fpj élégante 10

F.P. Journe's élégante Collection: Time In Another Dimension

A new volume, a new functionality and a new approach to a watch's operating principle. With the élégante, the François-Paul Journe watchmaking world acquires a chic, unique line. Here's a hands-on look!

By Vincent Daveau

Never get stuck in a rut, dare to excel yourself and stay ahead. These prophetic words might well serve to explain the presence of the élégante collection in the watchmaking universe created by François-Paul Journe. But to those wise words, one might also add "attentiveness" and "understanding", because these highly original watchmaking pieces are what happens as result of genuine client proximity.

Staying attuned to the market

As recently recalled by François-Paul Journe, the élégante line was inspired by an observation made on a trip to the Middle East in 2003. During his extended journey, he met collectors' wives, who asked him why he had not yet designed a watch collection for women.

Upon his return from this epic voyage, he launched the Divine collection. A sublime expression of delicacy crafted in precious metals, the 36 mm line powered by an Octa calibre was bound to capture many a woman's heart. But it also revealed how real feminine aspirations are thousands of light years away from the distorted image watchmaking advertisers have of them. The study, conducted by François-Paul Journe among a group of enthusiasts, thus revealed a whole host of female expectations, which the mechanical watch failed to address. He therefore arrived at the conclusion that everything they say about ladies loving mechanical watches is wrong.

Meeting everyone's expectations

As François-Paul Journe once rightly said, a brand such as his must always do more than the rest to survive. It should rise to every challenge and design products that are tailored to the tastes of men and women collectors all around the world. To stay in tune with his clientele, he launched a study for a new and highly unusual product dubbed the élégante" back in 2005. The goal was to design a luxury, "new-generation" quartz watch that would genuinely meet a female clientele's needs. To achieve this goal, François-Paul Journe called on the services of engineers from the Lausanne EPFL (Swiss Federal institute of technology) in 2005.

Eight years went into the making of a calibre capable of operating according to the master craftsman's wishes. Often, as he was wont to emphasise, watchmakers took a while to understand that they needed to design a luxury quartz movement and not a cheap electromechanical motor. What's more, the nature of the challenge changed in the sense that the motorization powering the élégante was developed on and around the battery and not the other way around.

Thus the first electromechanical calibre was born, one capable of going into stand-by mode after 35 minutes of remaining sedentary, and of restarting and resetting to the correct time via the shortest path, once jostled into motion by the wearer's movements. With an autonomy estimated at more than 8 years of continual daily use and 18 years with the stand-by mode, this instrument, complete with 5-year warranty (due to the natural wear and tear on the water-resistant seals), provided the solution for women in search of a jewellery watch that might match their requirements.

Wholesale approval among female admirers

The captivating élégante, which as we know was initially designed for women, soon threatened to rock the boat, as any well-founded concept might. Just as some masculine models are the stuff of women's dreams, other more androgynous creations can be just as appealing to wannabe dandies, men in search of models that will accentuate their uniqueness, who might be fascinated, say, by the "squareness" of this form watch.

One evening, therefore, on discovering the élégante, Karim Ojjeh, a racing driver and Saudi-Arabian businessman, and also a friend of François-Paul Journe, set him the challenge of designing just such a watch, but in a larger format (48 mm in diameter) and in a lighter metal (titanium). The remit was to design a watch that should appeal to men in search of a highly unusual, luxury watchmaking product, bearing a designer's name, and whose superlative design features would make it wearable in any situation.

The élégante 48, off the beaten track in pursuit of luxury

Spurred on by his friend, François-Paul Journe rose to the challenge and designed the élégante 48, a generous timepiece, resplendent in titanium with a super-sporty rubber strap. Robust and light, this watch is designed to accompany its wearer on all of life's adventures, including even the more extreme challenge of a GT race. However, the larger extrapolated format of this unique watch in no way compromises the original spirit of the instrument. In fact, whatever the diameter of the watchcase or the material in which the case middle is crafted, this remarkable timepiece sees itself, first and foremost, as a unisex product. In other words, it offers a happy alternative to both men and women in search of a totally different watchmaking experience.

In setting this challenge, Karim Ojjeh asserted his preference for the virile, boat-rocking dynamics of the reference. Strangely, and surprisingly, this Art Deco-inspired model, powered by an avant-garde calibre, appears to answer the needs of both men and women alike. The watchmaker's approach is to listen to the clientele and not force its own way.

This sophisticated watch concept thus prompted François-Paul to stray from the beaten path, while keeping its sights firmly on luxury watchmaking principles. The watchmaker's fresh perspective therefore gave rise to a timepiece, a functional jewellery watch, which ought to touch the hearts of seekers of a genuine all-rounder.

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