Opinions are divided on how the watch industry has evolved into a handful of huge multi-brand groups such as Richemont or the Swatch Group owning the majority of makers, with the rest remaining as independents. The latter includes everything from minuscule haute horlogerie manufactures to enormous standalones, like Seiko, with all manner of company in between.

What is undeniable is that the acquisition (in part or whole) of a small independent by a larger group means security for the future. The elephant in the room, however, is the preservation of the smaller brand’s integrity, and this thought immediately popped into focus with the announcement that Chanel has acquired a stake in F.P. Journe.

Not content to hear rumours, Revolution contacted the Communication’s Department of F.P. Journe for its take on the development, in part seeking reassurance for the brand’s devotees. Journe is, after all, one of the pioneers of the mechanical watch revival, a repeat winner of industry awards and a devoted practitioner of the inventiveness of the great Abraham-Louis Breguet.

François-Paul Journe Independent watchmaker / Switzerland - France
François-Paul Journe Independent watchmaker / Switzerland - France

As far as official announcements go, this one was short, sweet and to the point. With precisely 150 well-chosen words, Chanel stated that it had acquired “a minority stake in Montres Journe SA”. Lest the pundits decry Chanel as arriviste as far as haute horlogerie is considered, the brand has of late been producing remarkable complications, while its part-possession of Bell & Ross celebrates its 20thanniversary this year and it has been a principal in Romain Gauthier since 2011.

Chanel’s part-stewardship of these brands augurs well for F.P. Journe, as its stated goal has been to “develop expertise and to support independent watchmakers who share the same values of creation and excellence as Chanel”. Journe is another jewel to add to the Chanel crown as the manufacture heralded the revival of mechanical watches by emerging as far back as 1982, when François-Paul Journe created his first watch in Paris.

Chanel’s timing is perfect: while 2019 marks 20 years since Geneva-based Montres Journe SA began issuing luxury watches under the name of “F.P. Journe Invenit et Fecit”. As its followers know, the company designs, develops and produces every single movement, case and watch face.

Its production is limited deliberately to 900 watches a year, ensuring exclusivity. According to Chanel, the company’s stake “will enable Montres Journe SA to continue its development by ensuring its sustainability, as well as its autonomy.” And those last five words are key to F.P Journe’s willingness to acquire a partner.

Aware of the implications of the announcement, Journe’s Communications Department told Revolution in an exclusive conversation: “The decision has been well-thought-out, and the discussions have been on-going for some time.” Reminding us of the recent F.P. Journe collaboration with shotgun manufacturer Holland & Holland — also under the Chanel umbrella — we realised that F.P. had provided a cheeky hint of what was transpiring.

The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland
The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland
The movement of the F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland
The movement of the F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland

When asked, “Why now?”, the spokesperson was unequivocal. “At the moment and for the foreseeable future, everything is good, but Mr Journe did not want to end up as merely another brand in a massive group. Chanel demonstrated extraordinary understanding, and would prove to be an exceptional partner that would look after Montres Journe SA. Total freedom has been assured, augmented by the security of Chanel’s backing.”

As savvy observers of the watch industry are aware, as opposed to fake news merchants who revel in panic-mongering, Chanel has always been discreet about its partnerships. We were told François-Paul himself noted that Chanel represents elegance, cleverness and great vision. For those who have been dazzled by such magnificent collections as Vagabondage, Souveraine and Octa, the future of their maker is now assured.