Laurent Ferrier: Horological Exhibitionism
With award-winning movements, superlative finishing and limited production, Laurent Ferrier is one of the most sought-after independent watch brands today.
After retiring as the head of creation development at Patek Philippe, Laurent Ferrier began making watches under his own name in 2010. Soon after, a growing number of enthusiasts were knocking at the door of his Swiss atelier, clamoring for his handiwork.
The company’s profile received a major boost the year it debuted when the Galet Classic earned the Men’s Watch Prize from the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Undoubtedly, the judges’ decision was influenced by the innovative design of the tourbillon, which was the first to feature two inversed balance springs, an arrangement designed to average out the effects that gravity can have on accuracy when a watch is in vertical positions.
To underscore the caliber’s precision, it was sent to the Besançon Astronomical Observatory, an organization that tests movements for their accuracy and certifies those that pass its stringent standards as chronometers. This classification means the watch is precise enough to be used as a time standard. According to Joël Petetin, a chronometry specialist at the observatory, fewer than two dozen tourbillons like the Galet Classic are certified every year. “Fine tuning a tourbillon for chronometrical certification is a bit more complex and tricky than a regular watch,” he explained.
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As impressive as the caliber is, some collectors wanted even more. Specifically, they wanted to see more of Laurent Ferrier’s exquisite tourbillon. As it happens, the tourbillon in the Galet Classic can only be viewed from the back of the watch. This fondness for subtly stems from one of Ferrier’s key design inspirations: 19th century pocket watches. In those, the tourbillon was also visible only from the back because the mechanism was valued more for its functionality than its visual appeal. It’s only during the past 30 years that the tourbillon has been given pride of place on the dial.
This year, Laurent Ferrier surprised everyone by revisiting the Galet Classic to create the new Galet Classic Dual, which displays the tourbillon through an opening on the dial.
The goal, Ferrier says, was to find a way to honor collector’s requests without altering the integrity of his creation. “Our concern was to remain faithful to our values in developing a timepiece with high results of chronometry while trying to reach the perfect aesthetic. It was also critical that the tourbillon remained in the same position on the movement as in previous models to keep the elegance of the original design intact.”
So instead of simply flipping the movement over to show the top of the tourbillon on the dial side, Ferrier chose a different path. His solution was to display the back of the tourbillon on the dial, something rarely — if ever — done before. Ferrier says this unusual configuration also gave the company an opportunity to highlight its hand finishing. “We care a lot about the details in terms of decoration and our tourbillon cage is particularly complex because all the interior angles are manually polished. The fact that we can see that amazing work from both sides now makes me think that this piece is a great tribute to the watchmakers’ and decorators’ talent, which is an important value for us.”
Created especially for the watch, Ferrier says the bridge seen on the dial supporting the tourbillon was especially challenging to decorate. “This part has such a singular shape, combined with a strong functional role, that it is extremely difficult to finish. This tiny component features vertical satin-brushing, shot-blasting and hand-polishing of the sink and angles. In a Galet Classic, the finishing on the tourbillon cage takes up to 15 hours just for the bottom cage bridge because of the 17 interior angles. This new version takes even longer because the decoration is seen from the two sides, which means the interior angles must be decorated on both sides."
Laurent Ferrier recently introduced a unique edition of the Galet Classic Dual made exclusively for Cellini Jewelers. Instead of the brushed dial with a sector-style display that was unveiled in Geneva, this special version features a gorgeous white grand feu enamel dial. Its raised Arabic numerals are a dark shade of navy blue that’s matched by the hour and minute hands, which are assegai-shaped, one of the brand’s hallmarks.
As if that weren’t enough to command collector’s attention, the 41mm case is stainless steel, making it one of only a handful of steel tourbillons ever produced by Laurent Ferrier.
With high-end watches, innovative movement design tends to resonate with a certain segment of collectors who obsess over the mechanical minutia. For others, aesthetics are paramount. With this special Galet Classic Dual, Laurent Ferrier has created a watch that appeals to both sides of the brain.
Original article by Scott Hickey