F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel
The F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel blends technical virtuosity, impressive readability, peerless craftsmanship and, most of all, a becoming appearance that surpasses most other watches. Angus Davies looks closely at this bewitching creation and contemplates whether it’s best worn on the wrist or affixed to a gallery wall.
Whenever I cradle an F.P. Journe timepiece in glove-clad hands, I appraise its composition with a notable degree of reverence. These are not watches you dare drag across a desk, wear whilst playing a round of golf or subject to the frenetic pounding of treadmill trauma. No, these watches deserve to be admired and carefully cherished.
Recently, I sat in a meeting room at the firm’s Genevan headquarters and appraised the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel free of distractions. The monastic hush of my surroundings allowed me to absorb each nuanced detail of this remarkable creation. Indeed, whilst holding said watch, I was reminded of times spent in art galleries, motionless in front of glorious canvases, painted by great masters. There is an obligation to linger in front of the spectacle presented and savour each element of a composition. The parallels between this F.P. Journe and a 17th-century oil painting are clear to see.
Some may consider my preamble to be sycophantic, however, I am sure others who have viewed one of Monsieur Journe’s watches at close quarters will immediately know my introductory paragraphs are justly deserved.
The F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel is a ‘perpetual calendar with an instantaneous jump’. It is a fusion of technical mastery and aesthetic enchantment.
Perpetual Calendar explained
A simple calendar watch requires the wearer to manually advance the indicated date following a month where the duration is less than 31 days.
An annual calendar can recognise those months with 30 days and those comprised of 31 days, advancing to the 1st of the following month as appropriate. However, the annual calendar is unable to process February’s 28 days (or 29 days in leap years). Therefore, the indicated date on an annual calendar requires manual correction on the 1st of March each year.
The perpetual calendar is the pièce de résistance. This type of watch has the mechanical intellect to correctly display the date for all months, even making allowance for February’s 28 or 29 days. No manual correction is required, assuming the watch is kept wound, until 2100. According to the rules of the Gregorian calendar, this particular year is not considered a leap year.
The F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel is offered in a choice of platinum or 18K red gold. Further choice is afforded with the availability of 40mm and 42mm case options. The chosen case material determines the hue of the dial. Personally, I succumbed to the warm tones of an 18K red gold variant, housed in a 42mm case. It is this latter model which I focus upon hereafter.
Image – platinum case
While I freely admit that I have a penchant for perpetual calendars, their dials can sometimes appear cluttered and confusing. Typically, a number of pointer-type displays impart the day, date, month and leap-year. Furthermore, the addition of a moon-phase indication also seems to be de rigueur. Some perpetual calendars prove simpler to interpret than others, however, the jumble of indications can sometimes detract from the main hour and minute indications.
Monsieur Journe has distilled the perpetual calendar into probably the most lucid example of this horological genre. Two elongated apertures, positioned in the upper half of the dial, proclaim the day and month in crisp black text against white discs. By framing the prevailing day and month, the chance of misreading the dial is significantly reduced.
Positioned at the fulcrum of the dial, beneath the hour and minute hands, is a leap year indicator. Each value is presented in a quadrant employing black numerals, save for the leap year which is shown as a red ‘L’.
In the southern hemisphere of the dial, a large date display, comprised of two date discs, articulates the date with clear, unambiguous efficiency. Interestingly, the day, month and date change instantly and simultaneously when applicable. Blink and you will miss the transition. To facilitate this instantaneous change, F.P. Journe has employed an ingenious system which accumulates energy, releases it as required and then slows the mechanism at the conclusion of the changing phase.
While the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel fulfils its role as a perpetual calendar, it does not do so at the expense of displaying the prevailing time. The blued hour and minute hands subscribe to the Maison’s proven design language, employing curving lines to enunciate the time with an extraordinary quotient of style.
