It’s a well-known fact that acoustic watches are among the most technical timekeepers a watchmaker can produce. And within this category of watches, it is the grande sonnerie that stands out as the most complicated for its ability to chime in three different modes (grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie and minute repeater). Adding to the handful of brands that can claim bragging rights to its production is Greubel Forsey, which launched the Grande Sonnerie — its first — this year.
As one would expect from the haut de gamme watchmaker, it is an incredible feat of high watchmaking. Requiring a grand total of 11 years to conceptualise, the 935-part watch is protected by two patents and 11 safety features to guarantee optimum functionality. It also features Greubel Forsey’s signature 25-degree inclined tourbillon regulator that makes one revolution every 24 seconds. Sized in a 43.5mm titanium case that is 16.13mm thick, it boasts fairly conservative dimensions for a watch that packs in so many components.
One of its most remarkable features is its ability to successfully balance the effective management of energy with spatial constraints. (Most sonnerie watches rely on manually driven escapements to keep the case dimensions wearable.) In an incredible feat of engineering and watchmaking, Greubel Forsey managed to equip the watch with two winding systems: A manual winding one to take care of the 72 hours of timekeeping and a self-winding spring driven system to release 20 hours of power reserve for the chiming mechanism in Grande Sonnerie mode.
To ensure optimum acoustics and a crystalline chime, several features have been built and incorporated into the timepiece: First is the special titanium acoustic resonance cage that helps to amplify the sound; second, the watch is equipped with a silent regulator so that the chimes remain pure. Although the watch is water-resistant to 30m, there is little to no dampening effect on the sound quality.
Unlike most minute repeaters, the Grande Sonnerie does away with the silence that comes between the chiming of the hours and minutes, in the absence of any quarters. In addition to a host of useful functions, its beautifully balanced dial also explains why it is one of the most talked- about timepieces at the fair this year. Due to its complexity, only five to eight pieces of this timepiece will be produced a year.
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