Where to begin with F.P. Journe. Started by the man himself in 1999, Journe had previously spent quite a few years restoring and producing movements and also made a couple of pocket watches during that time. It took quite a few years before his brand went from something only a hardcore collector could appreciate to being appreciated by a more mainstream audience and today, he is considered by many as one of the most successful and important independent brands to have emerged.
In my opinion, F.P. Journe has hit the sweet spot, producing around 900 pieces a year only. This ensures that they are exclusive enough that people consider any Journe a rare piece, but not so rare that it becomes esoteric. There are brands like Roger Smith and Philippe Dufour, both of who are considered godfathers of high horology, but they make so few pieces a year that the average watch collector would not know about them. Mention F.P. Journe though, and you’ll have collectors jumping with joy.
What you see here today is one of Journe’s most iconic models- the Centigraphe. Designed to time 1/100th of a second, you can already imagine how complicated this is going to get. There are pushers on the top right-hand side of the case to activate the chronograph, prompting the 10 o’clock sub-dial to start running. Watching this is something very special as you see the foudroyant (flying seconds) run and when you stop the chronograph it can stop anywhere on the sub-dial, allowing the user to record exactly to 1/100th of a second. The other two sub-dials act as a 20 second and 10 minute counter.
Housed in a 40mm platinum case, there is definitely a nice heft to the watch. I think one of the main reasons why collectors love Journe is because of his signature case. It sits so thin and flat on the wrist and finishes off with lugs that step down and hugs your wrist. Once you strap it on, you’ll understand.
F.P. Journe has carved a very interesting niche in the independent watch world where he has managed to blend traditional watchmaking and design cues with modern technology and an unmistakably Journe aesthetic. Despite using very traditional elements like his serif’d Arabic numerals, a knurled winding crown and a standard round case, the way it has been laid out combines to create a look that is F.P. Journe through and through.
The purists really love Journe because of his motto ‘Invenit et Fecit’, which translates from Latin to Invent and Create. To this day, F.P. Journe has stuck to this mantra, where he continues to invent his own in-house movements. Furthermore, everything else is also in-house, even to the point of owning his own case-maker and dial-maker. For a small brand that makes less than 1000 pieces a year, it is really impressive.
Now, of course, timing to 1/100th of a second is not something we need in our lives, but just like art, it is the complexity and the ingenuity that we appreciate. After all, isn’t the wristwatch in itself an archaic tool? So why not, just go all out? It is for that reason, I think that the Centigraphe is one of the greatest watches that has come out of this century.