Angus Davies visits the impressive atelier of F.P. Journe situated on Rue de l’Arqubuse in Geneva and reviews their incredible watch, the Octa Calendrier.
A recent sojourn to Switzerland led me to the doorstep of a modern atelier situated on Rue de l’Arqubuse in Geneva. A prestigious boutique provides a home for delightful horological treats to titillate any obsessed watch collector. But, this is no ordinary Manufacture. This is home to F.P. Journe.
François-Paul Journe, the French watchmaker par excellence, has earned a reputation for making incredible timepieces in the workshops of the Manufacture at 40 rue de la Synagogue in central Geneva, while his Boutique sits at 13 Place Longemalle.
F.P. Journe produce all its watches in precious metals such as gold and platinum. The only exception to this rule are the striking watches which are made of steel. Whilst these are among the most expensive models in the range, steel is selected for its superior sound characteristics.
Movements are adroitly crafted by a small team of artisans. Each member of staff has been personally selected by François-Paul. He expertly instructs his team on realising his inspired creations. They are made in 18-carat rose gold and harness timed served skill distinguishing them from the humdrum.
I toured the production facilities and was deeply impressed by the modern equipment. A relatively small company in the midst of colossal corporate entities, Monsieur Journe has obviously reinvested profits and acquired the very latest plant. However, do not misconstrue, this is company where some tasks will always be actioned by deft use of dextrous hands.
Polishing and burnishing are expertly employed.
As I stare through a window, I see François-Paul attired in his watchmaker’s coat. The figurehead of this watchmaking company continues to spend approximately 50% of his working day at the bench. He still has the desire to create new timepieces which push the boundaries with enhanced rate keeping and engaging aesthetics. There is no sense of complacency at F.P. Journe with new models always in the pipeline.
As I fly home, I flick through the thick hard back catalogue I have been kindly provided in the boutique. I thumb through the pages and recount the gorgeous watches which I had seen earlier in the day. One thing starts to become clear. Mr Journe has an innate ability to collect accolades.
The Octa Lune was voted, “Favourite men’s watch 2003” by Grand Prix d’Hologerie de Genève. He would win the same prize again in 2005 with the Chronomètre Souverain.
The Tourbillon Souverain was awarded, “Golden Hand Grand Prix 2004” by Grand Prix d’Hologerie de Genève. Again he would win this accolade in 2006 with the Sonnerie Souveraine.
It must prove disheartening for other watchmakers to see Monsieur Journe collect all this silverware. But on the other hand it may provide an incentive for them to take up the gauntlet and try harder. As a watch enthusiast I hope so. Moreover, there has always been a mutual respect amongst the finest watchmakers. Indeed François-Paul cited the late George Daniels as a close friend and source of inspiration.
Returning to accolades, a model which I fell in love with during my visit was the Octa Calendrier presented with a red gold case and alluring dial. I am not alone in my adoration. The model won the “Jury’s special Award 2002” from the Grand Prix d’Hologerie de Genève.
The watch is an annual calendar and has an august appeal. I would always favour the warmth conferred by the leather strap version, but bracelets are available for those who prefer the tactility of metal.
Prospective purchasers can select the restrained combination of the white gold and silver dial, or my preferred choice, the highly individual red gold and silver presented within a red gold case.
Hours and minutes are presented off centre within a framed area. Blued hands beautifully indicate time. Hours are shown on an inner ring of the dial, with minutes indicated on the outer ring. The relevant hands reach to the Arabic numerals virtually kissing their base. At the centre of the dial the guillochage enhances the look with a Clous de Paris motif.
An overlapping subdial interfaces with the hour and minute indication. It succinctly displays the subsidiary seconds and features a wonderful, slim, blued hand with circular counterweight.
A date indicator display arcs the left hand side of the dial and a central blued hand sweeps from north to south. Arabic numerals are presented in a traditional font. The serifs on the text enhance legibility. There can be few date indications more readily understood.
Two apertures feature on the dial. The upper aperture displays the day and the lower aperture conveys the month. This annual calendar is a lesson in clarity and whilst there are several functions displayed nothing appears to burden the wearer. Succinct communication with the keeper is assured.
A choice of case diameters is rare and another aspect which differentiates this brand. I personally favour the 40 mm case, but more diminutive wrists will suit the smaller 38 mm variant.
A sapphire case back allows the fortunate owner of this timepiece to admire the charming finissage within.
The crown is felicitously formed with rope-like knurling. Every aspect of this watch has been clarified to perfection.
The Octa Calendrier was F.P. Journe’s first annual calendar and he clearly hit the mark first time.
Compensating for months of varying lengths i.e. with 29, 30 and 31 days, the watch only requires annual adjustment at the end of February, three years out of four.
A departure from the norm is the exclusive Manufacture movement, formed of 18-carat rose gold, a first in the world of horology. It was conceived and manufactured by F.P. Journe, hence their motto, “Invenit et Fecit” which adorns the rotor.
The self-winding Calibre 1300.3 provides convenience to the absent minded who occasionally forget to wind their watch.
The rotor is magnificently presented with guilloché. Mr Journe never seeks expedience, always presenting components with considered detailing. The rotor winds in one direction.
In common with all F.P. Journe timepieces the watch has a frequency of 21,600 (3Hz). The movement comprises of 270 parts, expertly assembled.
Circular graining features on the plate. Some of the 41 jewels adorn the bridges and aid the smooth operation of the movement.
The power reserve of 5 days is very impressive bearing in mind the numerous functions drawing power from the main spring.
A trip to the Manufacture was a rare privilege and one I will never forget. The handsome watches which leave the cradling hands of the craftsmen and craftswomen of F.P. Journe will no doubt find loving homes with those who appreciate the sublime artistry of this specialist Maison.
As I toured the Manufacture in central Geneva, I was in awe of the detail harnessed within the comely forms which bear the nomenclature of F.P. Journe. There are no obvious compromises, no settling for acceptable, but a relentless pursuit of perfection with everything created.
The Octa Calendrier was a worthy winner of the, “Jury special Award 2002”.
I would suspect that future inventions from this brand will continue to astound and would not bet against Mr Journe collecting more prizes for many years to come. I am just grateful I am not tasked with polishing his increasing collection of silverware.
Model: FP Journe Octa Calendrier
Case: steel; diameter 40.00 mm; height 10.6 mm ; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; off centred minutes; subsidiary seconds; central date by hand; day and month.
Movement: Calibre 1300.3, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz) ; 41 jewels; power reserve 120 hours.
Strap: Black leather strap fitted with gold pin buckle.
Note: Other variants include 38mm case, platinum case and bracelet.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.