François Paul Journe
François Paul Journe is ‘watchmaking’s rebel genius’ according to legendary watch journalist, Meehna Goldsmith. In this fascinating article, Meehna waxes lyrical about why she holds Monsieur Journe in the highest esteem.
This detailed article provides a fascinating insight into the world of François Paul Journe and the eponymous company he founded, F.P. Journe.
From the beginning, François Paul Journe didn’t fit into the norm. And this is what makes him in a class of his own and a gem in the watchmaking world. He was a disaster in traditional school, but always had a fascination and talent with 3-dimensional objects. Needing to find an outlet for their son’s creativity, Journe’s parents enrolled him in watchmaking school to see what would happen. Here, François Paul Journe relays, he finally found his pond, a veritable fish in water.
Journe makes timepieces first and foremost for himself and, if the brand appeals, he is happy for your purchase, if you behave. A story goes that Journe refused to sell a watch at his Geneva salon because the prospective customer didn’t appreciate what he was receiving. Moral of the story: don’t ruffle the feathers of the maestro.
Luckily, Journe has amassed a cult following of rabid collectors and fellow watchmakers who marvel over his creations. Therefore, he can take any attitude he wants. Some might call him temperamental and arrogant. Indeed, François Paul Journe could be described as the James Dean of the watchmaking world. But it takes a rebel to achieve progress into the remarkable—and that Journe does without modesty. He marks the bold “Invenit et Fecit” (invented and made) inscription on each and every dial. But, why shouldn’t he? He lives up to the hype.
Journe’s commitment to horology is so maniacal that he neither owns a house nor a car, preferring to spend most of his time in his atelier, which is quite fittingly located in a converted gas lamp factory in Geneva: it’s a perfect metaphor for Journe’s approach to watchmaking, where a deep abiding reverence of horologic tradition meets progressive modernity.
In his perfectly appointed Geneva salon, an astronomer’s clock made by French horologer C.L. Detouche for the first Paris Universal Exposition of 1855—which won a gold medal—greets you. Gaze up and you will enter the astronomical sky through original charts by Apianus commissioned by Charles V in the 16th century. As your eyes roam, they will see brass watchmaking tools from watchmakers past. And, of course, the masterpiece Resonance clock by Antide Janvier, a treasure that inspired Journe’s Chronometre a Resonance watch, along with Breguet’s rendition.
Watchmaker at bench
No doubt Journe reveres horological history. As a young watchmaker, he resuscitated original pieces by masters of the 18th and 19th century in his uncle’s restoration shop. But he doesn’t dwell in the past, he uses it as a springboard to the future. Most recently, Journe presented the ninth creation in the Octa collection, the Quantième Perpétuel, which is the first perpetual calendar with all the indications in apertures.
The reason for the existence of this original and innovative watch is simple. As Journe has aged, it has become quite difficult for him to read the small dials on a perpetual calendar, so he decided to do something about it. (In the same vein, Journe has stopped making 38mm cases and upsized to 40 and 42mm to make the indications more legible.) In a red gold or platinum 40 or 42mm case, the Quantieme Perpetuel not only does away with eyestrain, it also contains that magical Journe touch. Built into the mechanism is an instantaneous jump, which means at midnight the day, month and time click into place with no aesthetically disruptive lag time: an elegant and beautiful solution.
Moreover, there aren’t any unsightly correctors visible on the case. Since Journe finds poetry in simplicity, the crown controls all corrections, except for months, which are adjusted with a hidden lever underneath the lug at 1 o’clock—without requiring any tools.
Like the majority of Journe’s watches, the Quantième Perpétuel contains his distinctive DNA: 18K gold movement, a highly unusual and luxurious choice, a 3-dimensional dial and a chapter ring with gradient numbers so as not to cover up the legibility of the complications. As it’s an automatic movement, the Quantième Perpétuel also features the brand’s exclusive offset rotor in 22K red gold.
Though all François Paul Journe’s watches contain novelty and sophistication, the Sonnerie Souveraine Grand-Strike Clockwatch, released in 2005, deserves mention as an incredible achievement. It received the highest honor by his peers, winning the “Golden Hand” at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie of Geneva in 2006. The Sonnerie Souveraine strikes the hours and quarters in passing with a chime, while in petite sonnerie mode, it will only strike the hours, saving energy. In addition, like a minute repeater, it also strikes hours, quarters and minutes on demand. Wow!
Of course, the Sonnerie Souveraine Grand-Strike Clockwatch also contains a horological first, a claim Journe enjoys, as seen by his timepiece revelations over the decades. An exceptionally complex piece, it is no fragile teacup, able to be manipulated at any time without fear of causing a pricey repair. Unlike its counterparts, rare though are, the Sonnerie Souveraine Grand-Strike Clockwatch and Minute Repeater is a veritable tank. Wear with pride and bold confidence—if you can afford one.
Journe’s guiding vision in creating this fantastic piece of wrist wear was to make it safe enough for an 8-year old to play with. Protected by 10 patents, the Sonnerie Souveraine Grand-Strike Clockwatch took 6 years of development to realize. For his striking watches, Journe diverged from using precious metals in the case and movement in service of the beautiful striking song of the gongs; thus, this watch case is comprised of steel components to optimize sound.
François Paul Journe is a purist when it comes to his watches. Producing less than 900 pieces a year, he doesn’t believe a case or dial change constitutes a new model. And, his custom is to retire an existing calibre when producing a new model. For example, the Quantième Perpétuel replaces the Octa Calendrier with annual calendar.
However, life is more than just watches. François Paul Journe throws some fun into the mix, admitting that women and wine round out his three “w’s”—though watches will always remain in the number one position.