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
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