The hour track is marked with Arabic numerals avec serifs, set against a whitened silver backdrop. The numerals vary in scale as they encircle the elliptical centre of the dial. A chemin de fer occupies the periphery of the dial and proves helpful when reading off the minutes.
F.P. Journe has eschewed the ubiquitous moon-phase indication found on many other perpetual calendars, imbuing the model’s dial with a sense of neatness. It may seem strange to then introduce a function seldom seen on the face of a perpetual calendar, a power-reserve indicator. However, its inclusion proves eminently sensible. The setting of a perpetual calendar is time-consuming when contrasted with a simple watch displaying merely hours and minutes. If the watch is removed from the wrist and the mainspring is allowed to relax, then the owner has to find an inordinate amount of time to adjust all of the indications. By equipping the watch with a dial-side indication, the wearer can readily see the available energy and top it up before the mainspring is devoid of tension, obviating the need for time-consuming manual corrections.
As stated earlier, the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel is offered in two metals and two sizes. This degree of choice is seldom matched by other brands. The 18K red gold option is of the 6N variety, evincing a glorious reddish tone.
Disciples of F.P. Journe will note the familiar uncluttered, graceful silhouette of the Quantième Perpétuel’s case and feel a sense of ease. The case design of earlier models is carried over to this reference with few changes. The crown features the brand’s rope-like grip and it hugs the case band, avoiding any unseemly protrusion. Close examination of the lugs reveals a pronounced arcing profile that encourages the strap to encircle the wrist with ergonomic efficiency.
Unlike most perpetual calendars, the case band is free of correctors, granting a clean, unsullied appearance. All of the calendar indications can be adjusted using the three-position crown, with the exception of the month display. This latter indication is adjusted using a corrector lever, neatly located on the underside of the lug at 1 o’clock obviating the requirement for a correction.
An exhibition case back affords views of the self-winding movement within.
The automatic Calibre FPJ 1300-3 is formed of 18K rose gold (4N). This is consistent with most watches from the Maison, albeit some others have been made in aluminium. Gold is an incredibly challenging material for a watchmaker to work with. One absent-minded slip with a tool in hand and the soft metal can be easily marked, marring its otherwise pristine appearance. The benefit of using gold for the movement is that it is one of the least reactive metals in existence, making it less likely to corrode. This is indicative of Monsieur Journe’s mentality. He has not sought the easiest route to creation, but considered the longevity of his watches, eager to impart ownership delight for generations to come.
The F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel features an off-centre 22K gold oscillating weight. This rotor is embellished with exquisite guilloché decoration and winds the mainspring when rotating counter-clockwise. The benefit of being unidirectional, compared with bidirectional, is that the rotor harnesses subtle wrist movements more readily, rotating at dizzying speed. One reason for the rotor’s alacrity is the use of a ball bearing system.
A single barrel harnesses sufficient energy for the watch to run autonomously for 160 hours (± 10 hours). The balance has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and the movement contains 373 components, including 46 jewels.
A free sprung balance is another smile-inducing feature of the Calibre FPJ 1300-3. Unlike an index-adjusted balance which alters the effective length of the hairspring to adjust the rate, with a free sprung balance the effective length of the hairspring remains constant. On a free sprung balance, sometimes called a variable inertia balance, the position of various weights affixed to the balance wheel, can be adjusted to alter the moment of inertia and, by default, the rate of the movement.
By using a free sprung balance, the hairspring is less prone to positional influence and breathes more concentrically. F.P. Journe has chosen to use masellotes fitted to the spokes of the balance wheel. Screws affixed to the rim of a balance wheel can create turbulence, however, the approach taken by this Maison to set the masellotes / weights in-board improves the aerodynamics of the balance wheel, aiding precision.
