Mothers Of Invention: Behind The Lens With Invention Pieces 1 And 2 By Greubel Forsey
A year before I was able to sell off several pieces from my collection to afford a Greubel Forsey watch of my own, I waxed philosophical about why I am so enthralled by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey’s creations and at the same time expressed a special affection for their Invention Pieces: watches that to some extent de-emphasize the display of time to give primacy to showing off one of the fundamental technical innovations incorporated in the brand’s watches.
When the time came, I was delighted to take possession of an Invention Piece 1 with its inclined double tourbillon. And shortly thereafter, a good friend of mine jumped in as well with his purchase of the quadruple-tourbillon Invention Piece 2 in platinum.
Ever since, I’ve been dying to get these two gorgeous monsters side by side in the light tent, and the time has finally come!
Zooming in on the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2
Since I’ve featured my Invention Piece 1 here before, let’s first turn our attention to a good, hard look at the Invention Piece 2.
There is, of course, a display of the hours and minutes visible at the lower right of the dial side, but the obvious emphasis of this piece is on the pair of double tourbillons at lower left and upper right linked by the visible differential mechanism at center.
One of the coolest things about this watch is that the two double tourbillon cages are opposed vertically; the left-hand cage (and tourbillon mechanism) seen above is oriented with the top of the tourbillon assembly toward the back side of the watch, while the right-hand cage seen below puts the upper end of the mechanism toward the dial.
The right-hand cage is topped with a sapphire crystal piece that tracks the passage of the four-minute period of the outer tourbillon, indicated by one of my favorite bits in any watch made: the tiny sapphire crystal needle with its own beautifully finished mounting that you see on the right side of the image above.
It’s also noteworthy that the reverse orientation of the two double cages required some real ingenuity in designing the linkages of their outer toothed rings to the central differential. If you check out the photo below, in addition to gaining an appreciation for the deep dimensionality of this movement you should be able to spy the left-hand cage engaging with the bottom wheel of the differential assembly.
And while we’re at it, please take the time as you check out all of the photos of this watch to admire the wonderful black polishing of many of the elements as evidenced not only by the blackness of some of the surfaces but the flawless gradients of light between the dark and light portions of the components – and the “GF-level” finishing overall, from the smooth bevels to the dramatic frosting of the main dial areas.
Things get even more interesting with this particular watch when we take a look at the back. First of all, the view of the counter-positioned double tourbillons is in my opinion at least as good from the back as from the front, and we are treated to two more gorgeous examples of black polished bridges as well. There’s also the “owners’ only” inscription describing the philosophy of the watch (blurred in these photos as usual at the request of Stephen Forsey) and the bright pink gold medallion at the center.
All in all, from my perspective perhaps the most compelling reverse side of any of Greubel Forsey’s pieces with the potential exception of the GMT Earth.
Take one more look at the image above and you’ll probably pick up one of the most exceptional things about this watch: at the request of the owner and with the kind agreement and characteristically brilliant workmanship of Greubel Forsey, this watch is an “Exécution Spéciale” in which the original platinum case has been replaced with a stunningly crafted, ultra-lightweight titanium version.
The polishing on the titanium is not to be believed: in the photo below just take a look at the reflection in the shiny portion of the case back bezel of the “Invention Piece 2” engraving. And for good measure, I’ve left just a bit of the etched personal message visible to give you a sense of the quality of that work.
As a side note, I’m still loving the opportunity to use the Hasselblad X1D to capture scenes like these; in particular, the resolution is mind-blowing, and the color rendering (at least prior to uploading compression) shows the subtle but clear distinctions between the colors of the titanium case, steel bridge, and white gold message plate in the image above.
Head to head: Greubel Forsey Invention Pieces 1 and 2
But, hey – let’s not forget the Invention Piece 1 in all of this!
The Invention Piece 1 is built to feature a single example of the double tourbillon cages that you’ve been seeing in the Invention Piece 2 so far. And there’s no mistake about the intended focal point, especially when the light is just right to make the balance wheel and tourbillon cages flash against their dark background.
Of course, there’s also “that bridge”: the ever so long, ever so perfect black-polished bridge that stretches across the watch and locates the twin tourbillon assembly from above without obscuring it from our view.
