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.
Of all the watches F.P. Journe has ever made, none has caught the public attention more than the Chronometre Bleu. While there are certainly more complicated, rare and special timepieces from FPJ, the Chronometre Bleu is the watch that really made the brand into a household name, into the mainstream. Released in 2009, it was made largely as a response to the 2008 crisis that threatened many businesses around the world. In order to stay afloat, the Chronometre Bleu was priced as an entry-level watch to keep sales going.
While that may seem strange, the story of this watch gets even more interesting. It is widely known that 12 years on, what was meant to be the ‘entry-level’ piece has become the most desired F.P. Journe watch in the world. Waitlists at boutiques around the world are around 7 years and in 2019, Journe decided to cut production for the Chronometre Bleu.
There are several things unique about this watch, most significantly, of course, being the fact that it is made completely out of tantalum, a very unusual material for watches. It is a material that is rarer than gold and it is extremely hard to both mine and machine, making it very expensive to produce. The result is a material that has dark blue and silver tones and something you do not see very often. It is a beautiful look that sits stealthily on the wrist and throws off different hues depending on the light source. On top of this, not only is the Chronometre Bleu is the only watch in the F.P. Journe line-up that is made from Tantalum, but also from a 39mm case.
Moving on to the dial, it certainly would have to be one of the most impressive dials out there. The chrome blue dial is super reflective and it is achieved through multiple layers of blue lacquer that is hand applied and polished multiple times. It is very well known that the Chronometre Bleu dial is the most complicated and expensive dial that Journe produces with a high failure rate. The result though is a beautifully enigmatic dial that can look from a deep blue/black to a super-light electric blue.
It is for all of these reasons that F.P. Journe decided to cut production of the Chronometre Bleu. It was just too expensive for an ‘entry-level’ piece and as a result, demand for this watch has surged even more. I think for once it is nice that the market has priced this higher than retail because collectors recognize that for years Journe was underpricing the Chronometre Bleu. I would say that this could be the most significant ‘independent’ watch ever produced as it really put the spotlight on artisanal, independent watchmaking. Today it is very normal to collect independents, but before the Chronometre Bleu, that realm was only reserved for the most hardcore of watch collectors.