Hands-On: Greubel Forsey GMT Sport

Visually and mechanically tremendous.

Even within the rarefied realm of haute horlogerie, Greubel Forsey has taken watchmaking to a level of craft few others can match – not just in terms of finishing, but innovation in chronometry while also establishing its own inimitable, three-dimensional aesthetic.

And now, the brand has combined all of that onto its first sports watch – the GMT Sport. While nearly identical to the existing GMT in terms of function, combining a world time with an inclined tourbillon, the GMT Sport looks nothing like any other Greubel Forsey. And its movement is mostly made of titanium, having been reconstructed to fit into the new ovoid case.

Despite being strikingly different, the watch is tremendously impressive on many fronts, especially in its finishing and construction.

The new look

Depth rated to 100m, the GMT Sport is a large watch that is organic in shape, with no right angles, a handful of edges, and only few flat surfaces. But it has a mechanical-looking style, with lugs secured to the case by visible screws and prominent pushers.

The construction is complex and masterful, with the most unusual feature being the crystal and bezel, which are curved on multiple planes. When viewed from the top, the case appears circular, but it is in fact, tonneau-shaped with an oval bezel that is curved vertically from 12 to six o’clock. To fit the curvature of the case, the crystal is also oval-shaped and curved, which further highlights the architectural depth of the movement.

The circumference of the bezel extends slightly outwards from the case towards the integrated strap. Thus, the watch appears a lot larger than it wears; the bezel measures 45mm wide, while the case band is just 42mm wide.

The entire watch is 15.7mm in height, which is still large by any standard, but the titanium case and movement means it weighs a lot less than it looks. This is the tactile opposite of the usual Greubel Forsey watch that is large and heavy, this is large but light.

In fact, the entire watch, inclusive of the strap and buckle, is just 115g, or about 4oz – half the weight of an average Greubel Forsey in a precious metal case.

The curve of the watch is most obvious with the bezel and crystal removed. Image – Greubel Forsey

Though entirely titanium, the case is actually two tone: the front, back and lugs are in natural titanium, while the case middle is black-coated titanium. The result is slightly reminiscent of the cases of Richard Mille and Hublot, which rely on a similar two-colour sandwich construction.

The two pushers are engraved to indicate their function: the “GMT” button selects the second time zone, while the second pusher synchronises local time with the globe

The crown on right side of the case features rubber inserts for better grip

Every element of the case is elaborately styled and finished. The lugs, for instance, have a brushed upper surface with chamfered edges, which surrounds a frosted recess.

The bezel alone is impressively decorated with several different finishing techniques. Its outer bevel features relief micro-engraving of the brand’s philosophy, a recurring element on Greubel Forsey watches that is often employed on the flanks of its watch cases. Impressively as the micro-engraving is, all that text on the bezel feels unnecessary, and a bit over the top.

The new GMT movement

While the movement has essentially the same functions as the first GMT watch, it was rebuilt, starting from scratch, in order to fit the new oval, curved case.

The watch is a world timer as the globe works in conjunction with a cities disc on the back as well as a second time zone indicator at 10 o’clock. But the centrepiece of the dial is the three-dimensional globe at the eight o’clock position that makes a complete, counterclockwise rotation every 24 hours – moving in the direction of the earth’s rotation. The globe, fixed to the base plate only on its base, offers an intuitive view of time all over the world thanks to the 24-hour ring in sapphire on its edge.

With the ring, one can approximate the time around the world – though knowledge of geography is required. And it also doubles as a day and night indicator, with the 24-hour ring departed into two halves with the darker portion indicating nighttime, and the lighter, daytime.

A familiar tourbillon

The 24-hour globe is combined with another one of Greubel Forsey’s major inventions – a 25° inclined tourbillon that moves speedily, making a revolution every 24 seconds, achieved with a lightweight cage. While mechanically identical to the inclined tourbillon in earlier models, the stylistic execution here has been tweaked to match the design of the watch. So the tourbillon is held in place by a black-polished steel bridge that forms a gentle “V”, but one with a recessed centre featuring a frosted, black-coated surface.

