Last month, Greubel Forsey delighted the North American market with its unveiling of the $1.1 million U.S-exclusive watch: the Double Tourbillon 30° Technique Sapphire watch. The sapphire case of this limited edition (8 pieces) watch was milled from a single piece of sapphire, revealing the 396-part movement. This watch is exemplary of the new direction many watch brands are taking when it comes to utilizing high-tech materials such as sapphire for watchcases.
It should be noted that over the years, certain brands, such as Corum (the Golden Bridge) and Cartier (Mystery), have used sapphire crystals, case sides and casebacks to showcase their movements to the fullest. However, those watches also typically included a bit of metal as the “glue” – so to speak – holding it all together.
Over the past few years, though, the move into totally transparent watchcases has progressed by leaps and bounds. Make no mistake; a full sapphire case is not “common.” However, a handful of top brands now offer a timepiece housed in a see-through sapphire crystal case — without metal edging.
These cases are incredibly difficult to build. The sapphire crystal is so hard that it is typically machined using diamond tipped equipment. Additionally, depending on if the watch is milled from a single block of sapphire, or assembled using multiple sapphire pieces, it can take as long as five months to machine a single case.
As such, these watches are usually made as either a one-of-a-kind or as very limited editions. Because of the time, effort and money involved in making a sapphire watch case, these timepieces command top prices – with retail tags of more than half a million to nearly two million dollars.