Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 Reviewed by Tim Mosso

by Tim Mosso

It’s a coming-of-age experience. Every watch collector starts as a watch enthusiast, and every watch enthusiast seems to believe – at first – that all luxury watches are laboriously crafted by hand. Disillusionment typically arrives around the time we learn that it doesn’t take “one year to make a Rolex,” and it’s a sobering experience.

But what happens when we encounter the opposite – something made literally the way we first imagined a watch should be crafted?

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Greubel Forsey’s Hand Made 1 is the answer to that question. It’s as much an embodiment of ideals as it is a watch. This is the luxury watch as our callow selves dreamt it.

One’s first impression upon encountering the $830,000 Hand Made 1 is that it’s remarkably compact, uncomplicated, and straightforward for a Greubel Forsey product. Unlike GF contraptions boasting two or even four tourbillon regulators, the Hand Made 1 features only a single carriage on a single axis.

The 43.5mm case is 13.6mm thick; both metrics place this timepiece on the more wearable end of the Greubel size spectrum.

But looks deceive.

Naissance d’Une Montre, Le Garde Temps at SIHH 2016

Naissance d’Une Montre, Le Garde Temps at SIHH 2016

As an outgrowth of Greubel Forsey’s participation in the “Naissance d’une Montre” project, the Hand Made 1 is like a jobs bank for traditional artisans. Naissance d’une Montre is a collaborative effort among master watchmakers to educate advanced students in creating their own watches by hand; the pupil repays the debt by teaching others and passing on his lessons learned.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Along those lines, the goal behind Hand Made 1 is two-fold. First, preserve as much knowledge of roots watchmaking as possible in an era of automation. This permits future (lower case) hand-made watchmaking to endure.

Second, the skills necessary to scratch build mechanical watches are equally applicable to future restorations that may take place without the benefit of economies of scale or access to industrial equipment.



Hand Made 1 is remarkable by its scarcity. Greubel Forsey’s recent turn towards higher volume – by Greubel Forsey standards – sports watches, has seen its output rise to hundreds per year, and 400-500 is a number cited in its expansion plans.

Even at that number, GF watches are considered to sit in the industry’s upper echelon of finish quality and manual labor invested.

But once hand lathes, jigs, hobbing machines, boring tools, and burins replace absolutely all automation, GF’s capacity falls to two or three Hand Made 1s per year. That’s what it means to go back to basics.

The 6,000 man-hours invested per watch speaks to the struggle entailed by adopting only the nineteenth – and eighteenth – century resources that Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey prescribed for this project.

Simple things like individual screws became eight-hour projects; the lever escapement requires 1.5 months to be delivered by a specialist contractor. Strip away electro-spark erosion, CNC lathes, robots, laser cutting, LIGA, and DRIE, and you are left with hand tools.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Hand Made 1 is a new watch built like an old watch, and that’s exactly the point.

95 percent of this opus is handcrafted, and only a few modern-tech details such as sapphire crystals, rubber gaskets, spring bars, and pivot jewels break the rhyme scheme.

Ask any watch collector what comes to mind when they hear the name “Greubel Forsey,” and “tourbillons” will be among the leading responses. Having pioneered multi-tourbillon designs with regulators in different planes and/or averaged together by differentials, GF returns to classical simplicity with the HM1.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 tourbillon

There’s a single beautifully cut, assembled, and finished cage at seven o’clock on the dial.

According to the maker, its 69 parts required 35 times as many man-hours to craft as a similar structure built with modern methods.



Mirror polish with continuous rounding – a challenging tandem – distinguishes the enormous half-bridge mounting the .521-gram regulator. A voluminous and equally accomplished tourbillon cage resides beneath the bridge.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 regulator with free sprung balance

While the balance wheel’s contemporary free-sprung architecture is a bit jarring against this antiquarian backdrop, its fabrication was strictly traditional.

The overcoil hairspring, purchased from suppliers in volume applications, here is the result of laborious cutting, rolling, and shaping.  

Not all elements of homage are pure methodology, because nostalgic style abounds.

Frosted German silver finishing of the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Bridges and plates are crafted from maillechort, an alloy of nickel, copper, and zinc often described as “German silver” in Teutonic applications. Frosted surfaces likely are achieved with a stiff brush of steel bristles rather the ancient method of acid-etching, but the visual effect is identical.