The balance is equipped with a mobile stud holder. If a watchmaker detects a ‘beat error’ using a Witschi machine, it indicates there is a difference in the clockwise and counterclockwise swing of the balance wheel. This necessitates repositioning the complete balance in order to alter the relative position of the impulse pin in relation to the banking pins. A mobile stud holder allows a watchmaker to reposition the complete balance easily without having to move the collet of the hairspring on the balance staff. While few F.P. Journe owners are unlikely to ever remedy a beat error themselves, it does demonstrate the mechanical rectitude of the Maison.
Beyond its mechanical prowess, the Calibre FPJ 1300-3 is an object of beauty. The base plate is adorned with pristine perlage. The bridges are decorated with circular Côtes de Genève and the screw heads are polished with chamfered slots. The pegs feature rounded ends, polished to a gleaming conclusion and the steel components are hand polished and chamfered. Horological traditions and fine watchmaking etiquette are much in evidence.
François-Paul Journe does not subscribe to plagiarism, preferring to discover his own path to greatness. Indeed, his company’s motto, ‘Invenit et Fecit’, invented and made, conveys his ability to think outside the box.
Perpetual calendars by their very nature are incredibly complicated. Unfortunately, some dials appear cluttered with numerous indications jostling with each other to be seen. One advantage of the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel is that each indication has room to breathe, conveying information with notable clarity. Moreover, nothing inhibits the readability of the hour and minute hands, arguably the most critical information.
The instantaneous jump avoids any window revealing partial views of letters and numbers. The day and date, and, where applicable, the month, change with breathtaking alacrity barely discernible to the human eye. Journe’s mechanical wizardry orchestrates this sequence dancing with consummate ease.
François-Paul Journe has set aside the custom of fitting correctors within the case band and conceived his own, more elegant solution. No longer is the owner expected to carry a corrector stylus on their person whenever they may need to correct the indications, the crown and hidden lever under the lug at 1 o’clock fulfil the brief.
Often complex watches are housed within bulky cases. The modest case diameter of 42mm is matched by the housing’s comparatively slim and unobtrusive height of 11mm, demonstrating that complexity and neatness do not need to be mutually exclusive.
One reason for the svelte appearance of the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel is the Calibre FPJ 1300-3 within. This movement has an overall height of 5.2mm, a remarkable feat considering that 373 parts sit neatly within this compact footprint. However, while the movement may be relatively slender, it forgoes none of the high-end finishing synonymous with haute horlogerie.
This brings me to my introduction and namely the status of an F.P. Journe watch. Ordinarily, I would always urge readers to wear their watches, placing them upon their wrists and derive pleasure from their cosseting embrace. However, with the Quantième Perpétuel and indeed any of Journe’s creations, I feel compelled to make an exception.
An F.P. Journe is intended for daily wear and does not require handling with kid gloves, merely appropriate care, typical of any dress watch. However, I would feel reticent wearing the Quantième Perpétuel every day. In my opinion, this would be sacrilege. Normally, I would not worry about the occasional scratch, but the thought of marring a pristine watch from this Maison sends shudders down my spine.
There are several incredibly talented watchmakers alive today, however, François-Paul Journe is different, sitting on a higher plane. In decades to come, his body of work will be appraised and, in my humble opinion, his legend will stand comparison with Berthoud, Breguet, Daniels, Harrison and Huygens. At this juncture, I expect his work will be found in numerous museums, stored in near-aseptic conditions.
However, even today, I think the F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel deserves to be affixed to a gallery wall. Its technical virtuosity, practicality, peerless craftsmanship and, most of all, its becoming appearance, distinguishes this timepiece as an artistic masterpiece par excellence.
- Model: F.P. Journe Quantième Perpétuel
- Case: 18K rose gold (6N); diameter 42mm; height 11mm; sapphire crystal to front and rear
- Functions: Hours; minutes; leap year indication; day; month; large date; power reserve indicator
- Movement: Calibre FPJ 1300-3; self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 46 jewels; power reserve 160 ± 10 hours.
- Price: Price on application
- 18 rose gold (6N) – diameter 40mm
- Platinum – diameter 40mm
- Platinum – diameter 42mm