There are various approaches to becoming an independent watchmaker. You might choose to focus on creating one-off pieces or a short-run, limited series, such that each watch is essentially unique, or close to. You may even accept some design input from the client for whom the watch is produced. The advantage of this approach, from a collector’s perspective, is the sense of personal involvement with the watchmaker and the feeling of owning a watch which is unlike any other.
The alternative approach, the one taken by François-Paul Journe, is rather different. It involves carefully crafting models with a relatively long lifespan and little choice for customisation. This is based on the idea that once a design is crystallised in the mind of the watchmaker, no further changes should be made, until it can be improved on substantively. To create endless variations of a particular model, say the Chronomètre à Resonance, with different colours, metals and finishing, would only dilute the strength of the original design.
To that end, François-Paul Journe offered little scope for customisation on his early models. They were available in two case metals, rose gold and platinum, and three dial colours, yellow, white and rose gold. Even within those, not all configurations were available. For example, a rose gold case would never be paired with a yellow gold dial. When Journe eventually updated his early models, during the transition from the brass to the gold movement era, the changes were significant, both technically and aesthetically. This systematic and consistent approach to building his collections over a long period of time, is part of the reason why the watchmaker has been able to create such iconic models.
As a result of this approach, Journe created very few limited editions or unique pieces during his early days. A lot is still unknown about these, considering so few were produced, and an even smaller number have been publicly shared. This makes the ones we are aware of all the more intriguing. Whereas many quirks, oddities and exceptions exist in his production models, we chose to focus here instead on watches which were truly intended to be set apart from the rest. On account of their rarity and diversion from normal production, we refer to these as the outliers.