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.
It goes without saying that F.P. Journe has been one of the hottest brands in the last 12 months, finally gaining the recognition that it deserved all along. With early brass movement pieces hitting records at auction, the rest of the collection has followed.
I am very proud to offer the example here today as it is a very important and early Journe. The Octa line is Journe’s self-winding model and while over the years there have been many models based on this movement, the Reserve de Marche is the purest iteration of it all. Featuring a simple time display and power reserve indication, it was one of the earliest models released by the brand, alongside the Chronometre a Resonance and the Tourbillon Souverain.
What distinguishes early Journe models from the more common ones is the use of brass in the movements. F.P. Journe only used brass movements up to 2004, switching to complete rose gold calibers after that. As a result of it being produced for only a few short years, these are very rare and hugely desirable by collectors.
Another thing that makes these early Journe’s more special lies in the dial and how they were produced. The early dials from the brand were made of gold and grainy in their texture, with a propensity to develop a patina over time as they oxidized. While this would be considered a defect, collectors love this characteristic as it makes each piece unique in its own right. Another thing is that the grainy dials shimmer in the light and display a huge range of hues depending on the lighting conditions. It is hard to capture this phenomenon in the photography but it is really something you have to see to appreciate. Later Journes had more refined finishing to the dials and as such lacks the character that these early ones possess.
At the time, buyers had several options to configure their watches, with the choice of rose gold or platinum for the case, and rose, white or yellow gold for the dial. While any brass movement F.P. Journe is considered hard to come by, this particular example is said to be one of the rarest configurations, with an 18k rose gold case and a matching rose gold dial. Around 50-60 examples were produced and you will not see this one very often.
All early Journe watches were made in a 38mm case size, as supposed to the 40 or 42mm choice you have today. The 38mm case size is another thing that collectors prefer, and I would agree as it sits on the wrist much more homogeneously.
Flip the watch over and you will see the in-house FPJ caliber 1300.3 made of brass. 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.
I am very lucky to be able to offer an example such as this one, made even more special by the fact that it comes as a full set, with its box, card, and brochure, and even with its original sales receipt by Sincere Watches in 2002.