One of the heaviest hitters in independent watchmaking, and also a staple at SIHH has just announced a rather groundbreaking timepiece. Greubel Forsey, with their impressively finished timepieces and complications that appear to have the capability to warp space time itself, have successfully produced one of the highest pursuits in horology — the grande sonnerie — at the end of 11 years long years of labor.

What is a grande sonnerie? Think of it as an alarm watch that’s able to chime out every passing hour in two different modes. The first mode: grande sonnerie, chimes the hours and quarters in passing and repeats the hour at each quarter.

Mode two: petite sonnerie, chimes out the hours in passing without repeating the hours at every quarter.

But that’s not all. For a watch to be considered a complete grande sonnerie it must be able to perform a third function, which is that it must work as a minute repeater that is able to chime out the hour and quarters past, on demand.

If all of that sounds like it makes for a very complicated mechanism that’s because it is a very complicated mechanism, one which not too many watchmakers have attempted to date.

The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie for instance is composed of no less than 935 parts. The thing you must understand is that every part consequently forms a possible point of fault. Therefore, the more parts the more possible points of fault. As such, 935 suddenly starts to look like a scary number rather than an impressive one. It also becomes apparent now why not too many brands would’ve attempted a grande sonnerie timepiece.

The knowhow that exists between Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey suggests that it would’ve been a matter of time before the two gentlemen pursued the grande sonnerie. But in light of the woes that the complication seems to face, Greubel Forsey have taken precautions that make it safe for use like never before.

11 security measures have been worked into the movement to provide the greatest of peace of mind. The sonnerie functions are made accessible via a pusher at 4 o’clock and a separate pusher on crown is used to activate the minute repeater function.

There’s also the fact that the going train for the time and striking mechanism are kept separated. This is evident because, the rotor on the back of the watch actually winds the barrel necessary to power the striking mechanism (20 hours of power reserve). The time function on the other hand is powered by a hand-wound barrel (72 hours of power reserve).

The movement is contained within a 43.5mm titanium Asymmetric case type with Greubel Forsey’s signature Tourbillon 24 Secondes between 7 and 8 o’clock.

The overall construction of the timepiece is meant to create the purest of striking sounds, which is difficult to comment on until a time when we are able to handle the watch at SIHH in a few days. Until then, watch this space!

The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie
The Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie