The F.P. Journe manufacture has always made a point of standing apart from the crowd. Of doing things a different way. Its own way. The company – and its eponymous founder in particular – doesn’t court media attention, nor does it use celebrity ambassadors to help sell its timepieces. Instead, it operates strictly within a world of its own, engaged in a constant quest for perfection, excellence, expertise and innovation.
The founding principle of the manufacture, established 30 years ago this year, is to innovate, uphold, and if possible, surpass the high standards of traditional haute horlogerie. The results of this single-minded pursuit of excellence speak for themselves. Despite producing less than 900 timepieces annually, the creations from this highly acclaimed, independently-owned manufacturer of haute horlogerie continue to be sought after by well-informed collectors the world over.
A key contributor to this success is the fact that the Manufacture is able to produce in-house nearly 100% of the components necessary for the production of its watches, all of which are assembled exclusively in its workshops. This includes cases as well as watch dials, which are manufactured entirely in the Les Cadraniers de Genève workshops, a dial factory that F.P. Journe owns a half share. The other 50% is owned by Vacheron Constantin, a fact that serves as a further endorsement of the quality of the dials being produced.
It should come as no surprise then, that the F.P. Journe manufacture has been something of a pioneer over the years in using different materials to craft its dials. Today, we’re going to take a look at four of the more exotic examples from the last few years, which demonstrate the exceptional creativity and daring of the brand, and its namesake founder.
Earlier this year in London, F.P. Journe unveiled its latest exotic dial, created in conjunction with British gun maker Holland & Holland. The time-only Chronometre Holland & Holland features stunning Damascus steel dials, crafted from the barrels of two antique Holland & Holland shotguns, dating from 1868 and 1882 respectively. After being cut along their length at the Holland & Holland factory in Kensal Green, the barrels were rolled out to form flat strips before being cut being into smaller strips. Once cleaned, the strips were reduced to the required thickness and then polished.
Next, the strips were dispatched to Les Cadraniers de Genève, where the dials were stamped out. Each dial was then sent back to Holland & Holland and “browned”, a traditional gun-making treatment that really brings out the stunning patterns of the Damascus steel whilst also helping to protect it. As a final step, the dials were printed with F.P. Journe’s trademark numerals and chapter ring for the minutes.
Mother of Pearl
After first making a handful of mother of pearl dial limited editions in the mid 2000s, F.P. Journe followed up a few years ago with the launch of the exclusive Boutiques Collections, which feature striking Mother of Pearl dials. Elegantly combining the mysteries of mother of pearl in an hour circle adorned with Arabic numerals, with the timeless elegance of a Clous de Paris guilloche in its centre, the timepieces are perfectly suited to those who like to subtly stand out from the crowd. Available in either a red gold or platinum case, the former consists of a subtle combination of rose mother of pearl and a red gold guilloche, whilst the latter features an hour circle in light blue mother of pearl and a centre in silver guilloche. These exclusive mother of pearl dials are available with the Chronomètre Souverain, the Octa Automatique Lune or the Octa Automatique Réserve.
Perhaps the most astonishing exotic dials made by the F.P. Journe Manufacture are those that are crafted from jade. Extremely difficult to manufacture due to the inherent fragility arising from the thinness required, these exquisite dials are rarer than rare. The finished product is almost translucent and the colour simply stunning, providing the perfect backdrop for the traditional aesthetic of an F.P. Journe dial. Available exclusively from F.P. Journe Boutiques and Espaces, models featuring jade dials, or even other precious stones, are generally only made on request for very special clients.
With its integrated manufacturing facilities, unrelenting focus on quality and limited annual production, it’s hard to think of a way that F.P. Journe timepieces could become even more exclusive. However, that’s exactly what the Manufacture has done with the creation of its Black Label collection. Available as any of the F.P. Journe models in the catalogue, Black Label means the cases are exclusively made in platinum (but the minute repeater and grande sonnerie remain steel) and paired with an exotic dial in blackened gold that completes the elegance of the Black Label collection. The models are created under a very strict schedule, however, with only 12 pieces made for each boutique per year – there are only 10 boutiques around the world – and a 2-piece cap for each model in each boutique.
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Frank Geelen – The Netherlands
Frank Geelen is an expert on Haute Horlogerie and beautiful hand-finished mechanical movements make his horological heart beats faster. He loves to explain all technical details of complications like tourbillons, minute repeaters, constant force escapements and column-wheel chronographs and he has been doing that for nine years.