Stephen Forsey founded, together with Robert Greubel, the illustrious brand that bears both their names in 2004. Combining innovation with excellence, they very quickly became the Nec Plus Ultra of Haute Horlogerie. With a particular passion for the tourbillon, they have rewritten the manual on this complication. We sat down with Stephen Forsey, asking about his passion, and how he devotes his own time!
Martin Green (MG): When you say Greubel Forsey, it is almost a synonym for tourbillon’s. Where does this interest in this particular complication come from?
Stephen Forsey (SF): We strongly believe that there is still a lot to invent in mechanical watchmaking. We had studied the traditional single-axis Tourbillon which was originally invented for the pocket watch and despite miniaturization for the wristwatch we had observed that the performance was not always improved. So our aim was to find a completely new Tourbillon solution which would be specifically adapted to the wristwatch and we quickly found that there was an important potential to improve performance through our ground-breaking and completely new solutions.
MG: How does an average work day look for you?
SF: Time is our worst enemy, so we often need to start the day early and finish relatively late but when you are lucky enough to live your passion, you don’t count the hours, so it’s one task at a time and we have a great highly motivated professional team who help us to achieve our goals and surprise the collector.
MG: What you do requires a lot of passion. What fuels your passion?
SF: I have the chance to live my passion – watchmaking – on a daily basis. The part of being able to define if a conceptual idea is actually possible to realize technically gives me the most satisfaction. Another part that is beautiful about my work is to meet our collectors personally and receive their feedback on our timepieces.
MG: What do you consider the most difficult part of a watch to make and why?
SF: The most difficult part can be different for each new creation, for example in the Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision it was rediscovering and mastering the hand-finished three-dimensional barrel polishing of the arched Tourbillon bridge, in the QP à Équation it was inventing the mechanical computer for the perpetual calendar, while in the GMT it would be combining the multiple time-zones, 24 cities display and the rotating engraved globe in titanium within the architecture of the unique asymmetrical case.
MG: Earlier this year you surprised everybody with launching the very first Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie, which took ten years to develop. What made you embark on this journey, and what did you experience along the way?
SF: Quite simply, the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie deliberately redefines the striking wristwatch for the 21st century. To do this we had to study and research all aspects, such as attaining extended strike mechanism power reserve, imagining and constructing the striking mechanism itself including no fewer than 11 security mechanisms for a previously unseen level of comfort and peace of mind for the collector, combining and integrating the 935 components into an existing and very comfortable 43.5 mm x 16.13mm case, performing over three years of dynamic on the wrist testing and refinements. Our research included a number of subprojects, like for example (but not exhaustive) combining a strong and pleasant sound for the acoustics with 30m water resistance. This by itself required some four years of work.
MG: You have been at the top of your profession for so many years. What is something that you would still like to achieve?
SF: For Robert and l we are only at the beginning of the adventure and there is still so much to do …, with our team we will always favor the qualitative and exclusive approach. We will continue innovating in high-end watchmaking and always improve our methods of combining modern-day watchmaking with traditional knowledge. The research for excellence of our timepieces, and thus their rarity, remain fundamental to our future development. Our strategy will not change.