A detailed look at the Greubel Forsey Signature 1, an impeccable chronograph

Greubel Forsey replica went all out with its entry-level Signature 1, giving it an n-class movement in construction and finish.

Entry-level watches are all the rage right now, even among watchmakers like Greubel Forsey, a specialist in sophisticated and expensive tourbillon watches. Launched earlier this year at SIHH 2016, the Signature 1 is the entry-level Greubel Forsey. The Signature 1 doesn’t have any complications, it just shows the time, but the construction and finish are impeccable, as good as Greubel Forsey’s expensive timepieces.

The Signature 1 is hand-wound and displays hours, minutes and seconds. Despite its simplicity, the dial appears slightly complex in typical Greubel Forsey style. The time is displayed on an off-centre sub-dial, and the gold-plated wheels of the gear train are exposed.

One’s eye is immediately drawn to the large balance wheel, nearly 13mm in diameter, held in place by a long steel bridge. While the visuals of the watch are nothing special, the Signature 1 is quite handsome.

Even more impressive is the quality of the watch. The hand-finishing of the movement is excellent. Every component, even the tiniest and most inconspicuous, has been finished to a high degree. Take, for example, the blued steel hands, all of which have a mirror-polished, bowl-shaped countersunk center. The dial, although it looks ordinary, is actually a silver-plated solid gold disc. Even the edges of the dial are beveled and polished; the small cutout at seven o’clock to accommodate the balance wheel is a pleasing detail.

Another interesting detail is the escape wheel bridge, which is located below the balance bridge. While barely visible, it still has straight grain on the top and sides, polished bevels on all edges—and the chamfered edges of the heads of the screws that hold it in place.

Although small by replica Greubel Forsey standards, the Signature 1 is not a small watch. It is 41.4mm in diameter and just under 12mm thick. Even in stainless steel, it’s big enough to give it presence and weight. The case is also meticulously polished, with neatly brushed surfaces separated by polished bevels.

Conversely, the finish is more impressive because there’s more to see. Although uncomplicated, the movement is constructed to showcase most of the mechanics. The black-coated main board serves as a canvas, and the bridges are cut away to reveal the components below. On the top left is the barrel, topped by a striking serrated ratchet under the three-legged barrel bridge. The size and shape of the barrel bridge give it an architectural feel, a quality often found in Greubel Forsey movements.

The movement style is inspired by vintage pocket watch movements. All cleats have a smooth matte finish with wide polished bevels on the edges. Most bridges have a straight profile, although there are enough sharp inward angles between them to satisfy the grooming aficionado.

As expected, the spokes and rims of all gears are beveled, the jewels are set in gold sleeves, and the screws are neatly polished and chamfered.

The Signature 1 is the first in a series planned by the watchmakers of Greubel Forsey. Didier JG Cretin was the watchmaker responsible for conceiving the Signature 1, which is why his name is repeated twice on the front and back of the watch. The names of Mr. Greubel and Mr. Forsey are also repeated twice, perhaps unnecessarily.

The movement saves so little, it’s obvious. But can it be better?

Given the undeniable quality of the movement, the question seems a bit ungrateful. However, Signature 1 is still priced the same as a small apartment. Popular copy watch

One detail that could be improved – even though it’s been done perfectly – is the balance bridge. It is topped with an impeccable black finish, with wide polished bevels running along its length and admirably sharp corners on the pillars at each end. A more time-consuming trimming method is to round the profile of the bridge, as is done on the Patek Philippe ref. Take the 5101 10-Day Tourbillon as an example.

Then there is the question of compromise.

Greubel Forsey is known for its incredibly exotic tourbillon watches. Most Greubel Forsey watches are the best in their class, which is a convincing argument – they’re really that good.

On the other hand, the Signature 1 feels a bit of a compromise relative to other products made by Greubel Forsey. This is a problem Greubel Forsey created for himself by setting the bar so high. This problem is further compounded by the fact that alternatives to Signature 1, such as Voutilainen Vingt-8, are widely regarded as the best in their class.

The stainless steel Signature 1 is half the price of the second most expensive Greubel Forsey watch (tourbillon). Relative to the brand’s other offerings, the Signature 1 seems like a good deal, but it’s still hard to label this value for money.