The Story of the Souscription
Prior to launching his own brand, Francois-Paul Journe had already proven his skill as a talented watchmaker. Having spent time restoring clocks and pocket watches from the likes of Janvier and Breguet, he had also completed complex commissions for Asprey and Cartier, among others. In his own time, the young watchmaker had also already assembled a pocket watch integrating a tourbillon, by following the writing of George Daniels, as well as a handful of prototype wristwatches integrating a tourbillon and remontoir d’égalité. However, F.P. Journe had not yet established his own brand, lacking the capital to do so.
One day, while out to lunch, his friend Camille Berthet suggested a subscription model. The idea was simple. A few trusting clients would put the money forward for a watch that was yet to be made. In exchange for this good faith, they would receive a 50% discount on its retail value, allowing Journe to raise just enough money to start the production of pieces under his own eponymous brand. The project behind the Souscription Tourbillon was born, with twenty close clients and friends of the watchmaker committing a deposit, sight unseen. These early wristwatches became the foundation of the F.P. Journe manufacture we know today.
A Foundational Design
The design of the Souscription Tourbillon, building on Journe’s previous prototypes, has come to define the visual aesthetic of all tourbillons from the manufacture to this very day. Arguably, the Souscription Tourbillons demonstrate as many hand-made details as is possible on a modern watch. Indeed, the dial layout reinforces this artisanal spirit, with exposed screws and stark, contrasting surfaces. This aesthetic was honed by Francois-Paul Journe during the creation of the prototypes building up to the Souscription, which had the sub-dials screwed directly onto the base plate of the movement, made of traditional gold-plated brass.
The yellow gold dial is wonderfully textured, and displays a separate silver guilloché dial for the hours and minutes. The words ‘Invenit et Fecit’ are inscribed below the tourbillon (Latin for ‘Invented and Made’ or more literally 'Designed and built by F.P. Journe') in classic F.P. Journe style - a nod to signing conventions of a century ago. At 12 o’clock, a power reserve indicator of 42 hours is displayed, with a smaller font used for the numerals than is found on later models.
The one-second Remontoir d'egalité system is displayed in one of two large apertures on the dial side, providing constant force to the escapement, acting as a transmission and balancing system for the transfer of power between the mainspring and the escapement. The remontoir cock is rounded on the Souscription Tourbillon, becoming flat on later executions of the model.
The one minute tourbillon is visible at 9 o’clock, distinguished from later generations by the smaller second marks around the aperture and a small hole on edge of the cage (to help ensure that it is properly balanced). Rather noticeably, the Souscription Tourbillon carries its number on the dial in an XX/20 format at 1 o’clock. This is the only F.P. Journe watch to be numbered on the dial.
The watch is housed in a 38mm platinum case, integrating F.P. Journe’s signature 'flat crown’ with a rope-like pattern. In the paperwork which accompanies this Souscription Tourbillon, the platinum case is described as offering “maximum protection and notable elegance.” The inscriptions on the caseback of the watch are shallow and uneven, clearly demonstrating that they were engraved by hand by Francois-Paul Journe himself. The serial number is engraved just beside the crown in the “N.XX” format.
This manual-winding, F.P. Journe caliber 1498 tourbillon movement is rhodium-plated brass, with fausses-côtes embellishments, constructed with 25 jewels and a shock-absorber mechanism. It further features a straight-line lever escapement, and monometallic 4-arm balance with 4 timing weights, adjusted to 5 positions. It includes a self-compensating free-sprung flat balance spring. The movement is engraved 'Chronometre A Tourbillon' and 'Remontoir d'egalité'.
From the original owner
Coming to us from the original owner, this F.P. Journe Souscription Tourbillon is accompanied by an impressive array of paperwork. It comes with its original receipt from 1999, detailing the full price which was paid by the client (including the subscription deposit from the previous year). It is also accompanied by technical drawings of the original design, a brochure, cardboard outer box and wooden box.
The watch is fitted on our Zürich strap, also accompanied by its original alligator strap and hand-engraved platinum tang buckle.
An important piece in the history of the brand and the man himself, we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to handle this piece and play a role in sharing its story.