Home >Mint-lounge >Features >I don’t see smartwatches as competition: Stephen Forsey

As Stephen Forsey, co-founder of Swiss luxury watch brand Greubel Forsey, shows us the Double Tourbillon 30°Technique, he knocks on the dial. One might think twice before knocking on a timepiece that works on a double tourbillon mechanism and has a 396-part movement, but this Greubel Forsey creation is a sturdy masterpiece, despite its delicate and complex design.

It’s hard to ignore the details on the Technique: the transparent back, the jewels and hand engravings on the case. These features, Forsey says, represent Greubel Forsey’s mantra: to excel in innovation, reliability and craftsmanship. The watch is a marvel, both in design and feel.

From selling 15-20 watches in 2004, the year Greubel Forsey was founded, the brand has come a long way. It now makes 108-110 luxury watches every year, with a portfolio of eight calibers priced from a few hundred thousand dollars to over a million. On a recent visit to India, Forsey spoke to Lounge about competing with heritage brands, smart watches, and preserving traditional skills for the future. Edited excerpts:

How does Greubel Forsey match up to heritage Swiss watch brands?

Some historic brands are constrained in a certain design style, model or techniques for the movement. We were able to define a new DNA for Greubel Forsey.

Becoming a global brand is not our mission or philosophy. What we’re interested in is innovation, artistry, hand-craftsmanship, reliability and performance. So we created a market segment which didn’t really exist.

We created watches that we would be delighted to discuss (even) if they were made by somebody else. These are watchmaker’s watches in a way. But the style and creation also appeal to collectors.

How important is India for luxury watch brands?

India is an important emerging market, especially with the younger generation. Their enthusiasm and link with technology means that they explore things differently. Traditionally, watch collectors collected timepieces gradually over many years. Now, with social media and other platforms, consumers can do a lot of foundational work without going out on the front line.

What do you think of the disruptive influence of smartwatches?

I don’t see it as competition. I think smart technology opens a huge possibility for the watch industry. It’s up to the industry to be creative and engage consumers.

Some say that it’s going to be like the Quartz watch crisis of the 1970s, but we must remember that the mechanical watch then was a utility object. Your watch wasn’t on your cooker or microwave. It wasn’t everywhere.

Tell us about your Time on Foundation project for watchmakers?

The foundation was created by (Robert) Greubel, myself and three independent watchmakers over 10 years ago when we realized that even Swiss watchmakers were losing out on traditional techniques and skills. We educate them to create a new generation of watchmakers who can take these traditional skills into the future.

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