Power or Precision? An Insider’s Look at F.P. Journe (Part 1)
by Pierre Halimi
This article: Power or Precision? An Insider’s Look at F.P. Journe (Part 1) was originally posted on WatchTime.com. WatchNews.nawcc.org was given permission to publish this article by the author (Pierre Halimi) and Joe Thompson (Editor-in-Chief of WatchTime). To visit the orginal link you may find the link at the bottom of this article.
Ten years ago, when F.P. Journe introduced his Chronomètre Souverain, his goal was to achieve a true Chronometer status. Precision has always been the essence of Journe's quest. His first two attempts were the Remontoir d'Egalité that regulates the flow of energy in his Tourbillon, and the Resonance movement that compensates for the movement of one's wrist (making it—de facto—the only true wrist watch in the world). For a "seemingly" simple timepiece, Mr. Journe elected to fit his Chronomètre Souverain with a double barrel. But unlike his peers, the goal was not to achieve a longer power reserve. By fitting each barrel with a very long (1 meter long) but loose spring, Journe flattened the power curve. To easily understand, imagine a spring when it is fully loaded. It has a "speeding" effect on the movement and as it dies, power gets weaker and therefore the timepiece has a tendency to go slower.
Now, any watchmaker can make a chronometer where the average over the power reserve is close to 0. But who is looking for average when telling time? When one looks at his timepiece, one should be able to tell the exact time (and not the average over a certain period of time).
To illustrate this system, Journe decided to emphasize each of the main components by seemingly disconnecting them.
One other specification that Journe set was that the thickness of the movement was not to exceed 4 mm. To achieve this, there was one major problem. The power reserve indicator system that he was using at the time was 1.57 mm thick and therefore not adequate. He had to create (and then patent) an ultraslim power reserve indicator using ceramic ball bearings. It shrunk to 0.5 mm and became the system used in all F.P. Journe timepieces thereafter.
To mark the Chronomètre Souverain's tenth anniversary, F.P. Journe launched a new series of dials. Here again, apparent simplicity was not easy to achieve. Working closely with his own dial-making atelier, Journe and his technicians were able to make the new dials from a solid gold coin. The dial gets stamped on all sides and surfaces, except for the numbers that are thus raised. The normal technique would have been to apply those numbers, but numbers like the 7 are too small to use that technique. After many different trials and much time, the new Chronomètre Souverain was born.
This dial execution (available also with red gold numerals on the red gold Chronomètre Souverain) was almost as difficult to achieve as the dial of the famous Chronomètre Bleu. The issue with "simple" dials is that the minutest blemish is magnified. To this day, the Chronomètre Bleu dial has close to a 65 percent rejection rate by Journe's quality control team—interesting and so like Journe to make his least expensive timepiece have the most difficult dial. But Journe's goal is not to achieve quantity (they still produce between 800 and 900 timepieces a year). His goal is to express his artistic and watchmaking wizardry through his timepieces. This is also the reason why all F.P. Journe timepieces come with an 18 karat solid-gold movement (except the Sport collection with never-seen-before aluminum movements).
But as Thomas Edison first said: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." F.P. Journe is the only company in Switzerland where the founder is also the president AND the watchmaker. Where may you find Mr. Journe in its manufacture? At his bench, day in and day out. Stay tuned for Part 2…
To view the movement: http://www.fpjourne.com/eu/collections-en-sv-csouv-1.html?v=modele
For more information, www.fpjourne.com
Or visit or contact one of our F.P. Journe Boutiques:
Bal Harbour shops Mall: +1 305 993 4747; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Angeles: +1 310 294 8585; email@example.com
New York: +1 212 644 5918; firstname.lastname@example.org