The Journe Iden­tity

What does the straight-shoot­ing FP Journe founder and watch­maker François-paul Journe have to say about the fu­ture of his own brand? Ni­co­lette Wong gets the story

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE -

The tac­i­turn françois-paul Journe is fa­mous for his exquisitely crafted watches and un­var­nished opin­ions of the work­ings of the horo­log­i­cal in­dus­try. His prod­uct-cen­tric, savant-style han­dling of his own mar­que has spawned fans the world over, and has made him one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing watch­mak­ers in re­cent his­tory. His views, even at age 16, were strong enough to have got­ten him ex­pelled from the Mar­seille Horo­log­i­cal School, a life event that led to him ap­pren­tic­ing with his an­tique re­storer un­cle and fur­ther hon­ing his craft. Journe most re­cently made waves in the in­dus­try for un­ex­pect­edly ac­cept­ing an in­vest­ment from lux­ury gi­ant Chanel, which has been se­ri­ously ramp­ing up its watch­mak­ing ef­forts over the last few years. The French mai­son now owns 20 per cent of FP Journe. We spoke to Journe him­self about the in­vest­ment, the role of in­de­pen­dent brands, and the fu­ture of his mar­que.

Why did you ac­cept the in­vest­ment from Chanel?

Well, I’ve re­ceived of­fers from var­i­ous groups reg­u­larly over the past 20 years, but had never been in­ter­ested un­til re­cently. I have two chil­dren—one is a his­to­rian in Paris and has no in­ter­est in watch­mak­ing, and the other is 17 years old and dreams of play­ing bas­ket­ball in the NBA. If any­thing bad hap­pens to me, there will be plenty of preda­tors who will de­scend upon them and the com­pany. I’ve been friends with the own­ers of Chanel for a long time, and I know that they love watches. They were the ones who pro­posed the idea of the in­vest­ment to me some 10 years ago, but I didn’t want it at that time. But then later I came to re­alise that I needed to se­cure the com­pany and its fu­ture. There are a lot of peo­ple who have made lots of un­nec­es­sary com­ments about this part­ner­ship, and I said yes, it’s true that Chanel now owns 20 per cent. But 80 per cent isn’t theirs. They’re not in­ter­ested in dis­rupt­ing me from work­ing the way I have al­ways worked, and they don’t have the abil­ity to do so any­way. On the plus side, they have a slew of in­tel­li­gent peo­ple who can help us if we need it.

So you would not be pro­duc­ing any­thing for Chanel at all?

No, I would like to pro­duce some­thing for them. For ex­am­ple, FP Journe is co-owner of a com­pany called Les Cad­raniers de Genève. We make the most beau­ti­ful di­als in the whole of Switzer­land, and I would love to see them on Chanel’s haute hor­logerie or jew­ellery watches. But of course, Chanel’s strate­gic plan­ning depart­ment doesn’t wait for us; they work five or six years in ad­vance. The next watch that they will de­but at Basel­world 2019 is al­ready com­plete, so that’s not my work. And if they want my ad­vice with re­gards to watch­mak­ing, sure, why not?

What will hap­pen to the brand when you are no longer around?

Let’s take a brand like Cartier, for ex­am­ple. When we look at Louis Cartier’s work, we have to say that he had done some fan­tas­tic things. That’s why his brand still ex­ists to­day. Let’s take Breguet. Abra­ham-louis Breguet has done fan­tas­tic things, and even though the Swatch Group has man­aged it badly, it ex­ists to­day thanks to the work of Mr Breguet. Some brands such as Patek Philippe and Rolex (thanks to Hans Wils­dorf ) would never fall, be­cause they have a cre­ative base that’s solid. And I think that if I cre­ate a solid base, the brand will con­tinue.

Do you con­sider the Élé­gante sep­a­rate from FP Journe?

The pur­pose of the Sa­lon In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie Genève (SIHH) is to de­velop new points of sales that are not the same as FP Journe. Jewellers, for ex­am­ple, who want some­thing more in­ter­est­ing. That’s why I don’t pro­mote our me­chan­i­cal watches at SIHH. As to why I’m there at all—my friend asked if I wanted to take over an SIHH booth. I thought it would be good for the Élé­gante, so I took the spot. And it amuses me to have a brand fea­tur­ing quartz watches at a fair sur­rounded by brands ped­dling me­chan­i­cal watches. [Laughs] At SIHH 2019, we will de­but a new series of Élé­gante watches in ti­ta­nium with an an­thracite fin­ish and stud­ded with di­a­monds—it’s very beau­ti­ful.

What about the new me­chan­i­cal watches for FP Journe?

We’re cel­e­brat­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of the Tourbillon Sou­verain. So it’s like the Volk­swa­gen Golf—it changes, but it still has the same name. So we have the Tourbillon Sou­verain that has been around since 1999, which we re­vamped in 2003, and now for the 20th an­niver­sary, there will be a new one. And in 2020, for the 20th an­niver­sary of the Chronomètre Ré­so­nance, there will be a new one as well. The year after that, there will be a new grand com­pli­ca­tion be­cause I dis­con­tin­ued the Grande Son­nerie this year since I didn’t have the se­ri­ous de­mand to do it all. And we have a grand com­pli­ca­tion that will be un­veiled at the Only Watch auc­tion, where I will de­liver the pro­to­type. I find Only Watch bet­ter than the Grand Prix d’hor­logerie de Genève (GPHG). I have stopped par­tic­i­pat­ing in GPHG. I find that Only Watch is bet­ter be­cause it’s not a jury who may or may not know any­thing about their watches that will judge you, it’s some­one who pays. If they pay, it means that they be­lieve in the prod­uct, which is bet­ter than some­one who just com­ments.

A LIFE’S WORK FP Journe founder François-paul Journe has been char­ac­terised as one of the great­est watch­mak­ers of mod­ern times; de­spite be­ing a small man­u­fac­ture, the brand cre­ates many of its watch com­po­nents in-house (op­po­site)

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