Seen side by side, from my perspective the Invention Piece 1 is perhaps a bit more elegant than the Invention Piece 2, which especially in white metal has an extremely purposeful, almost industrial, look.
Part of the interest of the Invention Piece 2, at least for me, are the bulges in the case that allow for the two double tourbillon assemblies to be placed far apart while still maintaining a 43.5 mm diameter for the main body of the watch.
I know that these aren’t to everyone’s taste, but I actually quite like them and I do appreciate the difficulty both of fabricating a case with these complex shapes and the extreme skill required to make a domed sapphire crystal that smoothly covers the void below. And I also appreciate the side view that the sapphire crystal window in the left-hand bulge affords of the workings of one of the twin tourbillons.
Seen from the back, the Invention Piece 1 reveals somewhat less than its counterpart, but I could still spend hours enjoying that big crescent-shaped arc of metal with its brilliantly polished edges and sharply etched words.
I thought to grab a quick shot of the two watches as seen from the side: if anything the Invention Piece 2 has a slightly more sophisticated profile with a slight radial bulge in the case band as compared with its more slab-sided counterpart and more organic front and rear bezel contours. These are small distinctions, though, and which (if either) you prefer is very much a matter of personal taste.
Finally, let’s go down to the ends of the straps and check out the buckles. While my red gold deployant is beautiful and classically made, there’s definitely a lot to be said for the angular looks and crisp action of the technical buckle affixed to my buddy’s Invention Piece 2. And the fact that it is a unique piece made just for him in titanium to match the case of his watch ups the ante another level or two as well!
On the wrist: Greubel Forsey Invention Pieces 1 and 2
Okay, so I love how they look in the light tent. But what about on the wrist?
I like wearing heavy watches, and my Invention Piece 1 does not disappoint; but despite its heft and the thickness of the case, it sits nicely balanced on the wrist and the substantial deployant on the reverse side of the wrist does its job in helping to keep things stable.
In the horological dictionary, there should be a picture of the Invention Piece 2 on the wrist next to the entry for “wrist presence.” This thing just demands attention, and in its unique titanium guise the Invention Piece 2 is unbelievably wearable, almost forgettable until you see it peeking out from under your cuff.
And as long as I had the chance, I went all the way and (very, very carefully) strapped both of these bad boys onto the same arm for a quick side-by-side comparison.
If I have a criticism of the Invention Piece 2, it has to be the relative illegibility of the time indication, and as long as I’m at it I’ll mention that its indication of minutes turns the “wrong” way for my tastes, with the numeral ring turning clockwise (and by implication, the fixed blue minute pointer “traveling” counterclockwise a result as seen by the brain).
If I actually need to read the time, I’ll take the Invention Piece 1 any time.
So, which one?
From a practical perspective I don’t need to worry too much about this question as my Invention Piece 1 is already paid for, and my buddy is not remotely interested in selling his unique Invention Piece 2.
But as you can probably tell, I’m absolutely in love with his watch! If a big bag of Krugerrands fell from the sky into my backyard overnight, I’d be looking for an Invention Piece 2 of my own to add to my collection (and, perhaps not surprisingly, an Invention Piece 3 as well to complete the trifecta).
For now, though, I’ll just keep thanking my lucky stars for my Invention Piece 1 and I’ll look for your preferences in the comments below.
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com/en/collection/invention-piece.
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1
Case: 43.5 x 16.6 mm, red gold, white gold, and platinum
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; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve display
Limitation: 11 pieces each in red gold, white gold, and platinum
Price: $595,000 original retail price; most recent available auction price $225,000 (2016)
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2
Case: 43.5 x 16.28 mm, red gold and platinum
Movement: manual winding Caliber GF03N with a pair of twin tourbillon escapements each consisting of an internal one-minute tourbillon inclined at 30 degrees and outer four-minute tourbillon; 56-hour power reserve from two mainspring barrels; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve display
Limitation: 11 pieces each in pink gold, white gold and platinum (one converted to titanium)
Price: $750,000 original retail price; no available recent auction results
Also published on Medium.