While such exotic tourbillons serve more of a visual purpose than anything else, the rationale behind the inclined tourbillon – and all of the brand’s tourbillons – arises from its deep interest in improving precision. In fact, improving the tourbillon for use on the wrist – as opposed to in a static pocket watch or clock – is one of the fundamental impulses of the brand.

An inclined tourbillon, as opposed to a vertical or a bi-axial tourbillon, allows a fairly large balance wheel to be used, without requiring an unreasonably thick watch case.

According to the Greubel Forsey, inclining it from the horizontal plane avoids the most extreme gravitational errors in the balance wheel, while still averaging out errors on a second plane of the balance. The result, in effect, comes close to that of a double-axis tourbillon while keeping the height of the movement manageable.

Finished elaborately

While typical Greubel Forsey movements use German silver for their bridges and base plates, the GMT Sport movement is almost all black-treated titanium for maximum lightness. But the finishing is in the usual Greubel Forsey style, with a frosted finish on most flat surfaces.

As with the earlier GMT watch, the dial is on three levels: the raised sub-dial for the second time zone as well as with a rotating disc for the small seconds, the dial, and the sunken apertures for the globe and tourbillon.

But on the GMT Sport the various elements of the dial have been rearranged to maximise the visual depth and fit into the curved case. The hour and minute hands occupy the topmost plane of the movement, with all other elements sitting progressively lower.

The tourbillon is positioned diagonally across the 24-hour globe, and everything is surrounded by a raised minute track on the periphery of the dial with markers that point towards the centre of the dial.

The second time zone and constant seconds disc

All the elements are elaborately conceived and finished; an arched, V-shaped bridge rises upwards to hold the hour and minute hands, with the canon pinion of the hands sitting in a gold chaton. Filled with Super-Luminova on their tips, the hands are open-worked and curved lengthwise to match the curvature of the crystal.

Because the bridges and base plate are mostly black coated, the steel hands stand out. They are driven by a visible gear train – contained within the V-shaped bridge – that is visually separate from the tourbillon. Located behind the going train for the hands, and just barely visible, is a differential for the power reserve indicator that is again micro-engraved with the brand’s values, rendered in a far smaller font than on the bezel naturally.

Like the tourbillon bridge, the bridge for the hands has a recessed, black-treated centre while its edges is finished with anglage. However, the bridges between the arch for the going train wheels have a frosted finish with no bevelling, done to match the frosted finish of the bridges. Despite being a relatively minor element, the pivot holes on the two tiny bridges are beautifully countersunk – a testament to the high level of decoration done at Greubel Forsey.

Notice the polished, chamfered edges on the spokes and inner rims of the gears

As it is with the two-tone titanium case, the movement brings to mind other watches. But the resemblance is shallow – the finishing on the GMT Sport movement far surpasses the others.

While both the finishing and magnitude of reconstruction (as compared to the original GMT) are vastly impressive, it is worth noting that the movement has not been tweaked for sporty purposes. For instance, the automatic movement in the Lange Odysseus is based on an existing movement but has a larger balance wheel to increase inertia while running at a higher frequency, and consequently increasing stability even in the face of shocks. But perhaps nothing was necessary for the GMT movement.

Cities in a spiral

On the back of the watch, a world-time disc displays the time in 24 time zones, each represented by a city, with all city names engraved on a sapphire disc.

Smartly, the disc also takes into account daylight savings time (DST). The cities in time zones that observe DST are shown in white so the correct local time can read using the inner 24-hour ring during the summer. And in the winter, the outer, relief 24-hour ring on the case back is used.

A notable difference between this and the original GMT is the removal of the gilded wheel that represented the Sun; on the original model the wheel indicated the time zones that were in day time, a somewhat redundant function given everything on the front, so nothing was lost by doing away with it.

Intriguingly, the screws that secure the case back have a proprietary, tri-lobe head, requiring a special screwdriver to turn. Other Greubel Forsey watches already have proprietary screws of a different design to secure the case back, so this is an unusual detail.

Concluding thoughts

With the GMT Sport, Greubel Forsey has built a sport(y) watch with a beautifully constructed case that is original, despite gently evoking other case designs. And importantly for a sports watch, it is wearable, despite its size.

