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 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.
This F.P. Journe Octa Reserve de Marche is no ordinary Journe. While any F.P. Journe is special in its own right, this is the Black Label Edition and it is reserved exclusively for purchase by existing F.P. Journe clients only. Considering the man only makes around 900 pieces a year, a very small amount are only Black Label pieces. In fact, each boutique (10 in the world) only gets a maximum of 2 pieces of each Black Label model a year and considering this Octa Reserve de Marche was discontinued in 2014, it was only produced for a few years.
What distinguishes this piece from your regular Journe is of course in the name, all Black Label pieces take on a monochromatic colour palette. Beginning with a 40mm platinum case, it is interesting to note that Journe only uses platinum for his precious white metal watches, so you won’t find any in white gold. The main distinguishing factor of this edition is the deep black glossy dial. With an asymmetric dial design, it has its power reserve indicator on the left side and a double disc date window aperture slightly off centre to the left. On the right side of the dial, you have a concentric design on the main subdial displaying the minutes on the outside followed by the hours and a guilloche pattern. A smaller subdial south of the main one intersects and represents the running seconds with all three hands within the subdials made of thermally blued steel. This watch has your classic and distinctive F.P. Journe knurled crown
Flip the watch over and you will see the in-house FPJ calibre 1300.3 made entirely of rose gold. It has a beautiful 22k gold rotor and all parts are hand finished to perfection. It has a 120-hour power reserve, and this is indicated on the dial.
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.