The Epic F.P. Journe Only Watch Timepieces: Blue Dials, Tantalum Cases, And All-New Movements
Since 2015, the premier charity auction has served as a platform for François-Paul Journe to demonstrate his unparalleled watchmaking prowess by presenting awe-inspiring prototypes that later become stunning production models.
Last weekend, the biennial charity watch auction Only Watch successfully concluded its initial two stops on its 2023 world tour.
So far, watch enthusiasts in Los Angeles and New York City have been the fortunate first ones to don gloves and closely inspect these stunning timepieces before the tour moves on to Monaco, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Dubai, and, finally, Geneva ahead of the auction at Palexpo on November 5th.
One highlight of the exhibition unquestionably belongs to this year’s timepiece submission from F.P. Journe, which continues the watchmaker’s steadfast commitment to the Only Watch cause.
Indeed, dating back to 2015, Journe devised an ambitious strategy for his Only Watch contributions: All of F.P. Journe's entries were to feature blue dials and tantalum cases, creating an exclusive collection of unique pieces.
Later, Journe decided to develop new movements for these watches, potentially laying the groundwork for future production models. As a result, the F.P. Journe Only Watch pieces serve as tantalizing previews of upcoming creations for keen collectors.
So, let's sit back, savor a relaxing drink, and appreciate the exceptional ensemble that is F.P. Journe's Only Watch collection.
2015: Tourbillon Souverain Bleu – Caliber 1403 – Sold for CHF 550,000
François-Paul Journe was inspired to participate in the Only Watch charity auction by a collector friend. For his first submission, due to time constraints, Journe couldn't design a completely new watch. Thus, he chose to re-envision an existing model using a unique case material and dial color.
The model selected was the Tourbillon Souverain, initially released in 1999. An updated version of this model won the top “Aiguille d'Or” prize at the 2004 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG), notable as the only tourbillon with constant-force remontoire and deadbeat seconds at that time.
The Tourbillon Souverain Bleu’s case was constructed from tantalum, an extremely hard metal rarely used in watch cases. The tantalum case presented a unique interplay of gray and blue hues.
For the dial, Journe chose a vibrant blue, a color particularly cherished by watch enthusiasts. The design choices for the case material and dial color were possibly influenced by the success and popularity of the Chronomètre Bleu.
2017: Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante Bleu – Caliber 1517 – Sold for CHF 1,150,000
The 2017 entry for Only Watch marked Journe's initial foray into creating a rattrapante, or split-second chronograph, a complication that permits the user to record two simultaneous time intervals. This intricate feature is typically reserved for high-end, luxury timepieces, proving especially useful in timing events like laps that require multiple, simultaneous measurements.
Derived from the French word "rattraper," meaning "to catch up," the term "rattrapante" succinctly describes the mechanism's function. Unlike a standard chronograph, which possesses a single chrono seconds hand, a rattrapante chronograph boasts two.
Upon activating the chronograph, both hands begin to move in sync, giving the impression of a singular hand. However, pressing the rattrapante pusher halts one hand, enabling the recording of a time interval while the other hand persists in its movement. Pressing the pusher once again allows the stationary hand to swiftly "catch up" to its moving counterpart.
Monopoussoir means “single pusher”, and here it is in the form of the button located at 2 o'clock, which performs three functions: start, stop, and reset. Another button, positioned at 4 o'clock, acts as the rattrapante activator. The watch case is crafted from tantalum, and the dial sports the same blue hue as the previous Only Watch entry.
Journe's inaugural split-second chronograph hammered for a remarkable CHF 1,150,000, an accomplishment that subsequently led to the release of a production model the following year. This new Linesport iteration introduced a date display at 6 o'clock and was encased in lightweight titanium for comfortable wear, in addition to 18K 6N gold and platinum versions.
2019: Astronomic Blue – Caliber 1619 – Sold for CHF 1,800,000
In 2019, Journe raised the bar by creating an astronomical watch for Only Watch. The Astronomic Blue emerged as the watchmaker's most complex timepiece to date, boasting 18 complications and a movement composed of 758 parts.
The Astronomic Blue was subsequently auctioned for an impressive CHF 1,800,000. Following the auction, a production model, the Astronomic Souveraine, was incorporated into the Classique Collection. However, only a limited number of these intricate timepieces are made each year.
2021: FFC Blue – Caliber 1300.3 – Sold for CHF 4,500,000
Journe's 2021 Only Watch submission created a sensation in the watch industry and among watch enthusiasts worldwide. This unique automaton watch, displaying the 12 hours with a blue hand, was a remarkable collaboration with renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, hence the piece's name, FFC Blue.
Coppola, an owner of an F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance – a gift from his wife in 2009 – hosted the watchmaker at his Napa Valley winery estate in 2012. During a casual dinner conversation, Coppola proposed an intriguing question: Could a hand – the anatomical type – be used to tell time?
Journe found this idea captivating and began developing a design two years later. Working in concert with Coppola, they established a way to indicate the 12 hours using five fingers on one hand. The comprehensive development of this extraordinary timepiece spanned seven years.
The model submitted to Only Watch 2021 was prototype #4, as the preceding three iterations were unsuccessful. This revolutionary timepiece was housed in a tantalum case with the hand in blue. It fetched a record-breaking CHF 4.5 million.
Earlier this year, a production model, aptly named FFC, was launched. This model comes with a platinum case with the hand in gray. As one might expect, only a limited number of these pieces will ever be produced.
2023: Chronomètre Furtif Bleu – Caliber 1522
The original inspiration for the Only Watch timepieces, the "entry-level" Chronomètre Bleu, is known for its tantalum case and blue dial combo. For 2023, Journe has decided to revisit this popular piece, crafting a new iteration that merges the elegance of the Chronomètre Bleu with the sporty appeal of the Linesport collection.
A brand-new Caliber 1522 has been developed specifically for this piece. Surprisingly, this marks the first instance of a Journe watch featuring a center second hand, rendered in an eye-catching shade of orange.
The reverse side of the watch reveals a delightfully detailed moonphase indicator and power reserve indicator integrated into the back of the movement. If you find the moon image particularly realistic, it's because it is based on a NASA image. The neatly finished movement, made of rose gold, echoes that of the Chronomètre Bleu or Chronomètre Souverain.
The dial, fashioned from translucent blue grand feu enamel, features laser-engraved matte numerals and tracks. The term email, displayed at 6 o'clock, is the French word for enamel. The elusive appearance of the numerals and the stealthy aesthetic of the dial embody the meaning of "Furtif," the French word for stealthy or elusive.
Adding another unique element, the Chronomètre Furtif Bleu's bracelet is fully made of tantalum to match the case, the brand’s first such bracelet. In keeping with Journe's grand plan, this watch, equipped with the new caliber 1522, is expected to transition into a production model within the Linesport collection one day.
In a recent interview, F.P. Journe is reported to have said: "We only participate in Only Watch. This is the real GPHG!" There's an element of truth in this statement – while powerhouses like F.P. Journe and Patek Philippe are absent from the GPHG, it could appear to somewhat diminish its representation of cutting-edge horology.
Only Watch, on the other hand, has become the platform of choice for watchmakers and brands to showcase their vision, craftsmanship, and distinctive appeal. It is here that enthusiasts can witness the boundless creativity of esteemed masters such as Journe.
The Chronomètre Furtif Bleu, Journe's latest entry, is anticipated to perform well in the upcoming auction scheduled for November 5th. Within a few years, we might see a production model of this striking piece. Moreover, we can eagerly anticipate Journe's submissions for 2025, 2027, and beyond. There is indeed much to look forward to!