Perhaps more crucially, the watch is not just a new set of clothes. It boasts a new movement architecture that creates greater depth on the dial, while still retaining the functionality of the original GMT. But no sports-specific modifications were made to the movement, which would have been an interesting evolution of the calibre, but maybe unnecessary if its current construction can cope fine with increased activity.

And, the GMT Sport is priced proportionately, at least by the standards of such watches, with a retail price of just under 500,000 francs, or about 10% less than the GMT.

Key facts and price

Greubel Forsey GMT Sport

Diameter: 42mm
Height: 15.7mm
Material: Titanium
Water resistance: 100m

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; second time zone; world time with DST; 24-hour rotating globe; power reserve display
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Rubber with titanium folding clasp

Limited edition: 11 pieces
 Already at retailers
Price: 480,000 Swiss francs, or 770,400 Singapore dollars 

For more, visit Greubelforsey.com.

Update December 11, 2019: Weight of watch added to article body.

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Omega Introduces the Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition

Heavily retro and lightweight.

Omega has just revealed the watch that will be strapped to the wrist of 007 in No Time To Die, Daniel Craig’s fifth movie playing James Bond that will open in April 2020. Developed with the actor’s input – he apparently likes vintage watches – the Seamaster Diver 300M 007 draws inspiration from vintage British military-issue watches, while offering modern functionality with a lightweight titanium case and high-spec movement. And unlike the James Bond editions to date – of which there are many – this is part of the regular collection.

“When working with Omega, we decided that a lightweight watch would be key for a military man like 007,” says Mr Craig, quoted in the announcement for the watch, “I also suggested some vintage touches and colour to give the watch a unique edge.”

Very vintage

Worn on a mesh bracelet in the film but also available on a NATO strap, the watch is a 42mm Seamaster Diver 300M that’s entirely in titanium, bracelet included. But the styling goes all out – to the extreme – in being faux vintage.

The dial and bezel insert are made of anodised aluminium in a dark brown to replicate the “tropical” look of vintage watches. According to Omega, the aluminium parts will fade over time – albeit over decades rather than years – for a bona fide tropical look. And the hands, numerals and indices are filled with eggshell-coloured Super-Luminova to mimic the appearance of radium “lume” on vintage watches.

Military issue and proud of it

And somewhat ironically for a watch designed for a covert agent, it is generously marked as armed forces property.

At six o’clock on the dial is a broad arrow, historically used to indicate property of the British government, and in recent times equipment belonging to the Ministry of Defence.

And the broad arrow is also found on the case back, along with a set of numbers like those found on the backs of vintage British military-issue watches, including the Omega Seamaster 300 of the 1960s.

Most of the markings are actually identical to those found on the vintage originals. “0552” indicates the British navy – James Bond is a commander in the Royal Navy – while “923-7697” refers to a diver’s watch, and “A” means the watch has a screw-down crown.

The rest has been tweaked for its current purpose: “007” is obvious, and “62” refers to the year that the first James Bond film, Dr No, was released. On a vintage military-issue watch, the serial number of the watch would take the place of “007”, while the year of issue would replace “62”.

Because the case back has a bayonet-lock seal, which Omega refers to as Naiad Lock, it screws down in a fixed, vertical position, ensuring the text will always be the right way up.

Under the back is the automatic Co-Axial Master Chronometer 8806 with a rhodium-plated rotor. It is equipped with a free-sprung balance wheel and a silicon hairspring. Crucially, various parts of the co-axial escapement are made from proprietary alloys that boost magnetism resistance to over 15,000 Gauss.

The mesh bracelet is fitted to a folding clasp that can be adjusted via the holes in the bracelet, as on a leather strap

Key facts and price

Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition

Diameter: 42mm
Height: 13.15
Material: Titanium
Water-resistance: 300m

Movement: Calibre 8806
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Winding: Automatic

Frequency: 25,200bph, or 3.5Hz
Power reserve: 55 hours

Strap: Titanium mesh bracelet or NATO strap

Limited edition: No
At boutiques and retailers from February 2020
 US$9,200 on mesh bracelet, or $8,100 on a NATO strap

For more information, visit Omegawatches.com.


