Greubel Forsey Balancier 3: Back to Basics, More Accessible (for a Greubel Forsey), and Much More Wearable
by Martin Green
To many, Greubel Forsey is the nec plus ultra in high-end watchmaking. What the brand lacks in history, it makes up for by understanding this and applying old-school watchmaking techniques in a progressive and avant-garde way.
The brand’s passion for complexity, both in finish and mechanics, has always resulted in breathtaking watches.
However, the expression of this passion meant that the movements and all the indicators needed quite a bit of space, meaning that there is no such thing as a smaller Greubel Forsey. The complexity suggested that a lot was happening on a watch’s dial side.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you do this a lot, the inevitable question from the market will arise for something a bit more simple and elegant.
Doing all that, and still being a Greubel Forsey, might be one of the biggest challenges the brand has faced, but they achieved it with flying colors with the Balancier 3.
Smaller is better
For a Greubel Forsey, the Balancier 3 looks like a mid-size watch with a diameter of 41.5mm. This is still substantial, but with the curved case and lack of lugs, it doesn’t really look like it.
Visually, the watch also looks smaller, as Greubel Forsey opted for quite a large crown for easy winding.
On the wrist, all these elements play out in the advantage of wearability, comfort, and overall enjoyment of the watch.
The watch sits nicely on even a smaller wrist, while the crown provides an excellent grip. This is important, as the Balancier 3 is a manual wound watch.
Greubel Forsey also kept the height in check, which measures 13.55mm. As the case is made of titanium, weight is not an issue. The watch is secured on the wrist by a rubber strap fitted with a titanium folding clasp.
While this also plays a role in the excellent wearing comfort of the watch, the rubber is quite sportive, and it would be nice to see this Greubel Forsey on a strap made of different materials, like alligator leather, to create a more high-end look. This is also possible because the Balancier 3 doesn’t fully live up to its sporty appearance, but more about that later.
Simpler is better
While a Greubel Forsey is never simple, the brand found ways to simplify the design. One of them is forgoing the screws on the lug segment of the watch. This creates a cleaner look that works particularly well with its convex shape. Meanwhile, the dial side still offers a lot to see.
For a Greubel Forsey, it is as clean as it gets, and most of its clients probably want it to be. In fact, you get to see everything that makes the watch so unique.
First is the oversized balance wheel, to which the watch owes its name. While the hands found the hour and minute are placed conventionally in the center, the seconds are shown by a running disc. It is held into place by the end of a large bridge. This bridge represents Greubel Forsey’s capabilities when it comes to finishing.
It is so superbly done that goosebumps are included. In fact, any Greubel Forsey needs to be admired under the magnification of a loupe, as then you see that the brand’s determination towards perfection in finishing is at the core of everything they do.
While the Balancier 3 is the most affordable Greubel Forsey, although this is a term that only applies when you are already a multi-millionaire, this finishing is also done by hand.
The dial side also shows us the two mainspring barrels in which the energy for the Balancier 3 is stored. They are coupled in series and fast-rotating, meaning they do a complete turn in 3.2 hours. This offers a chronometric power reserve of 72 hours, although the watch will keep ticking after that, but the accuracy might not be up to Greubel Foresey’s par anymore.
The power reserve indicator is on the back of the watch, keep the dial side nice and clean.
Room for disappointment
While the Balancier 3 was well on its way to becoming one of the most desirable watches to have, there is one thing that really bothers me. While it looks like a high-performance sports watch, it has a water resistance of a mere 50 meters.
One can raise the question, who will ever go swimming with it, but to me, this is like building a supercar that you can’t drive in the rain.
Upping water resistance can be challenging, but it should be something the people at Greubel Forsey fix on a napkin over lunch. In my opinion, this is also the Achilles’ heel for the Balancier 3 to become truly great.
While I hope that Greubel Forsey will address this topic in the near future, it will not stand in the way of the success that the Balancier 3 will undoubtedly be and also deserves.
A mere 88 will be made until 2028. While this is a relatedly large number for Greubel Forsey, it still means that the chances of seeing one in the wild are very limited.
For more information, please visit www.greubelforsey.com/en/watches/balancier-3
Quick Facts Greubel Forsey Balancier 3
Case: 41.5 x 13.35 mm, titanium
Movement: manually wound caliber 2, 72-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3Hz, twin coaxial serially operating fast-rotating spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; power reserve
Limitation: 88 pieces
Price: CHF 160,000 (rubber strap)
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