Switzerland makes over 30 million mechanical watches every year, with a vast variety of models. Some customers are particularly interested in finding a timepiece that looks very different as well as appealing to them both technically and aesthetically. This is what makes watches by F.P. Journe so coveted by collectors. They make less than 900 pieces per year, all with superbly detailed finish. One of their unusual characteristics is the fact that F.P. Journe is the only watch brand to make its movements in 18-carat rose gold. And, in a recent development in three specific references, dials are also in solid 18-carat gold, with silver finish. The new gold dial can be found in the Chronomètre Souverain, the Octa Réserve and the Octa Lune.
On paper, the idea of making a watch with a gold dial doesn’t sound like such a revolution,. But when you see the difference between the Chronomètre Souverain, for example, as it was previously and the version with gold dial, it becomes immediately obvious. The dial has a sculpted look, created by a meticulous sanding process, followed by the addition of a layer of silver. Only then are the numerals embossed onto the dial, and polished to a mirror finish. The logo and minute markers are printed, and the logo alone requires five print layers to ensure a perfect bombé shape. The result is of astounding purity.
The dial of the Chronomètre Souverain presents hours and minutes, with seconds on a subdial at 7.30, and power reserve at 3 o’clock. It is a masterpiece of design, and it is only on close and lengthy examination that you only notice that the numerals 7 and 8 are smaller than the others, to give sufficient space to the seconds subdial. The sapphire caseback provides a view of the 18-carat rose gold movement Calibre 1304, with the balance in view, and Côtes de Genève on the bridges. The 56-hour power reserve is provided by two mainspring barrels in parallel. The movement is manually-wound.
The Octa Lune has the same magical balance as the Chronomètre Souverain, this time with the numerals 8, 9 and 10 smaller than the others to make room for the power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock, while the number 4 is also smaller for the small seconds subdial. There is a date window at 11.30. The Octa 1300-3 Calibre movement has an automatic winding system providing 120 hours power reserve, with an off-centre rotor that winds in just one direction, with a self-locking ball bearing system. Strange though it may seem, allowing the rotor to move in just one direction in fact improves winding efficiency, so that even the smallest movement contributes to charging the mainspring. The moon phase display adds to the beauty of this piece.
Octa Réserve de Marche
The Réserve de Marche is also powered by the Octa 1300-3 Calibre movement, with the characteristic F.P. Journe dial design, in this case with power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock, small seconds at 5 o’clock, and date at 11.30. The numerals used by François-Paul are one of the reasons for the watch’s unmistakable looks and appeal, a sort of serif with some quirky details: possibly a modified Jenson font. In any case, another fine watch, even better with the new gold dial.
The Octa Sport, the latest addition to the lineSport range, is very different in character, an interesting combination of haute horlogerie and the sports aesthetic. On your wrist, the satin-finish case looks superb, above all with the titanium strap with black rubber trim. And it feels really light: the materials used for movement, dial and case reduce its weight to between 60 and 70 grams, depending on the model. In fact it has a grade 5 titanium case, and aluminium alloy movement and dial. Though fairly large at 42 millimetres in diameter, it is relatively slim at 11.6 millimetres, and is a good fit because it has fairly narrow lugs. The dial is beautifully balanced, with power reserve indicator at 10.30, date at 1 o'clock, small seconds at 6 o'clock, and a day/night indicator at 9 o'clock. The red details contrast with the cool grey of the satin-finished case.
The Octa Sport is powered by the Calibre FPJ 1300-3 automatic movement characteristic of the Octa range, except that it is in aluminium, an unusual feature because its relative softness means that special techniques have to be used when crafting the components. The oscillating weight is in titanium, with a tungsten segment to give it some weight in the right place. The 120-hour power reserve, 5 days, is exceptional, and gives an idea of the sophisticated engineering dedicated to this calibre.