Greubel Forsey Balancier S2: 20 Years In The Making
On a cold winter day when it doesn’t look like the best weather to be outside, sometimes it is best to relax with a good book. What can make it even better is sitting in your favorite chair to crack open the cover of the latest futuristic sci-fi novel from a breakout author. The chair where you have experienced so many fantastic stories is a warm embrace of home, a place that just feels right.
Because you can relax, you have the freedom to open your mind to new experiences and ideas; so the chair becomes your literary wingman. The familiar combined with the new or unknown isn’t just for nice Sunday reading, it is also a major way that culture moves forward. New ideas tend to meet resistance because people are averse to change. Individuals don’t typically want to change their beliefs, habits, or surroundings.
This is why when civilizations were conquered in the ancient world, the new rulers would try to assimilate the old local religious practices with their new ideas about spirituality. The result was a bunny that lays eggs at Easter and an indoor pine tree lit with candles to celebrate the birth of a Middle Eastern baby. Taking something familiar and combining it with something new is easier for people to digest and accept.
The same happens today with needle drops in media when classic songs are used in new movies to invoke nostalgia, linking the new media to fond memories from the past and allowing the mind to accept a new proposition either in the story or what it says about the world. In this way, a well-worn leather chair is the perfect place to read a futuristic novel because you will be instantly primed to be receptive to the themes within.
Film nerd side note: needle drops occur when a popular song is used in a film instead of an original score in an attempt to create a strong connection or desired feeling during a specific scene. The most successful needle drops carefully consider the intended tone of the scene, match characters or settings, and provide some form of a cathartic effect.
In the watch industry, including established shapes, mechanics, and components within a watch that bucks the norm is a great way to gently pull people along as a watch brand goes in a new direction. Greubel Forsey has subtly mastered this technique, and the new Balancier S2 is the awesomely unique result. A follow-up to the original Balancier S and thematic cousin to the GMT Sport, the Balancier S2 has the warmth of classic Greubel Forsey intermingled with the crisp future of the brand.
Greubel Forsey Balancier S2
When you first discover the Balancier S2 it is obvious that this isn’t the same old Greubel Forsey watch we have come to love. But it also has all the hallmarks of what makes Greubel Forsey great: the classically inspired avant-garde mechanics, industry-leading finishing, and bold aesthetic not for the faint of heart. It is a “simple” watch that displays hours and minutes with a small seconds dial at 8 o’clock plus a power reserve indication at 2 o’clock. That is where the simplicity ends, though, because we still are talking about Greubel Forsey.
The Balancier S2 is functionally very similar to the Balancier S, but it is the details that move the ball forward. The dial is dominated by a large dual-armed bridge that supports the hour and minute pivots, underneath which we can spy a basic gear train. Opposite this bridge is the mainspring, all very similar to the original model.
The dial is split into two main sections, the upper a raised, flat expanse with a steeply tapered edge retreating toward the chapter ring around the perimeter of the dial. The lower section is a 30-degree incline away from the dial, with the crest running from nine to five and the surface angled toward the wearer. This surface bears the small seconds dial and the inclined variable-inertia balance wheel and bridge.
The power reserve indication rests just above the large bridge on the upper section of the dial, all of which follows the layout set by the Balancier S. But the Balancier S2 has taken everything from the Balancier S and tweaked it to make this the most original Greubel Forsey watch to date. Details throughout deviate from what the brand has been doing for 18 years enough that if you put it next to the original Double Tourbillon 30°, the very first watch from the brand, you would not say they are clearly related – or possibly even the same brand.
Small details, big changes
If you look at the entire collection of Greubel Forsey over nearly two decades, it becomes obvious that the Balancier S2 is the latest iteration of a design language that has been slowly shifting and morphing through the years. If Greubel Forsey had dropped this watch as its second model in 2005 following the Double Tourbillon 30°, it is very possible it would have been seen as a death blow for the then-fledgling brand.
But now, 18 years later, Greubel Forsey has laid the groundwork for such a distinct watch to appear in its collection. Let’s start with the most obvious feature: the case. First seen in the GMT Sport of late 2019, it constituted the biggest aesthetic change to Greubel Forsey watches since the introduction of the bulbous Tourbillon 24 Secondes in 2007. The case of the GMT Sport, Balancier S, and S2 features a curved bezel and sapphire crystal that appears perfectly circular when viewed straight on but otherwise has a distinctive elliptical shape.
The GMT Sport used the large elliptical bezel to highlight a feature very familiar to Greubel Forsey fans: high-relief engraving usually seen on case bands and dial components; it was previously taken further on the GMT Earth of 2018. This detail found in the Balancier S tied the two models together aesthetically, also employing the same high-relief engraving on the mainspring barrel that has been a popular style on various dial components from an early Double Tourbillon 30°, Tourbillon 24 Secondes, various Invention Pieces, Art Pieces, and the QP à Équation.
The Balancier S2 has done away with all that would bring it more in line with the traditional models of the collection. The now-polished bezel is reduced in thickness around the crystal to make the case feel less intrusive. The original Balancier S had rubber inserts in the crown and a plain rubber bracelet, both of which are also gone in favor of a previously introduced titanium bracelet or a textured rubber strap that looks a bit more high end.
