Making a name for himself
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 writings of Dr. George Daniels, as well as a handful of prototype wristwatches integrating a tourbillon and remontoir d’égalité systems. However, Monsieur 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 have put the money forward for a watch that was yet to be made. In exchange for this good faith, they would receive a 50% reduction on its retail value, allowing the watchmaker 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.
The Chronomètre à Résonance
With the prototypes displayed at his first Basel Fair in 1999, the Chronomètre à Résonance followed shortly after the initial Tourbillon. The Chronomètre à Résonance is made using two balance wheels, inspired by a natural phenomenon called resonance. The complication is explained by François-Paul thusly;
“In a watch, never mind which, there is energy which dissipates. When you listen to a watch, the tick-tock of the balance is dissipating energy. In a resonance chronometer, there are two balance wheels which are placed sufficiently close to one another, and the dissipated energy of each is caught by the other, leading to a unique type of frequency regulation.”
The discovery is said to have been made in 1665, by Dutch mathematician Christiaan Hygens, who reported that two pendulum clocks, hanging from the same mounting beam, would beat in such perfect duplicity, that the sound of the escapements were indistinguishable from one another. The concept was later researched and developed by Antide Janvier, to be refined by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Early sceptics suggested that air-resistance played a role, however, extensive testing by Breguet (the first to test a dual-train resonance watch with a double-balance system, placing rings around the balance wheels, to negate the effects of air), and more recently by François-Paul, proved this to be untrue.
Whilst the concept was long established, the term ‘resonance’ was in fact coined by Monsieur Journe himself, likening the phenomenon to that of a stringed musical instrument, which resonates. Initially, unsuccessfully attempted in a pocket watch in 1983, Journe was able to hone the phenomenon of acoustic resonance in a wristwatch some fifteen years later, with the prototypes displayed at the Basel Fair in 1999. Ever since, the model has gained a cult status among collectors. As Rexhep Rexhepi, an independent watchmaker who previously worked for Journe, put it, “When I think of François-Paul Journe, I think of the Résonance.”
One of the earliest examples
The design of this early Chronomètre à Résonance has come to define the visual aesthetic of all Résonance wristwatches from the manufacture to this day. It demonstrates a whole range of hand-made details, which lend a sense of craftsmanship and individuality to this early piece. Indeed, the dial layout reinforces this artisanal spirit, with exposed screws and stark, contrasting surfaces. This aesthetic was honed by Journe during the creation of his early prototype wristwatches, 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 lightly textured and displays two separate silver guilloché dials for the hours and minutes, with the two opposing dials also capable of displaying multiple time zones. The words ‘Invenit et Fecit’ are inscribed below the two subsidiary seconds (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 twelve o’clock, a power reserve indicator of 42 hours is displayed, with a thinner font used for the numerals than those found on later models.
The intensity and shimmer of the dials gradually diminish throughout the lifespan of the Résonance. As with the Tourbillon, the production process and lacquer on the dial was progressively upgraded, resulting in dials that didn’t oxidise. As is to be expected, this particular example shows an impressive level of intensity and shimmer throughout. It also features early two-tone subdials, where the minute and hour track are silver, and the guilloché pattern in the middle is a crisp white colour, which lends further contrast to the design.
The watch is housed in a 38mm platinum case, integrating F.P. Journe’s signature 'flat crown’ with a rope-like pattern. The serial number on the back correctly displays the Résonance’s serial number, in the 0XX/01R format.
This F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance comes with its original F.P. Journe black alligator strap, a Zürich leather strap with curved ends (measuring 20 x 19mm) and corresponding platinum F.P. Journe tang buckle. It is also accompanied by its original F.P. Journe outer box, inner wooden box and Warranty Card.
To find out more about François-Paul Journe and his early pieces, you can read our Collector's Guide to early F.P. Journe.