to do is sign up for Quill & Pad’s weekly newsletter and you will be entered for a chance to win this amazing piece of horological history.
That, and 26 other prizes. I mean, seriously, we are giving away boatloads of awesome stuff. It actually makes me a little sad that I am ineligible because there are so many awesome prizes.
My sadness can be your happiness, though, so don’t hesitate to sign up. .And while you’re at it, check out our articles about all things watches. We think they are pretty good; you might think so too.
Also, please be sure to read about my article about the Double Tourbillon 30° that took top prize at the Concours International de Chronométrie and check out Greubel Forsey’s other awesomazing pieces.
And if you haven’t already, click here to dicover what you can win and how: Quill & Pad Celebrates Launch With Free Prize Giveaway