The F.P. Journe Motto
In the arena of independent watchmakers, few brands command as much widespread marvel, appreciation and adoration as F.P. Journe. After making a name for himself as an expert restorer and maker of fine one-off commission pieces, François-Paul Journe founded his watchmaking brand in 1999. Quickly climbing the ranks of independent high-horology, F.P. Journe’s motto best reflects the brand’s ethos that watch collectors have appreciated so much - Invenit et Fecit or ‘He invented and made it’. As the motto suggests, the brand designs and builds its own movements from scratch, an impressive feat for independent brands, particularly in the early 2000s when larger brands were still reliant on third-party movements.
In order for F.P. Journe to finance his brand and sell the volume of watches that he needed to remain operational, Francois-Paul borrowed an idea from Breguet – to offer ‘souscription’ watches. The idea was to sell watches before making them for an upfront portion of the price - 50% in this case, with the rest paid upon delivery. With this, Francois-Paul could finance the cost of the builds and then fund growing his business with the rest of the revenue. The first batch of watches F.P. Journe made was a limited run of 20 pieces and called the Tourbillon Souverain Souscription. Individually numbered on the dial and caseback, these were very closely related to earlier tourbillon wristwatches that Francois-Paul made by himself in the early 90s. They also went on to become the Tourbillon Souverain which has since become a collector favourite from the brand.
Originally released in 1999 through the ‘souscription’ programme, the Tourbillon Souverain has gone on to become one of the most important watches in the entire brand’s line-up. While it was essential to finance the company, it was also an important vehicle to demonstrate F.P. Journe’s watchmaking credentials. What makes the Tourbillon Souverain so unique is that it was the first production watch to include a tourbillon with a remontoire d’égalité. The remontoire d’égalité is a mechanism created by John Harrison for use in his marine chronometers that would regulate the force provided from the mainspring to the escapement. This would keep the energy it provided constant and reduce its variability over time. This ensures that the power reserve will not supply different levels of power to the escapement depending on how wound it is, which could alter the accuracy of the watch. This was crucial for Francois-Paul as chronometry has been so incredibly important to him, as reflected by his constant pursuit for chronometer timepieces. Throughout the Tourbillon Souverain’s lifetime, it has seen numerous references, with varying dial arrangements, colours and complications – all as amazing as the last.
Chronomètre à Résonance
Released in 2000 on the same subscription basis as the Tourbillon Souverain, the Chronomètre à Résonance, as its name suggests, centres around the use of resonance to improve the accuracy of the watch. Resonance is the phenomenon observed when one material oscillates at its natural frequency and forces a second nearby object into the same rate of oscillation. Francois-Paul employed this phenomenon by putting two balances very close together within the movement so they would oscillate in harmony together. The desired effect, as demonstrated by Louis Breguet in the 19th century, is that if one balance wheel was beginning to deviate through the natural variance found within the movement, it would be brought back within kilter by the other balance wheel. Manufacturing a movement that exhibits resonance is an extremely difficult challenge, as it requires the two balances to be very carefully adjusted, so their rate of oscillation matches up. It is so tricky that F.P. Journe is the only watchmaker to make use of the effect. While Breguet initially noted that he needed to get the balances within a 20 seconds-per-day deviation of one another to experience resonance, the smaller balances in the Chronomètre à Résonance are four times as difficult and need to be within 5 seconds-per-day deviation.
Worth the Merits?
Due to the excellence that F.P. Journe exemplifies throughout its product range, it is hard to find a collector that doesn’t like what they do. They produce watches that are engineering marvels, do things that no other brands can do and create gorgeous looking watches while doing it. It is incredibly impressive that the brand has achieved what it has in such a relatively short time. In just 20 years, F.P. Journe has accrued an interest from the watch community that has taken other brands hundreds of years to develop, and that is not something to be taken lightly. The watchmaking world is obsessed with nostalgia and classic designs, and any relatively new independent watchmaker is going to have a hard time penetrating the market. F.P. Journe, however, has taken it in their stride and have fit themselves into the broader context of the market perfectly. Their customers know what they are about, love their watches and appreciate the mastery involved in making them. F.P. Journe is undoubtedly worth every ounce of hype or praise they get.