There is no watchmaker, independent or otherwise, quite like Francois Paul Journe –a notable iconoclast; famously perfectionistic; famously idiosyncratic in approach; famously irascible; a man who sees himself as the spiritual heir to the great French watchmaking traditions and masters of the late 18th and early 19th century –Berthoud, Breguet, Janvier, Le Roy.
F. P. Journe today remains one of the smallest and most exclusive independent watchmaking houses in the world, and his admirers brook no dispute in their admiration of his work. He’s created some of watchmaking’s most polarizing complications, such as the Resonance Chronometer and the Centigraphe, and though his unique approach and philosophy in watch design, and in the development of complicated watches, is most definitely not for everyone, we’re pretty sure Mr. Journe wouldn’t have it any other way; seldom has a watchmaker been so conspicuously disinterested in popularity for its own sake, or in the value of any opinion other than his own.
Mr. Journe’s just announced a new wristwatch meant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his first hand-made watch: a tourbillon, with chronometer detent escapement and two mainspring barrels, which was both a tour-de-force for such a young watchmaker, and a statement of vision and purpose.
His new wristwatch is essentially a re-visiting of that original design, miniaturized and somewhat modified to make it suitable for use on the wrist. It retains all the classic, 19th century French horological architecture of the original pocket watch; the main technical difference is in the escapement; Mr. Journe has chosen a lever escapement rather than a chronometer detent escapement as the latter is somewhat less secure in action than the lever, and on the wrist, has a tendency if jolted to accidentally unlock the escape wheel.
Journe enthusiasts will undoubtedly find this a highly desirable piece –it’s one of the most pure designs Mr. Journe has produced in many years (though his work is always notable for the minimalist elegance so characteristic of the best French horology) and the beautiful engine turning on the case gives it even greater élan. The use of gold and silver may strike some as odd but even this is an homage to the original –Mr. Journe used both metals in his pocket tourbillon because as a young watchmaker he could not (as he related in a 2003 interview with ThePuristS.com moderator Alex Ghotbi) afford to make the case entirely of gold!
There will be a total of 99 pieces created, at $99,000.
The F. P. Journe Historical Anniversary Tourbillon –Case, rose gold and silver, guilloché engraving, 40mm x 10mm, with hunter-style caseback opening to reveal the movement. Dial, silver with engraved and filled numerals; blued steel Breguet hands. Movement: hand-wound tourbillon chronometer, Journe calibre 1412, 32.60mm; lateral lever escapement, with two mainspring barrels providing a 56 hour power reserve, running in 19 jewels; tourbillon rotates once per minute; free-sprung Anachron balance spring with overcoil; balance with 4 intertial timing weights; pinned at the stud and collet. Frequency 21,600 vph.