The Journe Identity
Horology’s enfant terrible, independent watchmaker François-paul Journe has captured the imagination of the watch cognoscenti with timepieces that proffer a new take on the traditional wheels of watchmaking. Gregory Goh explores the FP Journe journey
nvenit et fecit, the motto for FP Journe, translates to “invented it and made it”—such a slogan offers the kind of marketing spiel that almost every contemporary watchmaker today espouses, even if they don’t exactly embody the ethos. After all, if modern machines can offer economies of scale to produce timepieces in a fraction of the time and cost, isn’t maximising shareholder value a primary business objective in our increasingly commoditised environment? Not so for François-paul Journe, whose watches are based on the values of handcraftsmanship, and whose namesake brand is one of rebellion. How else would one describe his Vagabondage III? Is it not an act of mutiny to bring mechanical watchmaking into the “digital era”, featuring twin discs showing jumping seconds through twin apertures at 6 o’clock? That said, to understand his latest creation, one must start from the very beginning. Born March 22, 1957, Journe was the son of a salesman and a civil servant. He was not the quiet, contemplative man we have often come to associate with watchmakers. As a teen, he was rebel personified, and at age 16, he was expelled from the Marseille Horological School. In his biography FP Journe: The First 30 Years by Kiran Shekar, he is described as having “a personality that would never allow him to excel at this craft”. But he was given the chance to hone his genius under the mantle of his antiqueclock restoring uncle Michel Journe, while attending the Ecole d’horlogerie de Paris. Keep in mind that this was in the 1970s during the height of the quartz crisis. For all intents, given that watch school curriculum was preparing for the demise of mechanical watches, it would have been more likely that the teen would have become a watch repairer or restorer. Instead, his rebellious streak would be guided by the works of Abraham-louis Breguet and eventually George Daniels, both legendary watchmakers who made groundbreaking strides in horology. Breguet invented the tourbillon as well as the automatic winding mechanism at the end of the 18th century, and Daniels created the revolutionary co-axial escapement, which he patented in 1980 and sold to Omega. Their work to further the art and craft of watchmaking inspired Journe to forge his own path in horology. At age 19, the fresh graduate would begin a journey to create his own tourbillon pocket watch. Using only Daniels’ eponymous book, Journe was greatly influenced by the art rather than the function of watchmaking. To choose the practice of a dead (at the time) craft in the midst of the quartz carnage was, again, an act of insurrection. The pocket watch took five years to complete, and little did Journe know that the tourbillon with a spring detent escapement signed “FP Journe
EYE ON THE PRIZE Who knew that one of the greatest watchmakers of our day would be someone expelled from watchmaking school?