Feature: 3 Reasons Why F.P. Journe Is Next Level
Depending on your level of enthusiasm for watches, you may or may not have heard of the watchmaker F.P. Journe. If you haven’t, welcome to one of the most impressive watchmakers you’ve never heard of, and if you have, prepare to be even more impressed by the brand than you already are.
Precious Metals Galore
The use of gold in watches is hardly anything noteworthy. For F.P. Journe, using gold in the production of its watches should be nothing more than a line on the spec sheet, almost a given when you consider the exclusivity and price point of the brand’s watches. Making only 800 pieces a year and charging tens of thousands of pounds, you want a splash of gold by default.
Many brands have used gold on their higher-end pieces—in fact it would be a more impressive exercise to list all the brands that haven’t used the precious metal. But we’re here to talk about why F.P. Journe’s use of gold is impressive, and so far we’re failing—especially since the case here is actually made of platinum.
Well, how about this: you’ve seen movements with gold rotor weights—or at least partly gold rotor weights—before. Think Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, Breguet. The same is true of F.P. Journe, featuring a rotor weight carved from the finest 22-carat rose gold, a resplendent guilloche pattern hewn on its surface.
But the really special bit is what’s underneath, because not only is the rotor weight fashioned from gold, but so is the calibre itself. This is true of all F.P. Journe calibres, using the harder 18-carat variety for the cocks, bridges and plates to offer a truly unique view when the watch is upended.
And it doesn’t stop there, because F.P. Journe still has a bit more gold fever to burn—this time on the front of the watch instead. It may not seem so, but the dials themselves are manufactured from gold as well, glowing bright beneath the textured silver finish. You can even opt to have the silver coating polished off of the numbers for a bright, mirror finish instead.
It’s Actually Usable
When buying something expensive that’s only made in small numbers, it’s usually a given that it’s going to be a bit delicate. There’s just not the time or the budget for smaller companies to engineer to the levels of the big conglomerates, and so the inevitable happens and the products break or don’t work very well. It’s just one of those things that’s come to be accepted.
Although, not if François-Paul Journe is going to have anything to do with it. Cutting his teeth designing high-end movements on contract for brands like Piaget before he established F.P. Journe, he quickly understood the need for his watches to be robust and usable. He wanted to make watches his customers could actually wear.
With this in mind, the Octa collection was built right from the start to have a single case size that could fit any variation of complication the brand could hope to produce. An enormous amount of foresight, perhaps, but one that pays dividends down the line in the reduction of both production costs and engineering headaches.
And for the automatic calibre 1300 family, it was determined that a usable watch in rotation within a collection would need more than just a few measly days of power reserve, so a big mainspring barrel was fitted, brimming with 5 days’ juice—enough to see out the working week and be ready at the weekend at a moment’s notice.
That’s all fine in theory, but what if the person wearing the watch is sedentary and not adequately winding up the movement with their wrist? F.P. Journe thought of that as well, introducing an asymmetric winding rotor that uses unidirectional locking ball-bearings to pre-load the winding system in order to completely remove all slack—so that when it does wind, every nanometre of motion helps to top up the power.
It Looks Like An F.P. Journe
The most impressive part about an F.P. Journe is the way it looks. Before I elaborate, let’s think about some of the most iconic designs that watchmaking has produced over the years, like the Rolex Submariner, the Omega Speedmaster, the Panerai Luminor. These are all iconic yet share another trait: simplicity.
There are of course those bolder style icons like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus that really push design to its limits, but those are most certainly the exception, the progeny of classical masters who have earned the right to go a little bit crazy every now and then.
F.P. Journe, on the other hand, was established in 1999. That’s the same year The Matrix came out—hardly what you’d call a period of classicism. The temptation for F.P. Journe to embrace the modern and build something outrageous in order to create a brand identity must have been strong—but ultimately not right.
So, that’s the challenge, creating a look that has timeless appeal but can also be clearly recognised at a glance. Easier said than done, but somehow, done it was. There’s nothing in an F.P. Journe that stands out as being bold or brash, yet the whole is very distinctly ‘Journe’.
It’s in the little details, the considerations that look so effortless, yet were probably born of many late meetings and sleepless nights. The teardrop hands, for example; so simple, nothing superfluous about them, yet such a unique identifier. Same with the font, lodged somewhere between the past and the present, and how it rings the dial—supremely graceful and unforced. The skinny crown with its coiled rope edge, again, a useful touch rather than design for design’s sake. All of it together, the sum of the parts—it couldn’t be anything other than an F.P. Journe.
There’s a reason F.P. Journe has been honoured time and time again by so many awards and accolades in its so far short existence. It’s easy to question why with a cynical eye, to look for the corner-cutting and gimmicks that launched the brand into the stratosphere so quickly—but the truth is it’s simply the result of hard work and exceptional thinking, the likes of which seldom come around. So often we look back to find the marvels of watchmaking when it’s actually happening right here in front of us.
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