F.P. Journe The Sum of Optimized Parts
François-Paul Journe optimizes his prestigious catalogue with two new products: the new Chronomètre Optimum and the Octa Quantième Perpetuel.
WORLDTEMPUS - 22 February 2013
While the frantic rhythm of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie and the Geneva Time Exhibition drummed on, François-Paul Journe was calmly welcoming guests at his premises located at Rue de la Synagogue – and showing the new timekeepers that now round out his prestigious catalogue: the Souvereign Chronomètre Optimum, unveiled a few months ago to the press, and the most recent, Octa Quantième Perpetuel. While the aesthetically pleasing Quantième Perpetuel premiered a whole new type of uncluttered dial to substitute a previous limited edition perpetual calendar retrograde timepiece (based on the Octa Calendrier), it's been the Chronomètre Optimum that is gathering cult status among die-hard aficionados.
The rose gold version of the Souvereign Chronomètre Optimum © F.P. Journe
Why the special attention? Firstly, the Chronomètre Optimum has been an open secret among the Marseille-born watchmaker's friends for the past decade; secondly, some of the concepts featured in the early sketches of the Chronomètre Optimum have been introduced in other high profile timepieces in his collection; lastly – but not least – because absolute mechanical precision has been the ultimate quest haunting the finest watchmakers since the inception of the craft. Never mind traditional complicated elements such as the tourbillon or multiple hands on the dial. “The hardest thing is to make everything as simple as possible,” says Journe. “The Chronomètre Optimum appears to be a ‘simple' watch with just hours, minutes, seconds and a power reserve, but is an extremely complicated one nonetheless. It felt like building a mountain to achieve a little thing.” That “little thing” is no small feat: it represents the essence of precision.
A dozen years in the drawer
Using his own metaphor, Journe started thinking about climbing that “mountain” in 2001 – yes, a whole dozen years ago – before he materialized his ideas in a recently released timepiece. Some of the ideas and concepts belonging to the first sketches of the Chronomètre Optimum were used first in other creations: for instance, the constant force remontoir and the deadbeat seconds featured in his 2003 redesigned tourbillon Souverain. And the 2005 Chronomètre Souverain already included two spring barrels to ensure greater rate stability. The fact that this most celebrated contemporary watchmaker has been focusing lately more on the technical development side of his company, instead of wasting creative energy on the business part, led him to finally climb the Olympus that had become the Optimum project.
The high-performance bi-axial escapement and details of Caliber 1510 © F.P. Journe
“It took me 12 years to finish it,” he says. “I started to design it in 2001, a watch that I had planned back then to be the most precise in existence – and that's why I called it the Chronomètre Optimum. It might be a little pretentious [in that respect], but it's finally done.” Good things come to those who wait, as they say, and Journe agrees. “I left it in the drawer for a dozen years because there were a few other timepieces I had to do first, such as the Sonnerie, the Centigraphe and the Minute Repeater, but I probably did well to wait because meanwhile technology has developed and in the end it's good that it only came out now because it is better than if it were released ten years ago.”
Isochronism as the ultimate grail
For Journe, “Isochronism has always been a watchmaker's philosophical quest.” The new Chronomètre Optimum symbolizes the essence of precision. To ensure his grail, it boasts a movement with minimal internal friction, constant force on the escapement to ensure the sought-after isochronism on the balance, an escapement that works without lubricant to protect stability, and a Philips terminal-curve hairspring. The remarkable bi-axial and direct impulse escapement is a big feature, with twin escape wheels and pallet lever in titanium (a first in Journe's collection). The stability of the driving force of the movement is obtained by a double barrel disposition, and the constant force remontoir enables the balance's isochronism, balancing out the force applied to the escapement and giving it a holistic constancy while the direct impulse escapement doesn't require oil and is presently the only one of its kind to start up by itself.
The Chronomètre Optimum's patented EBHP (Echappement Bi-axial de Haute Performance), inspired by Breguet's natural escapement, has a long-lasting capability of working 45 to 50 hours without any loss of amplitude within a total power reserve of 70 hours. On the stylistic side, Journe chose to open the dial at 11 o'clock to show the wheel of the constant force remontoir, whereas the back of the manually wound Caliber 1510 includes a surprising deadbeat second subdial.
While Chronomètre Optimum is apparently simple but highly complicated in its essence, the new Quantième Perpetuel turns mechanical complexity into a wristwatch with clean aesthetics. The simplicity revered by Journe is obvious on the dial of his most recent masterpiece, described by the French watchmaker as “user-friendly and readable” with its day-date-month windows coupled with a discrete hand pointing out the leap year underneath the hour and minute hands (note: no second hand) – without any visible extra buttons or levers on the case.
The Quantième Perpetuel is available in two cases (rose gold and platinum) and two sizes (40 and 42 mm) © F.P. Journe
Actually, a sophisticated three-position crown is responsible for setting the time, day and date… whereas the month and leap year are adjusted by means of a “secret” lever cleverly hidden beneath the 1 o'clock lug that dispenses with the usual stylus tool that comes with most perpetual calendar timepieces. The windows and the instantaneous jumping discs assume great preponderance to complement the mere four hands used – hours, minutes, a small hand for the leap year and the power reserve indicator.
The uncluttered dial of the Quantième Perpetuel is all about the windows and the discs beneath them © F.P. Journe
The Quantième Perpetuel, the ninth creation in the Octa line, exudes a perfect symbiosis between form and function on a quite symmetrical dial (being an F.P. Journe creation, which are famous for their off-centered indications) of great purity that also includes a 120-hour power reserve indication. It will be available in 40 or 42 mm rose gold and platinum cases, with red or white gold dials.
The automatic gold movement of the Quantième Perpetuel © F.P. Journe