Greubel Forsey, a unique take on luxury watches – exclusive interview with Stephen Forsey

An exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM Greubel Forsey‘s Stephen Forsey speaks about his company’s continued success and its unique approach to watchmaking.

How would you define luxury nowadays? 

A true luxury object is at the top of what Man is able to do artistically, intellectually and manually at one point. Therefore, this requires excellence all the way through each step of creation, realization, transmission, sustainability.
This brings us an object created to be appreciated now but also to be just as relevant in the future.

Creativity and innovation are an integral part of the DNA of your brand. How do you manage to stay relevant and desirable to your customers?

This is intrinsic of the Greubel Forsey spirit. It is a key part of our Philosophy: we refuse commonly accepted standards in order to continuously overcome each new challenge. Exploring new mechanisms and architecture for each creation while respecting the finest traditions and safeguarding and perpetuating hand-finished watchmaking.

We always do our outmost to deliver to our customer an exceptional timepiece. We do not accept that everything has already been done but believe that there is still a lot to invent in watchmaking, while always perpetuating creativity, outstanding quality of craftsmanship and innovation and continuously exceeding the limits of what was possible in the past.

How have you been able to maintain exclusivity?

The fact that Greubel Forsey only produce around 100 pieces a year already defines an exclusive character. Since the beginning, Robert and I really wanted to focus our energy on the very difficult elements of hand finishing, and generally bringing back a level of excellence to each of our creations, which we could not find elsewhere.
The fundamental research took years to perfect, including a lot of new techniques. We also try to rediscover and re-awaken traditional techniques and revive hand-finishing.

We always keep our line without any compromise on our quality level. Some of our creations have taken years before we show them to the public because we want all the details to be perfect.

What is the profile of your consumer?

Our collectors are very cultivated, refined and knowledgeable who truly value original inventions and supreme craftsmanship.
Such a timepiece, which requires many months of work to make, is therefore not accessible to everyone. Our collectors tend to be people with a high level of cultural interest, quite often in art. They are extremely busy, work very hard, often at the head of very large businesses, financing huge projects and supporting a lot of people. So it’s very interesting to be able to meet and exchange with them all around the world. They are ready to be inspired and surprised but at the same time expect a creation with an extraordinary performance and of great rarity.
Finally we are aware that today’s younger generation is also very intelligent and well informed. The young also easily embrace fine craftsmanship. This is very positive for Greubel Forsey in that many collectors are 10 to 20 years younger than at our launch in 2004.

What is the inspiration behind the story of each timepiece you create?

A part of Roberts’ inspiration is definitely from historical French watchmaking and for myself the English past masters of horology from the late 17th to 19th centuries. One specific person that inspired me would be the late Dr. George Daniels and also his work assembled in the book “Watchmaking”.

The history of watchmaking is an excellent point of reference and it serves as a background for our work. Then we must take a blank sheet of paper and start innovating until we get to the actual timepiece. For the aesthetics, they are based on a truly original inspiration, which shows our passion for fine watchmaking.

To what extent your creations are about emotions and about the surprise factor?

Our creations are completely connected to emotions. Through the feelings, to the passion of those who create, make, decorate, assemble, but also to the emotion which is felt by the happy owner of one of our creations.

Is there a timeless factor when it comes to design? Tell us more.

Clearly there are many factors which make up a timeless design or creation. According to our Greubel Forsey collectors, they already consider our creations to be timeless. For example today they might see a creation such as Invention Piece 1 that was first presented in 2007 and they strongly believe it to be our latest creation! For us at Greubel Forsey each individual creation is one imprint of our watchmaking art which thanks to the detailed and painstaking refinement of each and every detail will endure far into the future.

Which do you still consider as unsurpassed challenges in mechanical watchmaking?

One major challenge we have recently completed was at SIHH 2017 where we launched our very first Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie after 11 years of research and development which is a tour de force for any watchmaker. We also shared the first episode of a very exciting major project from our EWT laboratory (Experimental Watch Technology) project called Mechanical Nano. The objective is not just to work on a material or make a thinner or smaller movement, but to bring about a fundamental revolution by addressing the two major problems facing the watchmaker. These are space (or the lack of it in a wristwatch) and energy because there is only a very small amount of energy available in a watch movement. Mechanical Nano will enable us to free up more energy and space. We need to be a little patient as this is a project which will evolve over the coming years …

What are the most efficient marketing tools for a brand such as yours today?

Greubel Forsey is quite different to brands as we focus on creations. This means we have a wealth of substance which we can share. We have already created 20 different movement calibres since 2004 and even today only around 100 timepieces can be completed each year. However, SIHH is an important meeting point each year where we can share creations with worldwide media and collectors.

As our work is very rare and exclusive we cannot easily use traditional channels but prefer to focus on a personalised approach with our collectors through one to one meetings and a few focused events to share our passion for excellence in watchmaking creations and our innovations.

Social media is also a useful support and together with our retailers’ and partners around the world our collectors become our finest Ambassadors as they enjoy wearing their Greubel Forsey timepieces.

What should we expect from your launches at SIHH 2018?

Surely some fascinating surprises as it’s a very unique opportunity during the year to be able to discover and experience our creations live.
However after many months and years of preparation for SIHH 2018 we just ask you to wait for few more days for more details.

Stephen Forsey of Greubel Forsey