WORLDTEMPUS - 6 February 2013
You had to look really hard to see the cooperative work of Greubel Forsey and miniature sculptor artist Willard Wigan, whose specialty is micro sculpting art on metal that is smaller than 1/15th of a single grain of rice. The sculpture created for Greubel Forsey's Art Piece 1 is carefully placed on the dial side of the movement – and visible if you have a microscope. Otherwise, you had best look through the specially made crown at 9:00, which features a 23X magnification of the micro sculpture.
The Art Piece 1 is an artistic collaboration that brings a new chapter to the brand and showcases an art that is perhaps equally as exacting as the watchmaking style of Greubel Forsey. For Wigan to create his pieces, he goes into a meditative state. He must hold his breath, reduce his heart beat and then – between two heart beats – make a single sculpting operation.
“It began when I was five years old,” says Wigan. “I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to. That's how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”
Willard's micro sculptures are now so miniature that they are only visible through a microscope. Each piece commonly sits within the eye of a needle or on the head of a pin.
“It is a blend of art and horology that has never been done before,” says Stephen Forsey, who notes that it was Robert Greubel who first learned of Wigan's work and wanted to proceed with a partnership. The first challenge for them as watchmakers was to find a way to magnify Wigan's micro-sculpture so it could be seen. The second challenge was to bring enough light to the subject, which was finally achieved through large apertures in the watch. In fact, Greubel and Forsey had to seek out an optical specialist to create the magnifying crown for the piece.
“We found someone who specialized in spherical optics and they told us it was impossible to do what we wanted,” says Forsey. “That's when it got interesting. We are not in the business of thinking something is impossible.”
It took two years to overcome the optical issue with this timepiece, which features a miniature rotary on the magnifying crown so one can adjust the focal length. The first micro sculpture created by Wigan for Greubel Forsey was presented at the SIHH and christened the Golden Mask; the name symbolizes the hidden wonder of the micro sculpture. Another piece dubbed the Golden Sails is currently being worked on and features a sculpted gold ship with triple masts.
“The ship represents a journey, an adventure, and that is what this collaboration is,” says Forsey. It is estimated that the watch – with its superb mechanics and micro sculpting – will retail for about $1.5 million. Other editions will ensue, with the possibility of customizing micro sculptures for clients.
Greubel Forsey also unveiled a whole new invention at the SIHH: the Double Balancier 35 Degrees, which boasts a patented double balance wheel within the GF04S2 movement. This watch is created in a limited edition of six pieces in 18-karat white gold. Also new this year is Greubel Forsey's first black watch: the Double Tourbillon Technique Black. Its color is created using Amorphous Diamond Like Carbon (ADLC).
Also new is the Tourbillon 24 Seconds Contemporain, which houses Greubel Forsey's third fundamental invention, the Tourbillon 24 Seconds fast-rotating tourbillon cage, which is inclined at 25 degrees. The movement of this watch consists of 267 parts, including 88 for the tourbillon cage.
The titanium plate and bridges feature a royal blue anodized oxide treatment and are hand-finished with straight graining. Bridges in German silver with nickel-palladium finish are frosted and straight-grained with hand polished bevels. The tourbillon bridge is transparent synthetic sapphire while the tourbillon cage is in titanium. The hour and minute dial is in synthetic sapphire while the small seconds dial and power reserve indicator are in gold.
“We started Greubel Forsey with 10 to 15 years of ideas in our minds, and we still have 10 to 15 years' worth of ideas, because we are always considering the next step and always resolving challenges,” Forsey relates.