François-Paul Journe has had a long fascination with the tourbillon. In 1983, his first self-made watch and movement was a pocket watch with a tourbillon regulator, double-barrel construction and a detent escapement. It was only natural that, when he made his first wristwatch in 1991, it would be one with a tourbillon.
The 1991 tourbillon wristwatch laid the basis for François-Paul Journe‘s first Tourbillon Souscription, launched in 1999, with a remontoir d’égalité in wristwatch form. As the name suggests, the watches were sold by subscription only, and garnered immediate attention amongst connoisseurs who sought to purchase one of 20 examples.
This was followed by the first production series Tourbillon Souverain, made between 1999 to 2003. Inheriting the layout from the earlier models, with an off-centred dial at 3 o’clock, power reserve indication at the top, and the tourbillon on the left. The idea is to allow the wearer to discreetly check the time while the watch is worn on the left wrist, even if it is partially under the cuff.
The next evolution came in 2004, where a natural dead second function was added to the Tourbillon Souverain. The movement, made of 18k rose gold, was a first in contemporary mechanical watchmaking, adding to its desirability.
Celebrating 20 Years
In 2019, for the 20th anniversary of the Tourbillon Souverain, the watch received a complete redesign. The most prominent is the tourbillon, which is vertically placed, rather than in the traditional horizontal position.
The main advantage of placing the tourbillon vertically relative to the case is the compensation of the amplitude of the escapement. The traditional horizontal position of the tourbillon comes from its origins in pocket watches, which, when carried, would sit vertical in a pocket, or be placed flat on a surface. Wrist watches, however, are subject to more movement and variations in position. According to Journe: “I designed this vertical tourbillon so that the tourbillon’s functions remain constant whether the watch lies flat or is placed on its side, and the amplitude is consequently the same, whether the watch has a deployant clasp and lies on its side or an ardillon buckle and lies flat.”
Making one revolution every 30 seconds, this vertical tourbillon with remontoir d’égalité and deadbeat second is faster than the usual one-minute tourbillon. This technical evolution improves the accuracy of the watch, as well as being visually astonishing. Around the tourbillon cage, the cone-shaped ring is polished, concentrating light, and reflecting the tourbillon’s movement, with a second reflector on the movement side providing additional light to the technical centrepiece.
Unusually, the dial is in-line with the movement, rather than being on top of the movement. Aside from being another example of the brilliant technicality of F.P.Journe watches, it also allows the watch to remain wearable with an overall height of 13.6mm, despite having a vertically placed tourbillon.
This is the first time a F.P.Journe watch has a Grand Feu enamel dial. Made of 18K white gold, the hour and minute dial joins with the subsidiary jumping second indicator to form a Figure-8 shape, with its rounded polished sides. It is a strong yet elegant contrast against the 18K rose gold bridges forming the remainder of the dial, which is engraved, pad-printed, and decorated with the “Clou de Paris” guilloché pattern.
The Movement – Calibre 1519
A technical tour de force, the purpose-built Calibre 1519, conceived and manufactured in-house, is a manual-winding movement with 80 hours of power reserve. While conventional hand-wound movements, the amplitude of the balance drops as the power held within the mainspring diminishes. The remontoir d’egalité within the Calibre 1519 ensures that the amplitude of the balance remains constant for the first 52 hours of the power reserve and unaffected by the changing supply of energy, consistent with Journe’s pursuit of chronometry.
Visible through the display case back, the 230-component movement is exceptionally finished, with circular Geneva waves on the base plate, polished and bevelled screw heads, and pegs with polished rounded ends.
The F.P.Journe Tourbillon Souverain is available in 42mm platinum or 18k 6N gold case, with matching metal bracelet, or on a calf strap with matching pin buckle.