In-Depth: F.P.Journe Celebrates 20 Years Of The Octa, Part Two
We take a closer look at the evolution of F.P.Journe’s Octa after paying a visit to the brand’s recent retrospective exhibition dedicated to this versatile, automatic marvel.
A few weeks back, we looked at the new Octa Automatique 99-piece limited edition created to mark the 20th anniversary of F.P.Journe’s Octa.
What’s more, we were able to appreciate this commemorative release in context thanks to our visit to and pictures from the “20 Years of Octa” exhibition that F.P.Journe recently put on at its manufacture in central Geneva.
To understand the Octa’s importance to the brand – and watch collectors for that matter – you only have to look at what happened at The Geneva Watch Auction: XIII ran by Phillips on May 8 and 9. At it, no fewer than four historical Octas fetched well above their estimate, as all Journe watches did that weekend.
Especially coveted of the Octas is the original run with 38mm platinum case and rhodium-treated brass movement, such as the 2003 Octa Calendrier Annuel, which went for a cool CHF 220,500 at Phillips’ auction a fortnight ago.
Ruthenium Series: Switch to a 40mm Case
Part of the reason for the appeal and collectability of the early Octas is that relatively few were made featuring the 38mm case and the brass movement.
As early as 2003, François-Paul Journe began fitting the Octa with a 40mm case. It was a sign of the times as clients were already wearing and asking for watches with a case size of at least 40mm or greater.
The ruthenium Octa series released that year – on display at Journe’s Octa exhibition and pictured here – featured the larger 40mm case size in addition to brass movements and gold dials both treated with ruthenium.
Comprising three 99-piece limited editions – one with day-night indicator, one with chronograph, and one with annual calendar – the ruthenium Octa series made use of this hard white metal’s grey appearance to give a fresh look to the Octa. The deployment of ruthenium, which is darker than silver yet lighter than what one might call anthracite, was purely an aesthetic choice by Journe.
Caliber 1300.2 Made in 18K Rose Gold
As we mentioned in our previous article about the Octa, the original movement to which Journe integrated complications as he saw fit was called caliber 1300.
But by 2004, the watchmaker had developed his production capabilities to the extent that he was able to take his in-house movements to another, more noble level. He duly began making the Octa movement in 18K 5N rose gold instead of rhodium-treated brass, marking the start of caliber 1300.2.
As one of the softest metals, gold is obviously not as hard as brass. However, the copper composition of 5N rose gold (25% copper, 75% gold) meant this alloy had sufficient hardness to serve as the material out of which the Octa’s bridges and mainplate would invariably be made from that point onward.
Caliber 1300.3 with Unidirectional Winding
In 2007, there was one final modification made to the Octa movement, and that was the introduction of unidirectional winding, giving rise to caliber 1300.3.
When the Octa first launched in 2001, its automatic winding mechanism was conceived as bidirectional. The idea behind that was a bidirectional winding system represented efficiency: In whichever direction the micro-rotor swings, it is working away, winding up Octa’s one meter-long, 1mm thick mainspring to give it that huge 120-hour chronometric power reserve.
However, in the years following, Journe received feedback from owners about the performance of their timepiece. And what he learned was that some owners were unable to get their Octa mainspring significantly wound through their regular, daily movements.
When he inquired further, he realized it was the sedentary lifestyles and working practices of these customers. Basically, they were in the office sitting in front of a computer, which prevented them from making the wrist movements sufficient for winding up the watch.
Journe reacted by changing Octa’s winding to unidirectional. That better guaranteed the rapid tensioning of the long mainspring using the slight, minimal movements of office-bound watch wearers. All Octas since 2007 have benefitted from this modification, including the recent 99-piece Octa Automatique 20th Anniversary Limited Edition.
An Almost Unreal Performance
Versatile, adaptable, efficient, and offering five days of chronometrically stable autonomy, the base movement of the Octa has been subject to just two updates in its 20 years on the market.
“The Octa is an accomplished movement that requires no further modification due to its almost unreal performance,” said Journe, without a shred of doubt, before the recent “20 years of Octa” exhibition.
Calibers 1300.2 and 1300.3 Out in Force
At the exhibition, we were able to get hands-on and discover a number of Octas made between 2004 and 2020, all powered by calibers 1300.2 and 1300.3. These stunning pieces featured a range of complications (power reserve, world timer, moonphase, annual calendar, and perpetual calendar), dial finishes (all silver, Havana brown, white gold, blued gold, and black nickel-treated gold), and case materials (platinum, titanium, and 18k 6N gold). Some of the displayed watches were even celebratory limited editions.
We even got to check out the two bronze-dial annual calendar Octas with steel case and power reserve indicator that were part of a limited-edition boxset created by the brand in 2015 to celebrate the end of the historical 38mm case size. Only 38 of these boxsets were made available, and each held a collection of five iconic F.P.Journe models.
Don’t Miss the “20 years of Octa” Video
In addition to feasting your eyes on our photos from Journe’s “20 years of Octa” exhibition, you can watch a great video summary of the event and the pieces displayed there. It was made by the brand and published on F.P.Journe’s YouTube channel.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)