Ringing in the New Year with Greubel Forsey’s Grande Sonnerie

This watch costs CHF 1,150,000 or about $1,123,266. Only a handful will be released each year. But I have a working theory that a watch like this is not much different from any other mechanical watch: It does a very particular thing in a very interesting way.

The particular thing this Grande Sonnerie does, as french readers or people with access to Google Translate might guess, is ring. It’s “Grande” because it can be set to ring at the top of every hour and each quarter hour. It is also a petite sonnerie; in that mode, it strikes only the hours. But wait, there’s more: it is also a minute repeater, chiming the time to the nearest minute with the push of the crown. The white gold pusher at 4:00 lets you toggle modes between GS (grande sonnerie), PS (petite sonnerie), or SL (silent).

At 43.5 mm x 16.13 mm, the titanium case is thick but not outlandish. Packing the hammers and gongs and springs and the other 900+ parts that make these chimes possible into a wrist watch is a feat only a handful of watchmakers have been able to accomplish. Greubel Forsey now joins the ranks of other Grande Sonnerie makers like Bulgari, F.P. Journe, Philippe Dufour, Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Audemars Piguet. And Greubel Forsey is one of the only watchmakers to also fit that other extravagant complication, the tourbillon, into its Grande Sonnerie.

I’m not a fan of the tourbillon tumor Greubel Forsey uses on this and some of its other models, but at least here the bulge is balanced by a sonnerie power indicator on the opposite side of the dial. That power indicator is complemented by another at 5:00, giving you some indication of the complicated power management going on under the black gold dial. This watch is both an automatic and a manual. A platinum mini-rotor powers the sonnerie mechanism for up to 20 hours, while the crown powers the two coaxial series-coupled mainspring barrels for up to 72 hours. I probably shouldn’t complain about a bulge to accommodate the tourbillon when Greubel Forsey has packed three barrels into at 43.5 mm case!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the majority of people reading about this watch cannot afford it. But we can all appreciate what Greubel Forsey has done here. They have taken watchmaking to its extreme, adding their own personality and their own innovations to push the industry forward. Every person who wears a mechanical watch can look down at their wrist and see a little bit of the Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie in the beating heart of their own totally unnecessary but totally satisfying wrist clock. But yours probably doesn’t sound like this. greubelforsey.com

(h/t Quill & Pad for the video)

Tech Specs from Greubel Forsey: PDF

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