Laurent Ferrier on Cellini TickTalk

Victory Lap

Laurent Ferrier’s Grand Sport Tourbillon returns for a victory lap with a new steel bracelet.


By Scott Hickey
May 1, 2020

The first Grand Sport Tourbillon was released last summer on a rubber strap and produced in a limited run of 12 pieces. The watch was made to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Laurent Ferrier conceiving the design for his signature double-hairspring tourbillon. Coincidently, it also celebrated the 40th anniversary of Ferrier’s third-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1979.

Laurent Ferrier unveiled the follow-up to its original Grand Sport Tourbillon in April with a new version that provides an introduction to the brand’s first integrated steel bracelet. Its three-row design dovetails neatly with the cushion-shaped case to emphasize the watch’s strong, geometric presence. That cohesive look extends to key details like the satin-finished surfaces and mirror-polished edges that add rich contrast to the case and bracelet.

The dial is new as well. The center is anchored by a deep shade of blue that gets darker as it spreads out towards the edge. Against that vignetted background, the bright, orange-colored hands and indexes appear to jump off the dial, which makes it easy to read the time at a glance. That’s true even in the dark, thanks to their Super-LumiNova coating.

Like its predecessor, production of the new Grand Sport Tourbillon will be limited to just 12 pieces.

In the pits at Le Mans with the third-place winning team (from left) François Servanin, François Trisconi and Laurent Ferrier.

 

AN UNEXPECTED TURN
The Grand Sport Tourbillon combines two passions that have inspired Ferrier through the years — high speeds and high watchmaking. Cellini recently spoke with Ferrier to explore the connection between his time behind the wheel and the watch bench.

A third-generation watchmaker, horology was hardwired into Ferrier’s genetic code from birth. But after graduating from the Geneva Watchmaking School in the late-1960s, his destiny as a watchmaker took a detour.

For more than a decade, Ferrier lived a split existence with one foot in the watch world and the other on a gas pedal. When he wasn’t working at Patek Philippe to uphold his family’s watchmaking tradition, you could usually find him barreling down the straightaway of a racetrack, driving everything from a Lotus 18 to BMW M1.

“I remember that we were in third place on Sunday morning in the general ranking. When the two cars ahead of us broke down that night, we thought we were going to win Le Mans!” he recalls with excitement. “Unfortunately, we had some technical issues too, and the other cars eventually managed to catch up. Happily, we kept our nice spot at third.”

The official race poster for Le Mans 1979.

 

Unbeknownst to Ferrier, however, that race would pave the way for him to start his own watch brand 30 years later. As fate would have it, one of his Le Mans teammates was François Servanin, a French entrepreneur who would become a lifelong friend.

“I gave a Nautilus to François following our victory,” Ferrier says. “Every time we met after that, he would say: ‘My friends tell me that Patek Philippe is the most beautiful brand in the world, but it’s already difficult to get one! One day, we’re going to create our own brand.’”

It took nearly 30 years, but that’s exactly what happened in 2008 when the Laurent Ferrier brand was finally established. A year later, Ferrier devised a tourbillon-regulated movement that uses two reverse-fitted balance springs to help neutralize the effects of gravity on the watch’s chronometric performance.

The ingenious design struck a chord with watch enthusiasts, and Laurent Ferrier became a bona fide watchmaking sensation in 2010 when the brand’s Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral won the Men’s Watch Prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Not bad for a retired racer.

The new Grand Sport Tourbillon introduces the brand’s first stainless steel bracelet.

 

A NEW DIRECTION
The decision to create the Grand Sport Tourbillon — the brand’s first sports watch — was an easy one Ferrier said. “I only make watches that I would like to own and wear, and a sports model was missing from the collection,” he explains.

The Grand Sport Tourbillon manages to pull off a difficult balancing act by exploring a new direction for the brand without compromising the outstanding performance and exquisite finishing that originally made it a favorite of collectors. Take for instance, the curved outline of the 44mm stainless steel case, which echoes the simple beauty of the company’s familiar Galet case. Look closer and you can see the attention to detail revealed by aesthetic flourishes like the domed and tinted sapphire crystal that arches over dial and the subtle guards that protect the ball-shaped crown.

In addition to its visual charms, the Grand Sport Tourbillon also happens to be a pleasure to wear, a tangible trait that Ferrier insists all his watches share. “When I design a timepiece, I think about the owner’s overall experience first,” he says. “Since this is a sports watch, it needed to be bigger and stronger, but still feel balanced. Legibility is always important, especially for a sports watch, which is why I chose the luminous orange material for the hands and markers.”

The contrast between the midnight-blue dial and the orange elements enhance the watch’s legibility.

 

EMBRACING THE PARADOX
Behind that sporty exterior beats the heart of an haute horlogerie beast. After all, the Grand Sport Tourbillon may be a sports watch, but it’s also a Laurent Ferrier watch. That combination accounts for the presence of a tourbillon mechanism, which is only visible from the back of the watch.

For his interpretation of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s most famous invention, Ferrier equips his tourbillon with two reversed-fitted balance springs to counteract timing-rate variations caused by gravity. This design ensures chronometer-level timekeeping precision, which is certified independently by the Besançon Astronomical Observatory in France.

Some may consider the design too sporty for collectors who like tourbillons and too complicated for people who enjoy sports watches. Ferrier disagrees. “This timepiece is a paradox — a tourbillon double hairspring caliber in a sporty case. But that interesting, unexpected mix is what will appeal to collectors,” he says.

Limited to only 12 pieces worldwide, the Grand Sport Tourbillon on bracelet is available at Cellini.

Click here to view the Laurent Ferrier collection online at Cellini Jewelers.

The satin-brushed bridges have been treated with ruthenium for a sleek and sophisticated look.