SIHH 2018: F.P. Journe Monopoussoir Rattrapante chronograph

SIHH 2018: F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante

Combining innovative technical solutions with traditional construction methods, François-Paul Journe has forged a new watchmaking series, embodied to pure perfection in the Monopoussoir. Discover it here!

By Vincent Daveau

The basic material and starting point was a chronograph, unique down to its calibre, and designed exclusively for the Only Watch charity auction in late 2017. It became the laboratory inspiration for the new 2018 F.P. Journe Monopoussoir Rattrapante chronograph series. A series of timepieces that honors history and prepares for the third millennium with the rattrapante complication, commonly considered to be the natural feature of the chronograph. 

The multiplicity in unity

Eager to satisfy the widest possible number of enthusiasts ambitiously in search of the ultimate watchmaking dream, a chronograph with rattrapante, François-Paul Journe has devised a brand-new line of products. The line is structured around the 44 mm diameter LineSport case and an entirely new movement gracing the rattrapante chronographs, which boasts 80 hours power reserve and direct gearing with a rocking pinion (to avoid the jump of the hand when actuating the chronograph function). 

These references, totally separate and distinct from the pièce unique proposed at the Only Watch auction, are available with three different metal casings. The Monopoussoir Rattrapante chronograph is thus crafted in platinum, red gold and titanium. However, as nothing is left to chance at François-Paul Journe, a mechanical calibre was deemed only fitting for these instruments. Hence the new manual chronograph with rattrapante reference 1518, endowed with 18 K rose gold main plate and bridges, while in the titanium version the latter consists of an aluminium alloy. Purists may rest assured, the Only Watch piece crafted in tantalum, which sold on 11 November 2017 for the record sum of 1.15 million CHF will remain for all eternity a unique chronograph. In fact, it’s likely to gain even further in value in the light of a new and even more complex chronograph now introduced by F.P. Journe. The celebrated "Invenit et Fecit" Manufacture sees its latest totally innovative case and calibre as a worthy response, bound to appeal to other watchmaking enthusiasts eager to possess an original creation. 

The innovative latest model fitted with the above new calibre dispenses with the casing codes found in the Souveraine range and is instead endowed with the contemporary codes of the case used in the LineSport range. Intensely sporty and ready to accompany their wearer on life's adventures. These new timepieces also prioritise the use of rare metals, albeit different ones from the pièce unique model. The new instruments are available in red gold, platinum and grade 5 titanium and come. They come on an alligator strap, and a bracelet crafted in the same metal that matches the case-middle. Moreover, to underline the sporty nature of this new series without losing sight of its Only Watch inspiration, which featured both tachymeter and telemeter, the Monopoussoir Rattrapante chronograph carries a plain, no-frills tachymeter scale, admittedly not on the dial, but instead on a black ceramic bezel.

What's more, the three references are all very different from one another. The titanium version with its calibre featuring aluminium alloy bottom plate and bridges, as well as slate-coloured alloy dial, is clearly in tune with the sporty spirit and should therefore find a natural public among racing car fans. The platinum model, however, boasts a calibre produced in solid rose gold, in keeping with the tradition at F.P. Journe for its prestige models. It is similarly adorned with silver dial tinged with mauvish-blue, appliqué numerals and two small counters in silver. Last but not least, the red gold version receives an almost traditional guilloché dial coated in ruthenium, with matte red gold appliqué numerals. 

Naturally, a totally new calibre was needed for the three watches. The reference 1518 with manual wound calibre could, in effect, be perceived as having been inspired by the basic design of the Only Watch chronograph. Yet this piece goes a notch further by adding another complication to the calibre. The master watchmaker not only includes a rocking pinion to avoid the hand jumping unceremoniously on start-up, but has also added a clearly visible large date feature. And, as with all movements bearing the workshop's signature, not to mention the equally startling calibres in the "Elégante" collection, they are entirely workshop-developed, crafted and, of course, assembled and adjusted in-house by one and the same watchmaker.

The historical origins of the function

Now, we know the chronograph to be a watchmaking instrument initially devised to meet the scientist's need to measure short time fractions without interfering with ordinary time-telling. However, these experimenters very soon realised how important it was to sequence the measurement of on-going time, or time two actions starting, but not necessarily ending, at the same point.  

In order to succeed in their endeavours, watchmakers steeped in the industrial era and yet attuned to the needs of their time, set themselves to task. According to the industry's archives, the invention of the rattrapante is thought to be attributed to the watchmaker, Joseph Thaddeus Winnerl (1799-1886). Failing absolute proof, existing evidence suggests that this functionality as we know it today, was developed towards the 1880s, namely around the time of the great industrial boom in the west and roughly a decade before Pierre de Coubertin paved the way for the modern Olympic Games and, in the process, the supreme utility of the chronograph.

One thing is certain, however. Once the design was established for a sophisticated mechanical device enabling its owner to stop the hand, then start it again at will, while the main chronograph hand continued its revolution of the dial, every brand involved in the manufacture of classic chronographs began to propose versions equipped with a rattrapante. They saw it as a response to the needs of sportsmen, manufacturers, scientists and, to a lesser extent, the military, for whom the use of a simple chronograph appeared largely sufficient for controlling troop movements or cannon fire.

Measuring the will to succeed

Without going into specifics, or even into the heart of pure mechanics, the rattrapante has that fascinating quality that puts it among the very few complications able to assist man in his endeavours to excel himself. Thus, we readily understand what prompted François-Paul to create this novelty in the Only Watch’s spirit. We fully fathom why this "basic starting point" could have reached such a record sum, and we realise, with greater emotion, why the master watchmaker decided to create an entire line of references around this complication, combining tradition and modernity in the process. Without a doubt, their future owners will be fully committed proponents of the cause.

In simple terms, as socio-ethnologists like to say, that what makes a man is the desire to forge ahead ever higher, further and stronger, which puts us in mind of Pierre de Coubertin's achievements. Chronography is, essentially, the first step in the watchmaker's approach, the rattrapante, however, represents his crowning glory.

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