Cultural Perspectives • 13 Aug 2019
An Introduction to F.P. Journe
Independent watchmaking has become increasingly popular over recent years. The market seems to be slowly warming to the unique charms of low-production, oftentimes experimental and utterly artisanal watchmaking. Amongst those watchmakers daring to compete against larger companies with illustrious histories and extraordinary financial capacity, F.P. Journe produces particularly exquisite timepieces. To own a Journe is to own one of the finest timepieces available on the contemporary market.
Invenit et Fecit
Invented and made: Francois-Paul Journe presented his first collection of timepieces to the world in 1999, and on the dial of each watch was inscribed Invenit et Fecit. Indeed, Journe continues to invent entirely original designs. For the roughly 900 watches made each year by the company, every part of each movement is produced in Geneva: it is an entirely integrated manufacture where everything from base plate cutting to platinum case polishing is done inside the same building.
The watches are produced wholly in-house and there are several key traits which are characteristic of a Journe watch. Firstly, the dial. The dial of a Journe is immediately recognisable due to its unique compositional character and typography – what many people might not know, is that the company owns its own dialmaker, Cadraniers de Geneve (they also own their own casemaker for that matter). Secondly, the hands. Effortlessly refined and elegant teardrop hands perfectly complement the aesthetic of the dial and are employed to indicate everything from the hours and minutes to the date and power reserve. Finally, the movement. In what was an industry first, Journe produces almost all of its movements from 18K rose gold – a detail testament to their holistic commitment to exceptional quality in every aspect of watchmaking.
F.P. Journe is an exciting company. Although there is great variation within each collection, below we take a close look at one model from each of the main collections to offer an insight into the brand as a whole: a brand that has thankfully been invented, and that continues to be exquisitely made.
At the heart of the Souveraine Collection is the Chronometre Souverain – a watch that acts as somewhat of a reference point for the other models in the collection. Complications including as tourbillions, dual time-zones and even minute repeaters have been added over time, but they all share a similar genetic resemblance to the simpler Chronometre Souverain. The design of the timepiece is supposedly inspired by the marine chronometers of the 19thcentury however, the end result manages to strike the delicate balance between comforting traditionalism and daring novelty. In 2005, it was rightly awarded the Best Men’s Watch Prize at the GPHG in Geneva. The silver dial is clean and uncluttered.
Characteristic blued steel hands tell the hours and minutes, the seconds on the subdial placed asymmetrically to the left, and the 56-hour power reserve on the indicator to the right. The combination of guilloche and a classical typography creates an air of timelessness, yet the layout is resolutely contemporary. Exceptional design continues behind the dial in what hides within the 40mm case – a case which is available in either platinum or red gold. The manually wound Calibre 1304 features two parallel mainspring barrels that serve to tick the watch along reliably and accurately at a frequency of 21,600vph. In all, the Chronometre Souverain is the product of traditional charm meets contemporary flair – what a delight that has turned out to be.
When Journe decided to foray into the world of automatic watches, the Octa Collection was the culmination of their efforts. Upon its release in 2001, the automatic Octa Calibre boasted an unrivalled 120 hour (5 day) power reserve. Until then the feat was considered too difficult as typically a power reserve that is pushed as far as 5 days can negatively impact the watch’s precision. Journe overcame these challenges by increasing the size of the balance and dynamically poising it in five positions so as to increase its level of inertia. Like in the Souveraine Collection, the balance vibrates at 21,600vph except here it is powered by a 22K gold rotor – how very Journe.
The crown of the Octa Collection is the Octa Quantieme Perpetual. Journe’s first perpetual calendar is superbly executed. To start, it is extraordinarily legible – asymmetrical composition of instantaneously jumping apertures deftly declares the day, month and date within the 40mm case. Almost hidden behind the centrally positioned hour and minute hands sit the leap year indicator, and off to the left (the only break with symmetry) is the distinctive 120-hour power reserve. Of course, a perpetual calendar is one of the greatest accomplishments in the horological endeavour. The movement has to possess a mechanical memory of 1461 days in order to compensate for that pesky quadrennial date: the 29thof February. Theoretically, these complications will retain their accuracy in perpetuity – although buyer beware, due to inconsistencies in our Gregorian calendar, perpetual calendar watches will in fact need adjusting come the 1stof March 2100… For its discerning configuration, revered complication and superior accuracy, the Octa Quantieme Perpetual stands out as extraordinary even amongst the enviable company of the other models in the Octa Collection.
Why not be able to take your Journe on a morning exercise routine? This was the question asked by a Journe collector and so with the Linesport Collection, F.P. Journe ventures beyond the familiar territory of precious metals towards something more causal, robust and sporty. The Centigraphe Sport epitomises this break with convention and presents a sports watch where a titanium case, an aluminium movement and luminescent numerals combine to make a watch that is delightfully active. At 44mm and featuring either a yellow or grey dial, it is more of a statement than any pair of new running shoes could ever be. The watch weighs only 60 grams with a rubber strap and 70 grams with the titanium bracelet – no need to worry about being weighed down when trying to beat that PB of your lap of the park.
The manually wound Calibre 1506 supports a chronograph mechanism which features three separate indicators on subdials: one of which is a second hand that revolves on a 100thof a second-time scale, another completes a revolution every 20 seconds, and the last every 10 minutes. The practical yet tasteful design of the ergonomic rocker acts to stop, start and zero the chronograph with ease and precision. Perhaps it goes without saying that models from the Linesport Collection run out rather quickly.
From haute horology to accurate athleticism, Journe produces watches worthy of immense admiration. As a company, it undeniably upholds the very best of all that independent watchmaking stands for. To every person who professes to value watches beyond their time-telling capacity, F.P. Journe is a name that deserves to mean true artistic and mechanical excellence.