Why I Bought It: Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1
“The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul” – Proverbs 13:19
Seems it wasn’t that long ago (but in reality, it was close to a year ago) that I wrote my first “Objects of Desire” article here at Quill & Pad on the topic of the watches of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey (read Objects Of Desire: Greubel Forsey.)
In that article, I set out my major reasons for admiring these two men and their work, but also bemoaned the “fact” that given the prices of their watches I was unlikely to be able to buy any of the ones I truly lusted after anytime soon.
My observation at the time was: “Go big or go home . . . in my case, we are talking Invention Piece, Double Tourbillon Technique, or GMT, any of which would require several years of hardcore saving or the liquidation of much of my current collection.”
Why I Bought It (Now)
So why and how do I now own the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1 you see here?
- The element of surprise: last August, I was in Monterey for the annual automotive “holy week” (read Pebble Beach Classic Car Week 2014: The Enthusiast Collector Goes To Car Heaven) and happened to run into my friendly pre-owned watch dealer, near the ocean at twilight. He only had a minute to talk, but during that time pulled up his sleeve to reveal the watch you see pictured here. Once I saw it in the beautiful pink light of the Pacific sunset, I was hooked.
- Research matters: since the time of the Objects of Desire article, I had been doing my reading and had learned that the Invention Piece 1 is both Robert Greubel’s daily wearer and Stephen Forsey’s favorite watch. Good enough for them, good enough for me!
- Likely suspect: had the piece in question been one of GF’s “simpler” watches (if there is such a thing) I might have passed. But the Invention Piece 1 ticked all of the boxes that I was looking for in a GF watch, from deep dimensionality to multi-axis tourbillon technology to limited-edition rarity.
Falling in love was easy; getting to the altar required some sacrifices, including deciding to sell three core pieces from my collection to raise the bulk of the needed funds. Quill & Pad’s editor-in-chief Elizabeth Doerr even went so far as to call one of the sales a “tragedy!” I do have to say that every time that watch’s new owner (a personal friend and noted watch guy) Instagrams a photo of it I feel a little twinge; but selling to buy is part of the collecting life.
Why I love it
Where to begin? Rather than attempting a comprehensive technical review, I’ll simply mention a few things about this watch that really make me love it.
- Strength in number. Superficial? Perhaps, but I don’t care. This watch is based on the first invention that put Greubel Forsey on the map. The first of the Invention Pieces, my personal watch is number 1 of the eleven made in red gold.
- That bridge: the long, black polished tourbillon bridge spanning the left side of the face of the watch is impressive in photos and jaw-dropping in person. The bridge itself is finished by the watchmaker who assembles the watch from A to Z; as you can imagine, getting a piece that long to be both perfectly flat and perfectly polished is a delicate operation indeed.
- Those words. I realize that not everyone is a fan of the relief-engraved “message to the owner” that Greubel Forsey incorporates into many of its watch designs, but I don’t think I’d want to own one of the brand’s watches that didn’t have this feature. Showing it to you is a bit of a delicate thing, as Stephen routinely asks that the inscriptions not be reproduced in full online, so I won’t show all (or even most) of it, but here’s a sample.
- A place for everything, and everything in its place: coherence, coherence, coherence! If you haven’t watched it yet, I strongly recommend that you take a look at The Watches TV video on finishing at GF posted recently here on Quill & Pad (Stephen Forsey On The Art Of High-End Finishing At Greubel Forsey).
You’ll hear Stephen Forsey say that each finishing choice is “completely integral with the whole of the timepiece” and that with specific reference to the Invention Piece 1, each choice was thought out “from the very beginning.”
And it shows. One example that Stephen pointed out to me when we recently met was the pair of concentric white gold rings that contain the hour and minute numerals – a number of finishing options were tried, but ultimately only the simple frosting we see on the finished product proved effective in allowing us to focus on the “invention” that is centered within the rings.
- Meet the maker, want the watch, I often say. Or in this case, meet the finisher, love the watch! During my visit to Greubel Forsey in January of this year, I had the delightful experience of meeting Séverine Vitali, the finishing department leader and technician who personally finished my watch. The pure emotion of her reunion with “her” watch was something I’ll remember for some time to come.
- Go straight to the source: there’s nothing quite like seeing where your watch was made, and a visit to the Greubel Forsey atelier is like no other with open access to the people and methods behind the watches. And for me, an additional treat was the large mural of the Number 1 Invention Piece 1 at the end of the atrium.
- The logo, yes, the logo! Not the large, stylized “GF” of many of the house’s other pieces; simply the names of the two creators in a simple font. Little things do matter.
- Pure Greubel Forsey: deep dimensionality, multi-axis tourbillon, engraved inscription, audacious feats of finishing – I cringe every time I see the terms “DNA” or “iconic” in a watch review, but I will say that for me this watch represents the very best of all things Greubel Forsey expressing the sentiment of those two terms.
As for the watch itself, I’m loath to come up with any significant changes, or even large nits, to call out. My particular example has a few cosmetic blemishes that you’d expect on a seven-year-old watch, but my expectation is that those will vanish when I have it serviced sometime soon.
In the perfect world, this watch would have come with the uber-cool technical butterfly folding buckle that is standard with the Double Tourbillon Technique. And if I have to nitpick, the darkest brown standard GF strap is still too light in color for me. But these are minor things indeed (and par for the course for obsessive types like myself).
One last thing, though: I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – they’ve gotta work on those names for the different watch models!
If (like Stephen and Robert) your focus is on the series of inventions they designed to improve timekeeping, it makes perfect sense to organize the product line and name the watches based on the relevant innovations.
For anyone except devotees, however, it can get very confusing very quickly. Try to explain to someone that Invention Piece 1 is a double tourbillon; Invention Piece 2 is a quadruple tourbillon but was actually introduced third, not second; and Invention Piece 3, which was actually introduced second, has a single tourbillon.
Is it for you?
I bought it, but is this one right for you? You might want to consider it if:
- The design language of Greubel Forsey watches really speaks to you.
- You understand why the Greubel Forsey philosophy of finishing perfection combined with leading-edge technology, when applied to extremely small production numbers, might just justify the high prices involved.
- You appreciate the Invention Piece approach to highlighting the technical advancements that in other watches in the line are more behind the scenes.
- Not unimportantly, you can devote the needed funds without taking undue risks with your finances, or are willing to sell other treasured pieces to stay within your watch budget.
On the other hand, you should probably pass if:
- You just don’t see what all the fuss is about with these watches or the value/price equation doesn’t make sense for you.
- You have more traditional tastes for watch appearance or don’t like dial-side asymmetry.
- Your collecting mode is more oriented toward owning a broad variety of pieces rather than consolidating to a smaller number of more valuable watches.
- You wouldn’t wear the watch for fear of dinging it (do look at Why You Can’t Afford To Buy Your Watch If You Can’t Afford To Break It).
While I’m hoping this won’t be my only opportunity to buy a watch of this value, it could be; in which case I couldn’t be more pleased with my choice!
Case: red gold, white gold, or platinum; 43.5 x 16.6 mm
Movement: manual winding Caliber GF02N with internal one-minute tourbillon inclined at 30 degrees and outer four-minute tourbillon; 72-hour power reserve from two mainspring barrels; frequency 21,600 vibrations per hour
Limitation: 11 pieces each in rose and white gold and platinum
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve display
Price: $595,000 original retail price; most recent available auction price $331,000 (2010)