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Hands-On: Longines Heritage Classic “Sector” Dial

Simple and solid.

Longines ended the year with two spot-on vintage remakes, the just-launched Heritage Military 1938 and the earlier Heritage Classic “sector” dial that’s just arrived in stores.

The Heritage Classic is based on a 1934 Longines wristwatch with dial style known as “sector” or “scientific”. Fashionable today because of its distinctive yet retro look, the sector dial was fairly common in the early 20th century, being found on both pocket- and wristwatches made by a variety of brands, ranging from Patek Philippe to Zenith.

So Longines doesn’t have any special claim to the design, but with a retail of just over US$2000, its sector-dial remake is arguably the bang for the buck.

At 38.5mm in diameter the Heritage Classic is compact and wears well. It’s slightly larger than the vintage originals – typically 35mm or so, while rarely and expensively 37mm or larger – but not by much.

Because the case diameter has been kept smallish by modern standards, the sub-seconds at six is correctly positioned, unlike on most remakes that match large cases with small movements. While the seconds sits closer to the centre of the dial than on the vintage original, the dial still looks correctly laid out with good balance.

The remake (left), and the original from 1934 that’s in the Longines museum. Image – Longines

Besides the diameter, the case profile is also well done. At 10mm, the height is proportional to the diameter, with a fairly high, single-step bezel and a slim case band, as it was on the vintage cases.

The look is matched by a clean brushed finish on all surfaces, and a domed sapphire crystal that’s a slightly more expensive feature on an otherwise simple – but effective and attractive – case. The only element of the case that’s obviously modern is the snap-on back.

The “sector”

Occasionally known as a “scientific” dial, the sector dial was reputedly designed to aid in time measurement, since the dial is neatly divided into segments, or sectors, of both five minutes and quarters.

Longines excelled with the dial on the Heritage Classic, managing to reproduce the original look, right down to the subtle two-tone finish. The chapter ring for the markers is metallic silver and concentrically brushed, while the rest of the dial is off-white. And the Longines logo is printed in a font similar to that found on the vintage originals.

Even up close the dial is well done, with neat and precise printing of all the letters and lines. The hands are also appealing, heat-blued steel.

The only element of the dial that feels out of the place is the azurage, or concentric guilloche, on the seconds sub-dial. That’s obviously modern and not necessary, in terms of design or quality.

The upgraded movement (and downgraded strap)

Though hidden behind the solid back, the movement is a good one at this price point. It’s the L893 movement, which is a rebadged ETA A31.L91.

That in turn is the latest version of the common and long-lived ETA 2892, having been upgraded in several ways, most notably with a longer power reserve made possible with a lower frequency and silicon hairspring. So the L893 has a 64 hour power reserve, instead of the 50 hours of the stock ETA 2892.

ETA sells its latest generation movements only to its sister companies within Swatch Group, which includes Omega and Tissot, meaning that this version of the movement won’t be found in the competition outside of the group, so it’s a plus. That being said, other movement suppliers like Sellita are also upgrading their movements – which are clones of ETA calibre and designed to be perfect substitutes – so the playing field will be levelled within a few short years.

While the movement scores well, both strap options for the Heritage Classic, either black or “denim” calfskin, aren’t especially compelling in quality or style. Fortunately that’s an easy fix and will surely be performed by most buyers of this watch.

Concluding thoughts

There really is nothing criticise about the Heritage Classic, except for the unimaginative design – which is the exactly the point of a remake anyway. It’s exceptionally strong value for just over US$2000.

Key facts and price

Heritage Classic
Ref. L2.828.4.73.0 or L2.828.4.73.2

Case diameter: 38.5mm
Height: 10mm
Material: Steel
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: L893.5
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Frequency: 25,200bph (3.5Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 64 hours

Strap: Calfskin with pin buckle

Availability: At both retailers and boutiques
Price: US$2,150, or 3,180 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Longines.com.

Correction December 6, 2019: The hands are heat treated, and not coated as stated previously.

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