The last F.P. Journe we looked at was the Optimum, which optimises François-Paul’s watchmaking philosophy of being able to produce a timepiece that is complicated, yet harnesses the use of 18th century technology. However the Souverain is just pure, stripped back, stunning simplicity, high-precision haute horlogerie at its best. It is the dichotomy of complicated watchmaking and for François-Paul, it is inspired by early 19th century marine chronometry.
From the outset the clean appearance of the dial is rather refreshing. With the use of Arabic numerals, which nicely taper towards 7 o’clock to accommodate the running second’s subsidiary dial, railroad track minute scale and power reserve gauge at 3 o’clock, the dial exudes classical elegance. Though, what is interesting to learn is that Francois-Paul creates his timepieces from the dial down, so while placing the power reserve gauge in an unfavourable position on the dial, Mr. Journe knew it had to co-exist with the winding apparatus. The clean look of the dial is completed with the use of F.P. Journe’s drop shape hands. However, this particular CS is no ordinary Chronomètre Souverain. Last year the CS and a couple of other Journes in the range, received an upgrade and now sport an optional 18-carat solid gold dial.
These dials are rather special and go through a number of processes to achieve this simple yet highly sophisticated appearance. The dials are sanded down to create a perfect base, to which then a silver layer is applied. The numbers are then surfaced with a diamond tool making them seem like mirrors on the dial. The last operation is the pad print technique transfer for the time indications and the F.P.Journe logo which requires up to 5 successive layers to create that perfect shape. The result? An absolutely stunning dial with a slight off-white hue with numerals that are raised from the dial and not applied!
Turning the Chronomètre Souverain over and peering through the sapphire case back you’ll be able to see the sublime calibre 1304 movement crafted entirely from 18-carat gold. The balance and escapement are mysteriously detached from the movement, beating without apparent motive power. Journe has put the connecting train under the dial, leaving only the centre wheel to emphasise the isolation of the balance.
The manually wound, 21,600v/h movement with a stripped back configuration shows why the simplest mechanisms are often the most attractive. Twin barrels, in the classic configuration of precision watches, work in parallel to deliver stable power for much of their 50-hour indicated reserve. The 1998 F.P. Journe free-sprung chronometer balance with inertia adjustment on four opposing weights, is dynamically adjusted in six positions, with the emphasis on constancy of rate.
All of this 18-carat solid gold goodness is housed in a 40mm or 38mm (upon request) case that is water-resistant to 3 ATM. There is an option of 18-carat gold or Platinum for the case which comes on either a brown or black alligator strap, with the added option of a bracelet too.
The Chronomètre Souverain showcases François-Paul Journe’s commitment and discipline in creating true horology, and in it, displays his skill in crafting a strikingly simple yet stunning timepiece with distinctive features that draws your attention. As a whole, the result is a well-balanced timepiece that oozes sophistication, without having to shout about it – hence the reason it won the Prix de la Montre Homme (Mens Watch Prize) award at the 2005 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GHPG).
The Chronometre Souverain is available in a 38mm or 40mm platinum case, at a price of £26,700 and £27,600 respectively. It is also available in a 38mm or 40mm rose gold case, at a price of £22,400 and £22,900 respectively. For more information visit the official F.P. Journe website.
Currently in the U.K William & Son is only place you’ll be able to find F.P. Journe’s fine timepieces, so when in London be sure to pay them a visit.
William & Son
10 Mount Street