Tourbillon Tales

Tourbillon Tales

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Stephen Forsey, the recipient of the first ever individual Watch World Award, talks to Hiren Kumar Bose about how Greubel Forsey has been able to redefine the use of multiple tourbillons in a watch

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You are the first recipient of the individual award honouring fine watchmaking at the Watch World Awards. How do you feel about this honour?
It is very exciting to be in India for Greubel Forsey and for us to receive an award from Watch World magazine. It is of course the biggest specialised magazine of the watch industry in India and it is very exciting. The award recognises the hard work of our team.

As a watchmaker, what is your take on these watch awards linked to the industry as such?
We always find it difficult to describe ourselves as part of the watch industry because we are able to make only about a hundred time pieces in one year. So, this is a big challenge for us. Since our team is small, with the accent on creation, this is a really nice recognition of our work.

Greubel Forsey has redefined tourbillon, bringing the ‘T’ of tourbillon in the forefront. There are watches with one tourbillon, but you have as many as four tourbillons in a watch and are still able to maintain the size of the watch. How do you achieve this?
This is a challenge for us. The tourbillon as a mechanism was invented 200 years ago for the pocket watch. Over the years, with the wrist watch, it was possible to miniaturise. This was already a big challenge but the concept of the single tourbillon, as you mentioned, had never been really studied for the wrist watch. Now the wrist watch lives a completely different life in comparison to a pocket watch.

A pocket watch usually hangs vertically in a pocket, whereas a wrist watch is moving throughout the day. In the night time, you have to lay down the watch to rest on the bedside table, so for 8-12 hours a day, the time piece is in one position. So this is what drew Mr. Greubel and myself to the challenge of the tourbillon and we wanted to, as you said, put the capital‘T’ back on the tourbillon. We saw that there were possibilities to evolve the tourbillon. With our new mechanism, ‘Double Tourbillon 30°’, we have been able to contain two tourbillons, one cage within the other. This really was a ground-breaking step forward, enabling us to enhance and improve the decision of time-keeping of the watch but at the same time maintaining a reasonable size and dimension.

Though a new watchmaker, you create a lot of excitement when you bring out a new piece. How do you do it?
(Laughs) Well, I think in our profession a lot of experience is required. For Mr. Greubel and me, we have experience of over 25 years each in watchmaking.

You don’t come from a watchmaking family, whereas Mr. Greubel does?
My side has more of engineers, with my grandfather being in aircraft engineering and automobile engineering. My father on the other hand was an industrial chemist by profession but was always passionate about mechanics.

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And you met your father’s friend who was into vintage cars and from there you got interested in watchmaking?
Yes, exactly that. There was an antique clock shop and this gave me the idea to link together the mechanical side with the more creative side – the slightly artistic side of watchmaking. So this was what drew me to watchmaking. But for us, it was a big challenge in the mid 80s when mechanical watchmaking was undergoing a difficult phase. For me, it was perhaps a dream too distant to imagine that I would end up one day working in partnership with Mr. Greubel and be able to create time pieces which are really a dream creation.