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 is becoming esoteric. There are brands like Roger Smith and Philippe Dufour, both 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.
I have to say that I always end up with very long descriptions when it comes to Journe due to the complexity of his work and with this Chronometre Optimum, it just might be the longest. The idea of making the ultimate chronometer watch was something that Journe always wanted to do, and had been planning to do since 2001. Only 10 years later, in 2012 did he manage to release what you see here today.
The beauty of F.P. Journe is that he manages to be a traditionalist while pushing forward and innovating with unique designs and movements. The Optimum is all about that- combining the finest traditional watchmaking while inventing new ways to do it better.
It’s all about the Calibre 1510 with this watch and that is where I’ll spend the most time on. The main goal of the Optimum was to create a watch that focused on chronometry in the most efficient and reliable way possible and as a result, there are a whole host of innovations in the calibre that makes it so. Beginning with the signature Journe double-barrel layout, this ensures that energy is provided in a stable manner, further achieved through Journe’s remontoir d’egalite system. Every second the remontoir stores and releases energy, which aids this constant force. On top of this, there is a dead seconds indicator on the movement side, reinforcing the precision ethos of this watch.
There is an entirely unique escapement in this watch which Journe calls the EBHP direct impulse escapement and the two wheels manage to function without any form of lubricants, decreasing its wear and tear.
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 with this Optimum being a testament to that. 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.
While it has been all about the movement with this Optimum, let’s not forget that aesthetically this is still a Journe through and through. With his signature 40mm platinum case, it houses a grey dial with his classic layout. The amazing thing about this Journe is that to the naked eye, it looks like a normal Journe, which is itself a special thing already. It is super stealth, which is something that I like.