Independent Watchmaking

Introducing the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan

Independent Watchmaking

Introducing the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan


Good old Greubel Forsey with an innovative creation.
While Swiss independent watchmaker Greubel Forsey has recently shifted its focus towards sportier high-end chronometry wristwatches, it surprised us by unveiling the Tourbillon Cardan.


Deviating from its more recent Covexe case design, the Tourbillon Cardan presents a classic case and dial that immediately conjures memories of the brand’s timepieces from years gone by. The Tourbillon Cardan undeniably embodies the quintessential Greubel Forsey style, not only in its aesthetics but also in its mechanical precision. This is evident in the watchmaker’s latest innovation – the 8th, according to the La Chaux-de-Fonds atelier – in precision timekeeping: the gimbal system, which ensures the tourbillon maintains the optimal angle.

Classic yet innovative

The latest Tourbillon Cardan is a classic Greubel Forsey wristwatch that will undoubtedly delight the brand’s long-time collectors. It features a familiar case design that leans more towards a dressy style, in contrast to the integrated sporty look of the brand’s more recent watches.


However, true to the Greubel Forsey ethos, the Tourbillon Cardan is anything but a mere reproduction of bygone dress watches. In fact, the Cardan perfectly embodies the brand’s ethos, which is to create watches that honor the rules and traditions of classic Swiss watchmaking while infusing them with a contemporary aesthetic that belongs to our time. This is most apparent in the dial, which showcases multi-level components and partial open working, giving the watch a strikingly modern appearance not typically found in vintage chronometry timepieces. 


But, more importantly, the brand has not only introduced a modern design language but also new mechanics. It has invented a variety of tourbillon configurations, ranging from an inclined tourbillon to a quadruple tourbillon. However, it never stands still and continues to innovate, as evidenced by its latest and 8th invention, the Tourbillon Cardan.

The Tourbillon Cardan can be broken down into three components. First, the core tourbillon itself, which completes a revolution every 16 seconds, or almost 4 complete revolutions per minute, making it the fastest within the brand’s collection.


Second, the tourbillon is, as you may have guessed, inclined at a 30-degree angle. This is an innovation that dates back to the founding of the brand in 2004. According to Greubel Forsey’s research, a 30-degree angle is ideal for the inclination of a balance in a wristwatch, considering the time it spends on a wrist and sitting on a desk, in terms of offsetting the gravitational error.

However, the 30-degree angle won’t always remain constant. Certain wrist movements or methods of placing the watch in a box or on a table can alter the inclination of the tourbillon to an undesirable angle, such as one that’s perpendicular to the ground. This is where the brand’s latest invention comes into play – the Cardan, a mechanism based on the principles of a gimbal.


Traditionally found in marine chronometers, a gimbal serves to maintain a horizontal profile of the marine clock, ensuring that the balance wheel does not encounter positional errors induced by gravity. This, in turn, increases precision and the ability for sailors to estimate deviation and determine longitude more accurately. 


In the Tourbillon Cardan, the gimbal serves to maintain a 30-degree angle instead of a horizontal profile. This modern innovation pays homage to classic chronometry methods, setting the watch apart as a distinctive and uncommon offering in today’s wristwatch landscape. Only a handful of past examples of wristwatches with a gimbal exist, including the Zenith Christophe Colomb Hurricane and, to some extent, the ingenious Cartier Astrorégulateur.


You might wonder why the inclination angle is fixed at 30 degrees rather than horizontal, which would minimize gravitational influence. That’s because the gimbal in the Tourbillon Cardan isn’t freely moving. Instead, it has a 48-second period during which it tilts backward and forward from +30 to -30 degrees. In other words, it doesn’t move freely to offset all inclined angles, but rather within a narrow range of angles. According to the brand, a 30-degree inclination for the tourbillon is ideal in this case.

Our verdict

The Tourbillon Cardan is a welcome addition to Greubel Forsey’s collection, encompassing several defining features of the brand. These include innovative timekeeping mechanisms, a contemporary yet elegant aesthetic, and, of course, impeccable hand finishing of all movement components.


By incorporating a gimbal, the Cardan embodies the brand’s ongoing pursuit of complex mechanics designed to enhance chronometry. Arguably, these traditional techniques may be less efficient than modern precision machinery methods such as deep reactive ion etching (DRIE) and LIGA, but these classic solutions offer a unique fusion of beauty and emotion, and will undoubtedly stand the test of time, at least from an artistic perspective. As the philosopher Zhuangzi eloquently pointed out, there is usefulness in the seemingly useless, and this watch serves as a sterling example of that concept.

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan specs and price

Movement: Tourbillon Cardan; manual; 80 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, tourbillon, and power reserve indicator
Case: 46 mm x 13.81 mm; titanium; water resistant to 30 m
Strap: Black plant-based strap with titanium folding clasp
Availability: From Greubel Forsey and its retailers
Limited edition: 55 pieces over the next five years
Price: SGD 729,000