It's really the triumph of traditional watchmaking. The Chronomètre Souverain was inspired by 19th century marine chronometers, and its overall visual appearance recalls pocket watches. Inside is the in-house Calibre 1304 movement, very slim (the whole watch is just 6.3 millimetres thick), with some innovative features such as the unusual mounting of the escapement, concealing the link with the gear train, and the large balance that increases precision. The twin barrels provide a power reserve of 56 hours, and ensure consistent torque at all states of winding, further improving timekeeping accuracy.
Outside, the dial is of deceptive simplicity. The watch does nothing but tell the time, but in addition there is a power reserve indicator. This is a little bit different from the usual arrangement, because the indicator, at 3 o'clock, shows zero when it is fully wound, and then as the hours pass, it shows the elapsed time from when the watch was last wound. The seconds subdial and power reserve indicator are on their own level with respect to the rest of the dial, and this, together with the differentiated finish of the silver, creates an effect of extra complexity and sophistication. The dial is made from a solid silver disc. The hands are in blued steel, and the small seconds hand is subtly different from the hour and minute hand, while the power indicator hand is different again. Described in this way, you may think that it looks a bit disorganized, but in actual fact it is beautifully balanced, with that subtle complexity that hallmarks horological brilliance. Another quirky detail are the numbers 7 and 8, smaller than the other to provide space for the small seconds dial. The case is in pink gold, with a diameter of 40 millimetres. Though slim, the impression on the wrist is one of reassuring weight and solidity.
The dial bears François-Paul Journe's customary signature 'Invenit et Fecit,' and this suggests the way in which Journe works: designing the dial and then creating the movement.
The caseback has a sapphire crystal revealing the movement, with plate and bridges in 18-carat gold, decorated in circular graining, or sunburst or wave patterns. The crocodile strap has an 18-carat buckle, which also bears the F.P. Journe signature. The watch is made in two sizes (38 and 40 millimetres) and in a version with a platinum case. Prices are about €22,000 (gold version) or €26,700 (platinum version).
It was this watch which won the 'Best Men's Watch 2012' award in the European Watch of the Year Awards 2012, in which 100 representatives from major watch brands met in London in the first ceremony promoted by this organization. It is an appreciable achievement for François-Paul Journe, who was born in France, began making watches in Paris, and moved to Geneva, joining the AHCI (Academy of Independent Creative Watchmakers) in 1986. His company makes about 800 watches per year, most of which are sold out a year before they actually appear. The company is located at 17 rue de l'Arquebuse, 1204 Geneva.
Further information on the watch and how to purchase at www.fpjourne.com
The competition was organized by 00/24 WatchWorld and 00/24 Horloges. The winners in the five categories were:
Category 1, men's watches up to £2,500: MeisterSinger Perigraph Anthracite
Category 2, men's watches £2,500 to £8,500: Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36,000
Category 3: men's watches £8,500 to £21,000: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain. The short list in this category was the Royal Oak Offshore Diver, the Journe watch, and the Hermès Arceau Le Temps Suspendu
Category 4: men's watches over £21,000: A. Lange & Sohne Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite.” This category saw one of the most melodramatic moments of the awards ceremony, when a Richard Mille representative threw the £389,000 RM038 onto the floor to demonstrate its toughness.
Category 5: women's watches: Zenith El Primero 36,000