The Journe Iden­tity

To François-paul Journe, watch­mak­ing is about re­spect­ing the tra­di­tional art of haute hor­logerie while in­fus­ing it with a mod­ern twist, learns lydianne yap

Prestige (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

françois-paul journe is, by many ac­counts, a man of few words. But get him started on the topic of watches and that ret­i­cent ve­neer falls away to re­veal a warm and friendly in­di­vid­ual who is more than happy to en­gage at length about the ins and outs of watch­mak­ing. This is more ev­i­dent than ever when the founder of FP Journe sits down with Pres­tige for a post-lunch chat, while in town to cel­e­brate the recom­mence­ment of its part­ner­ship with lo­cal re­tailer The Hour Glass af­ter a seven-year hia­tus.

Hav­ing launched his name­sake brand in 1999, the 59-yearold is known for his firm be­lief in re­spect­ing the tech­niques of clas­si­cal watch­mak­ing while pre­sent­ing con­tem­po­rary de­signs. Among his most recog­nis­able time­pieces is the Chronomètre à Ré­so­nance, which was first un­veiled in 2000. It fea­tured the ex­quis­ite cal­i­bre 1499 that re­lied on two bal­ance wheels that beat in res­o­nance with each other to elim­i­nate de­vi­a­tion, re­sult­ing in greater time­keep­ing ac­cu­racy. While this lauded move­ment was ini­tially crafted in brass, Journe even­tu­ally re­placed it with a gold one.

“It was re­ally just be­cause I liked it,” says Journe with a chuckle, not­ing that the use of the pre­cious ma­te­rial does not serve any prac­ti­cal pur­pose. “It’s richer in terms of aes­thet­ics and sim­ply more lux­u­ri­ous,” adds the French­man. The no­tion of a gold move­ment proved so pop­u­lar with con­sumers that FP Journe be­gan re­plac­ing all its brass cal­i­bres with gold ones in 2005.

Journe’s pref­er­ence for tra­di­tional watch­mak­ing ma­te­ri­als (such as gold) is a well-doc­u­mented fact. Hav­ing spent the early years of his ca­reer restor­ing an­tique clocks and watches by the likes of Breguet and Jan­vier in his uncle’s work­shop in Saint-ger­main­des-prés, Paris, he de­vel­oped a deep re­spect for 18th-cen­tury horo­log­i­cal mas­ter­pieces and ad­mired their tech­ni­cal achieve­ments and dura­bil­ity, de­spite the lim­i­ta­tions of the era they were cre­ated in. This could ex­plain why he is known to avoid a num­ber of mod­ern ma­te­ri­als in his creations, be­liev­ing that un­like the ma­te­ri­als of old, they do not stand the test of time. This in­cludes sil­i­cone, which has be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar with other watch­mak­ers for its an­ti­mag­netic, fric­tion­less and ro­bust, yet light na­ture. Journe, in­stead, deems sil­i­cone too frag­ile: “It is very ben­e­fi­cial to the move­ment,

but it prob­a­bly isn’t good for longterm use.”

Given Journe’s highly spe­cific vi­sion for his brand, watch­mak­ing trends tend to have lit­tle or no im­pact on his de­sign di­rec­tion. In­stead, he pays close at­ten­tion to the de­mands of his cus­tomer base. Case in point: The Élé­gante line of women’s time­pieces that the man­u­fac­ture un­veiled in 2014. Cre­ated in re­sponse to re­quests of wives and girl­friends of its col­lec­tors, the Tortue-style (his take on the ton­neau shape) watch fea­tures a spe­cially de­vel­oped quartz move­ment. “Women don’t like to wind or ad­just watches. They want to know the time the mo­ment they pick up a watch,” he ex­plains.

The cal­i­bre 1210 is no or­di­nary quartz move­ment though. A prod­uct of eight years of re­search and development, the electro­mechan­i­cal cal­i­bre goes into standby mode af­ter be­ing at rest for over 30 min­utes so as to pro­long the bat­tery’s life­span. While its me­chan­i­cal parts stop mov­ing dur­ing this pe­riod, the piece con­tin­ues to keep time, thanks to a mi­cro­pro­ces­sor in­stalled within. When set in mo­tion, the time­keeper au­to­mat­i­cally read­justs its hands to the cur­rent time. This makes the move­ment in­cred­i­bly en­ergy-ef­fi­cient, al­low­ing its bat­tery to last eight to 10 years with daily use and up to 18 years when kept at rest. The Élé­gante was so well-re­ceived that FP Journe launched a men’s edi­tion of the watch this year in 48mm (the ladies range is of­fered in 40mm).

Ad­di­tion­ally, the watch­maker un­veiled a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of its Octa Divine this year, in a new size of 42mm. This comes in wake of FP Journe’s late-2015 de­ci­sion to cease pro­duc­tion of its 38-mm pieces fol­low­ing the re­lease of a lim­ited edi­tion box set of five 38-mm watches (in­clud­ing the Tour­bil­lon Sou­verain; Chronomètre à Ré­so­nance; Octa Au­toma­tique; Octa Cal­en­drier; and Chronomètre Sou­verain) in steel with bronze­coloured di­als.

“With big­ger watches, it’s much eas­ier to read the date and time,” says Journe of the de­ci­sion to re­tire the smaller watch size. “There is noth­ing more an­noy­ing than look­ing at a watch and not be­ing able to tell the time. It should be clear so you are able to en­joy the mo­ment,” he adds. As a re­sult, the new Divine has also been given a date win­dow that is about 50 per­cent larger than its pre­de­ces­sor, a sim­pli­fied power re­serve in­di­ca­tor and a cen­tral dial ring. The watch’s se­cond hand has also been re­placed with a sec­onds disc.

Be­tween re­design­ing all its pre­vi­ous 38-mm mod­els to fit in a larger case (ei­ther 40mm or 42mm) and de­vel­op­ing new time­pieces, in­clud­ing the Vagabondage III and an up­dated ver­sion of the Chronomètre à Ré­so­nance, Journe ad­mits the road ahead looks busy. “I am fully booked for the next 10 years,” he says, with a laugh.

op­po­site page: François- paul journe; this page From left: octa divine; the 48- mm men’s Élé­gante time­piece; François­paul journe at work

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