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.
What I have here today is an absolutely beautiful example of an early brass 4th generation 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.
The Tourbillon was the first wristwatch produced by F.P. Journe and it was part of the original lineup alongside the Chronometre a Resonance and the self-winding Octa Reserve de Marche. The Tourbillon Souverain was powered by the Caliber 1498 and featured a remontoir d’egalite crafted from rhodium-plated brass.
Coming as a full set and from the original owner who bought this watch new from Sincere Watches in Malaysia in 2003, it was presented to him by François-Paul himself when he came down to Malaysia in 2003 for a dinner hosted by Sincere. As a result, this watch additionally comes with a presentation book featuring all of the models of the time which was signed by François-Paul. The card of authenticity is also signed by the man himself, making this watch just that much more special.
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 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. You have to remember that at the time, this was a young brand who were still finding their feet.
The dial on this particular example is very unique and one of the more interesting early dials I have seen. As it comes from the original owner I know for a fact that this piece was never opened and lived its life mostly in the safe in the hot and humid weather of the Tropics. You can see how the dial has aged and developed a patina that no other example will have.
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. This example comes in platinum and houses a white gold dial that has oxidized to a yellow tone.
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.
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.
It is a huge honor to be able to offer this extremely special piece, direct from the original owner based here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and in a complete set.