The hour-and-minute chapter ring from the original Balancier S has been dropped in favor of a stunning new mirror-polished ring with towering hour marker inserts. The edge of the dial is much cleaner with this change and showcases the incredible finishing just a bit more. The changes on the rest of the dial are minor, but some represent aesthetic shifts that are new.
One main aesthetic shift of the Balancier S2 is the mainspring barrel aesthetic. The previous Balancier S had an engraved barrel cover that felt in line with past models with large text and deep engraving, a move to help people become accustomed to the new direction before departing again with something else. The Balancier S2 has an atypical design featuring line art and much smaller text engraving, something that has no analog in the history of the collection.
The same can almost be said for the power reserve indicator. Nearly every power reserve in the history of Greubel Forsey has had a traditional pointer hand of varying shapes and sizes save one: the hand featured on the Invention Piece 3, which debuted back in 2009. That model bore a small triangular marker that traveled along an arc to trace its position. The Balancier S2 takes a cue from this singular example and changes it up, using a small red triangle with a recess that travels along an arced cutout in the dial.
The color, shape, and implementation are generally in line with what has come before but only in very loose terms, otherwise this is a brand-new aesthetic for the brand. It may or may not stick around but it shows that the designers remember where it came from and yet are exploring where it could go. The bridges for the hands and the balance wheel do this as well on a smaller scale. The previous bridges had small recesses cut into their surface, but these are fully skeletonized, unlike any other bridges of this style across the brand.
What it means
A few bridges have been skeletonized in the past, but not like this. The GMT Sport and Balancier S bridges were reminiscent of those earlier skeletonized bridges, which saw two arms reaching out to hold the pivot like on the Balancier, GMT, Invention Piece 2, Grand Sonnerie, QP à Équation, and one Tourbillon 24 Secondes model. The black recesses on the Balancier S and GMT Sport didn’t go all the way through, but the ones on the Balancier S2 do, meaning that, considering an evolutionary path, the bridges are now double skeletonized.
But that doesn’t come out of nowhere, in fact it feels related to the much more standard skeletonized hands seen on so many Greubel Forsey pieces. That is the thematic relation and inspiration, but it is applied in a new way and a new location, taking the S2 further away from what typical Greubel Forsey. With the new color options for the dial, and all these small changes, the Balancier S2 is by far the most forward-looking Greubel Forsey piece in the brand’s history. Yet it is achieved by incorporating small, incredible details from dozens of previous models and understanding what made Greubel Forsey aesthetic what it was and then “coloring outside the lines.”
The number of mouthwatering watches that Greubel Forsey has created over the years, the variety of brand-new ideas and aesthetics it has launched, and the sheer commitment to excellence and creativity is exactly the reason we have the Balancier S2, and why I truly could not guess what is in store for the brand in the future.
The Balancier S2 is definitely a futuristic sci-fi novel read from your favorite comfortable chair on a chilly Sunday afternoon.
It represents the entire history of the brand while alluding to its core values of aesthetic experimentation mixed with industry-leading horology and craftsmanship. This is a watch that only Greubel Forsey could make, and it could only make it right now after laying years of groundwork. I’m happy I got to see the groundwork so I could truly appreciate this new edition to the Greubel Forsey family.
There is nothing I could do to hurt this titanium watch but I’ll still be careful as I break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.89 Greubel Forsey will always be a massively wow-inducing brand, and the Balancier S2 does not end that tradition!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.9» 969.878m/s2 For a watch that takes the typically insane mechanics of Greubel Forsey and pares it back it sure has the ability to keep me up for days on end!
- M.G.R. * 66.5 It doesn’t hurt that the movement is made by Greubel Forsey, but the inclined 30-degree balance and the gear grain that runs up the bridge supporting the hands makes it a geeky movement in its own right!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild The power reserve, such a useful function on a manual-wind watch. And I love this version, though you still will only need children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this movement!
- Ouch Outline * 12.4 Near frostbite on your fingers! Playing in the snow is fun unless you don’t have proper outerwear. When I was a kid I had more than a couple instances of thinking I could play without my gloves and boy did my hands show me I was wrong. Still I would carefully try it again if it meant I got this incredible watch on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * 100 meters?! The most surprising thing about the Balancier S2 was something already seen on the S: the 100-meter water resistance. On a Greubel Forsey watch. Imagine the person who can drop a quarter million Swiss francs on a watch and then takes it a few hundred feet below the surface of the ocean. If that isn’t love I don’t know what is!
- Awesome Total * 830.05 Start with the diameter of the case (46.5) and multiply by the thickness (13.75), then add the meters of water resistance (100) and the answer will be a satisfyingly awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com/en/collection/balancier-s2.
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Balancier S2
Case: 46.5 x 13.75 mm, titanium
Movement: manually wound caliber Balancier S2, 72-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3Hz with 30-degree inclined variable-inertia balance, twin coaxial serially operating fast-rotating spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 88 pieces with charcoal grey dial; 64 pieces with light grey dial
Price: CHF 205,000 (rubber strap); CHF 245,000 (titanium bracelet)
*This article was first published 08 January 2022 at Greubel Forsey Balancier S2: 20 Years In The Making