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ANNIVERSARY - F.P. JOURNE - 30 YEARS AGO, a young rebel made his own tourbillon...

January 2014


Some 30 years ago, in 1983, a young man who had just turned 25 put the finishing touches to his first timepiece: a pocket watch with tourbillon. It took him five years to develop and produce. He made each of its components by hand, including the gold and silver case, and proudly signed it F.P. JOURNE – A PARIS.

ANNIVERSARY - F.P. JOURNE - 30 YEARS AGO, a young rebel made his own tourbillon...

The young François-Paul Journe was a rebel whose parents tried to tame by enrolling him at the watchmaking school in Marseilles. Here, for the first time, the man who himself admits to being a “dunce”, enjoyed learning to cut, to file and to assemble a movement. But at the time a watchmaking school trained up specialist workers in horology, not genuine dyed-in-the-wool watchmakers who could make their own movement. When he finished school, the young François-Paul was sent to his uncle in Paris –a vintage watch restorer who was recognised as one of the best in the profession. On the bookshelves in the workshop he came across the famous George Daniels book, The Art of Breguet. The ambitious youth then decided to embark upon the rather fanciful project of producing from scratch a pocket watch with tourbillon for which he would have to reinvent everything.

A young François-Paul Journe with his uncle, a renowned watch restorer.
A young François-Paul Journe with his uncle, a renowned watch restorer.
The first pocket watch with tourbillon by François-Paul Journe, completed in 1983.
The first pocket watch with tourbillon by François-Paul Journe, completed in 1983.
The F.P. Journe manufacture in the centre of Geneva.
The F.P. Journe manufacture in the centre of Geneva.

We have since forgotten that tourbillons were extremely rare at the time and that they were not yet produced on an industrial scale. So this young watchmaker’s accomplishment was soon noticed and collectors became interested. François-Paul Journe opened his own workshop, received his first awards and his talents as a constructor crossed borders… the F.P. Journe brand was born.

It really took off from 1999 when the brand’s manufacture was set up in the centre of Geneva. All fans of exceptional watchmaking know the rest.

Today, in order to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of his first timepiece, François-Paul Journe presents a reinterpretation of his first pocket watch but in wristwatch format. We can assume that the 99 Toubillon Historique F.P. Journe (which will be sold at the “symbolic” price of 99,000 US dollars) will quickly be sold out, since this timepiece has everything that a timeless piece should have.

THE 99 TOURBILLON HISTORIQUE BY F.P. JOURNE
THE 99 TOURBILLON HISTORIQUE BY F.P. JOURNE
Intricate engine-turned decoration on the back cover and the side of the case and lugs.
Intricate engine-turned decoration on the back cover and the side of the case and lugs.

A case with magnificent proportions (40mm diameter for a total thickness of 10mm), a caseband in silver with two 4N pink gold bezels, an exceptional engine-turned decoration on the back cover of the watch as well as on the sides of the caseband and the lugs, a dial of extreme purity, in grained silver with engraved and filled numerals and hour scale and Abraham-Louis Breguet hands in blued steel.

 The movement with its disctinctive bridges.
The movement with its disctinctive bridges.

Just like its face, the movement of this wristwatch faithfully reproduces the rigorous architecture of the original pocket watch movement. It is revealed by opening the double case back in engine-turned silver: two barrels arranged side by side and fixed by two wide bridges, a classic gear train along the vertical axis of the watch, a one-minute tourbillon that beats majestically. The only notable differences are that the sprung detent escapement from the pocket watch has been replaced with a lateral lever escapement, which is better suited to a wristwatch, and that the system of winding by key has been replaced by crown winding at 3 o’clock. Perfectly decorated, polished, bevelled, this movement with gilt brass components is resolutely classic, with its beautiful blued screws, its polishing and bevelling. Complete with a beige leather strap that gives it a vintage touch, the Tourbillon Historique F.P. Journe is already an undeniable watchmaking classic and maybe, in a few decades, it will in turn inspire a slightly rebellious and ambitious young watchmaker.

Source: Europa Star December - January 2013/14 Magazine Issue