The Journe Identity

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE WATCHES -

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?

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