Antonio Calce took over the reins of Greubel Forsey a year ago, with instructions to chart a new course for the brand, founded in 2004 by independent watchmaking duo Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. Its goal was to redefine – or just change – everything from distribution and production to marketing and pricing. The result is a strategy which, in a nutshell, dictates fewer collections but twice production, more Greubel Forsey stores but fewer authorized dealers, and (relatively) lower prices but without compromising on quality and finish.
There will always be tourbillons, including the slanted and multi-axis escapements that are the brand’s signature, but there will also be more modern, sporty and accessible pieces, with prices lowered from around $ 500,000 to less. $ 300,000 – which still defines it as a low-production, high-cost brand, but makes it slightly more affordable. The overall objective is to ensure the survival of the brand beyond the lifespan of its founders, who have stepped back to make way for Calce.
The S2 Balancer, presented at Dubai Watch Week in December, is an indication of what to expect in the future. This is a smaller version of the Balancier S (from 46.5 mm to 43 mm), with more subtle finishes: no more writing engraved around the bezel, and the red-tipped hands are now enhanced with Super-LumiNova white. And there is notably no vortex; it is a GMT. The case is made of lightweight titanium with an elegant, curved ovoid shape that is significantly more subtle than the domed sub-dials of many previous Greubel Forsey models. At $ 220,580, it’s one of the cheapest watches produced by the company. The GMT Earth, for example, with a signature tourbillon and day / night rotating orb, costs between $ 500,000 and $ 600,000. (This model was discontinued, following an 11-piece swan song published in Watches & Wonders last year). Likewise, the GMT Quadruple Tourbillon, priced at $ 800,000, is expected to be phased out. In fact, all previous versions of Greubel Forsey’s GMTs will come to an end next year in favor of a new GMT caliber priced at $ 350,000, to debut in 2022.
The idea, according to Calce, is to attract younger, albeit very affluent, collectors to the brand. The strategy is to increase production while reducing the number of references.
“For 20 years, Greubel Forsey has been manufacturing around 100 watches a year. In 2022 that number will double to 200, and over the next two years it will double again to 400, ”Calce said. “The end goal is to have a production of 500 pieces.”
One way to increase production is to limit the production of certain high-end parts, allocating resources elsewhere. Since its creation in 2004, Greubel Forsey has launched 30 calibers and 30,000 component references. In 2019 alone, five new calibers were introduced. “We have to do something with these incredible assets,” Calce says. Some calibers will be phased out, while the vast inventory of components will allow them to customize others, creating unique movements, something that dovetails with “Renaissance of a Watch”, or Rebirth of a Watch, a planned concept. for 2023 which invites the previous Greubel Forsey customers return their watches for redesign and upcycling. The strength of the program is that it allows customers to change not only the bezel, lugs, hands or indexes, but also, more exceptionally, the movement. Customers will be able to add a function, such as a date, a second time zone, or a tourbillon. The price structure remains to be determined.
“The previous strategy was to devote a production aimed at collectors, which was very niche,” explains Calce. “Our goal now is to open a new product segment with a new product offering. [set to officially debut later this year]. The new collection will be modern, but quieter, purer. We won’t play with color so much. We will organize the collections by function, always focusing on movement, building designs around variations on some of our calibers.
With production expected to double over the next two years, the plan includes almost double the area for manufacturing, with a modern glass building added on a 17eFerme du siècle near La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, which opened in 2009. The expansion will allow Greubel Forsey to manufacture its own balance springs and hire more watchmakers. On the distribution side, the number of authorized resellers will drop from around 50 to 60 to just 25, with a project in the process of building a network of flagship stores with various partners.
“The only way to secure the brand for the future is to build a good leadership team,” Calce says. “This is possible in part thanks to the trust between Robert Greubel [the majority shareholder] and myself. We will define it together and take it forward over the next 20, 40, 100 years. While Stephen Forsey will remain Technical Director, the two partners will take a step back from day-to-day operations.
The new direction does not mean the end of high complications, those which won the biggest awards at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, such as the $ 1.1 million Grand Sonnerie Chiming watch or the Hand Made One, a one-piece. handcrafted according to traditional watchmaking principles with original hand tools that took three years to manufacture. In fact, a new variant of Hand Made One is already in the works. “We’ll keep doing crazy things,” Calce says.