Greubel Forsey has made inroads into the 10-year plan that Antonio Calce announced in early 2021, shortly after he became chief executive of the independent watch brand founded by Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey.
New models are being introduced, production strategically increased and distribution refocused on a handful of flagship stores. But fans have also learned that 25 of the 30 movements that the brand had been making since it was founded in 2004 are being discontinued, and all new movements will be produced for no more than five years.
“We need rarity and exclusivity, and the collectors need to know from the beginning how many of a timepiece will be made,” Mr. Calce said.
It plans to make three to 88 pieces of each reference and is working toward producing a total of 400 to 500 timepieces a year, 30 percent of which would sell for more than $500,000 and the rest in the $180,000 to $400,000 range.
This year the company expects to make 260 watches, considerably more than the 100 a year it was making when Mr. Calce took charge.
That 2023 production will include three additions to the Convexe collection. In July, the brand introduced the Double Balancier Convexe in titanium ($346,000) and the Balancier Convexe S2 Titanium ($240,000), which, at 41.5 millimeters, has the brand’s smallest convex case. This month, it intends to add the Double Balancier Convexe in carbon ($392,000), the brand’s first carbon case.
Mr. Calce referred to the three Convexe iterations as examples of how Greubel Forsey is focused on improving the hand finishing throughout its collection, even though it is already known for spending as long as two or three days polishing a single component. “For instance,” he said, “the inside bezel is 100 percent polished on the Balancier S2.”
“Greubel Forsey is an incredible brand,” said Jean-Marc Bories, the founder of Luxury Consulting North America, which distributes MB&F and Armin Strom watches in North America, but does not sell Greubel Forsey. “When it comes to finishing, it is crazy what happens there.”
“Robert and Stephen always wanted to add something significant to the history of watchmaking,” Mr. Calce said. “But when you are incredibly creative, you are not a manager.”
That is the role that Mr. Calce, 56, a former chief executive of the Corum and Girard-Perregaux luxury watch companies, has filled — with Mr. Greubel, 63, now holding the title of president and Mr. Forsey, 56, the title of technical director, occasionally consulting on the brand’s older models.
While the founders have stepped back from the business’s operations, the creative team has continued to develop what the brand calls “fundamental inventions” and in October intends to introduce the Tourbillon Cardan ($534,000) with two tourbillon cages suspended in a 20-millimeter structure that looks like a gimbal. This patented arrangement allows the cages to tilt at separate angles, increasing the basic effect of a tourbillon: to improve accuracy by averaging out gravity’s detrimental effect on timekeeping.
And next year, the ninth “fundamental invention” is to be a convex-case constant force chronograph. Normally, the extra energy needed for the chronograph (the stopwatch operated with start, stop and reset buttons) affects the amplitude (the rotation of the balance wheel), which in turn affects the precision of the watch’s timekeeping.
But a constant force system, which directs the energy from the mainspring to the escapement at regular intervals, ensures the amplitude — and precision — remains constant.
“We never had a chronograph before from Greubel Forsey, and in 2024 we will have two chronographs,” Mr. Calce said.
Other projects being developed include Hand Made 2 and Hand Made 3, one of which will be a chronograph; gear trains made of gold; and the Courve Greubel Forsey, a new balance spiral to increase timekeeping precision that the brand hopes to introduce next year. It would be a revolutionary development, as a majority of the watch industry has used the same curve since Abraham-Louis Breguet invented it in 1795.
Growing and Shrinking
The development work has been facilitated by the decision last year to fold CompliTime, a kind of company within the company that made timepieces for brands including Richard Mille and Harry Winston, into the overall Greubel Forsey operation. As a result, all 140 staff members are now free to focus on the main brand.
That staff is expected to grow to 220 when the company’s 2,000-square-meter headquarters, which uses a 17th-century traditional farmhouse as the entrance to an all-glass, grass-topped building, is enlarged to 5,460 square meters (58,770 square feet). The Swiss architect Pierre Studer, who designed the glass building, also planned this $23 million expansion, scheduled to begin construction early next year and be operational in 2026.
Mr. Calce said that the activity was due, in part, to a change in the brand’s ownership: Last year Mr. Greubel, as the main shareholder, along with Mr. Forsey and Mr. Calce, bought back the 20 percent of the company owned by the Swiss luxury group Richemont.
“We already make most of our parts, and from 2024 we will also make all balance wheels in-house,” Mr. Calce said, adding that once the building extension was completed, the brand would also make all its own cases.
But even before construction begins, Greubel Forsey has been changing how it sells watches. By late next year, Mr. Calce said, there will be 12 to 15 free-standing flagship stores operated by retail partners, replacing the 25 multibrand stores that now carry the brand. (“Before, every retailer sold one watch per year, or one every two years, because that was all we could deliver,” he said. “That is not a sustainable business.”)
The transformation is to start late this year in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood, with a boutique operated by the local watch dealer Yoshida, followed by a shop in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City, operated by Berger.
And early next year, the first store in the United States is planned for Middle Plaza, an upscale retail and dining project in Menlo Park, Calif., developed by Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry.
“Through visual representation and interactive experience, we will be able to better represent and elevate the brand — it is almost like having a little embassy for Greubel Forsey,” said Jared Silver, the president of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, which has sold Greubel Forsey watches in one of its multibrand stores since 2015 and will operate the new store.
“We will show different products and historical timepieces so that our clients will be able to understand and appreciate what the brand is doing — normally we couldn’t do this in a traditional store.”