A three-quarter inspired bridge resides in the upper left third of the dial, and its sheer face adjacent to the tourbillon blazes with bright polish; a neat bevel finished with traditional wood links the vertical and horizontal planes.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 dial

The barrel arbor rests in a golden chaton cup fixed by screws; this is how jewels were set before they could be reliably pressed directly into bridges.

Tourbillon detailing is rich, and because this is Greubel Forsey, even the sub-structure is handsome. The tiny escapement bridge below the balance exhibits crisp straight-grained horizontals and worthy micro-bevels.

There’s a small year-of-manufacture plaque nestled alongside the tourbillon; the caseback declares whether the example in question was one of two or three manufactured in the given year.

Those eight-hour screws are gorgeous. Hand turned, hand chamfered, and heat blued, they add a pop of color on both sides of the watch. I’ve never seen more pronounced slotting of a screw head. “Black” polishing certain screws – likely mirror finished on lapping paper or a tin plate – adds tonal variety.

Above the barrel assembly, a specular surfaced wheel with a notched rim reveals the presence of a stopworks; these mechanisms are employed to limit the top and bottom travel of the mainspring.

By retaining the spring in the fat part of its torque curve, the watchmaker ensures optimized performance while the timepiece is running.



Back of Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

The reverse of the Hand Made 1 reveals more dedication to antiquity. All letters, numerals, and characters on the caseback have been engraved with a freehand-guided burin tool. As a result, their subtle imperfections become apparent on close examination; this is exactly as intended.

The same treatment can be seen on the pin buckle attached to the strap.

“Gratté main,” or “hand scraped” surfacing distinguishes the caseback base plate. No two will be identical. Additional bridges sport matte surfaces, beveled edges, and, in two instances, hollow interiors. These inner faces serve as a showcase for interior angles, or the sharp crease where two bevels meet.

Not only is this a challenge – plenty of “Geneva hallmark” movements feature one or zero examples – but GF compounds the task by applying it to the train wheels.

Jewel set in gold chaton on the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Interior-beveled wheels stand as possibly the ultimate statement of virtuoso skill and discipline. These are suffocating confines requiring a surgeon’s hand. Each wheel’s spokes and inner diameter have been beveled and drawn to form sharp creased junctions. Since a wheel has five spokes and two sides, each wheel incorporates 40 interior angles. By the manufacturer’s reckoning, these wheels require 600 times more attention than series production alternatives.

Again, it’s virtuoso.

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1

Hand Made 1 isn’t the most complicated, conspicuous, or inventive Greubel Forsey watch. It may be the brand’s only timepiece ever touted for its regressive technology and standards. But Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey are looking backwards to point the way forward.

If the techniques and knowledge underpinning the Hand Made 1 are to survive, such watches must rejuvenate the talent pool.

For the right kind of collector, the Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 is a conservatory for the wrist.

For more information, please visit

Quick facts: Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1
Case: White gold; 43.5mm diameter; 13.6mm thick; 52.2mm from lug-to-lug; 30-meters WR; 22mm between lug horns; push down crown

Clasp: White gold pin buckle
Dial: Open dial with blued steel hands, grand feu enamel tracks for seconds and minutes
Movement: Manual wind with 60-hour power reserve; tourbillon; two barrels; 3Hz, free sprung balance with overcoil hairspring; stopworks
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, tourbillon regulator
2024 Retail Price: $830,000
2024 Preowned Price: $800,000-$900,000

* Tim Mosso is the media director and watch specialist at WatchBox/The 1916 Company. You can check out his many videos at

You might also enjoy:

Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1: Making A Watch The Traditional Way (Video)

Greubel Forsey Balancier 3: Back to Basics, More Accessible (for a Greubel Forsey), and Much More Wearable

Why I Bought It: Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1

A Hero’s Journey Begins And Ends: Naissance d’Une Montre, Le Garde Temps

Naissance d’une Montre 2: A Handmade Future Built on the Foundations of the Past by Oscillon, Greubel Forsey and Urwerk

Revisiting The Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon 30°

1 reply
  1. LovalheroEd
    LovalheroEd says:

    My regular walk down the lane takes me past what I have long considered the nicest house in the hamlet. It’s not the biggest nor most expensive, but it has all the features you’d want in good proportions with an excellent layout. Now it’s for sale I study the details online and wonder, what if I bought it?

    This flight of fantasy exists despite two fundamental barriers. Size and cost. It’s simply too big for me to comfortably manage and my savings seem to be missing the required number of zeros after the initial 8 of the price. Still we dream.

    Back on topic, lovely read and watch, thanks Tim.

    All the best, Ed


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *