The Origin Story
Though the watchmaker rarely ever releases limited editions, François-Paul Journe has a long-standing practice of creating special pieces for significant occasions or select retailers close to the brand - from the titanium and rose gold Tokyo Boutique series to the Byblos, released to celebrate the brand's tenth boutique worldwide, in Beirut.
Limited to eight pieces, which is unusually low for an F.P. Journe limited series, the de Boulle Chronomètre Souverain places itself within that tradition. Founded in 1983 in Dallas, de Boulle used to be one of the few authorised retailers for the brand in the United States. In 2007, F.P. Journe released this limited edition of the Chronomètre Souverain with a ruthenium-coated tuxedo dial, which was retailed through de Boulle.
A Strong Foundation
F.P. Journe took the Chronomètre Souverain as the foundation for this limited series. One of the brand's most pared back pieces, this precision chronometer is inspired by the marine chronometers of the early 20th century. The model speaks to Journe's long-standing commitment to accuracy and restrained design.
According to Pierre Halimi, the current General Manager for the brand in North America, Journe wanted the Chronomètre Souverain to be the very first watch he would launch in 1999, after establishing his eponymous brand. However, he was shrewd enough to realise that he needed to prove his worth as a watchmaker, before he could pursue a passion project such as this. A few years later, having cemented his reputation, the Chronomètre Souverain became a reality.
In 2005, the Chronomètre Souverain won the Favourite Men’s Watch award at the GPHG, or Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the most prestigious award ceremony in the watch industry. Since then, it has established itself as one of the brand's most popular models, with only a small handful of limited pieces being produced.
This de Boulle Chronomètre Souverain features a striking two-tone silver and ruthenium tuxedo dial. Ruthenium details have often been used across some of the watchmaker's limited series, such as the Tokyo Boutique Anniversary Series or the aptly named Ruthenium Collection. The monochrome dial has a hobnail, clous de Paris pattern in the centre, while the outer track holds the embossed decorative Arabic numerals. These are rendered in a silvery hue, which stands out against the ruthenium portion of the dial.
The signature F.P. Journe style hands are made of blued steel, adding a touch of colour to the overall design and helping with legibility. Between 7 and 8 o’clock is a subsidiary seconds and at 3 o’clock is a power reserve indicator which states a power reserve of 56 hours.
An interesting aspect of this timepiece lies in the power reserve, as when winding, instead of the indicator heading from 0 to 56, it goes the other way, towards 0. This was a deliberate choice from François-Paul Journe who borrowed the feature from marine chronometer clocks.The reasoning behind this lies in the idea that the power reserve indicator on this Chronomètre Souverain is not meant to tell you how many hours there are left, but instead how many hours have elapsed since you wound the watch. The distinctive dial is combined with a classic 40mm F.P. Journe case in platinum.
While this piece is undeniably attractive, it is the movement that F.P. Journe is famed for. Part of the manual-winding Souverain collection, it captures the spirit of independent haute horlogerie at its finest, with the in-house calibre 1304 being made entirely of 18k rose gold. Visible through the sapphire caseback, the movement has two mainspring barrels in parallel, which work together, powering the movement.
Most impressively, is the chronometric balance fitted into the movement, which helps to provide the accuracy that F.P. Journe has based his watchmaking around. The watchmaker himself explains it as such, "chronometry was invented by the 18th century English and French watchmakers, when their respective governments organised a competition that would reward the first watchmaker capable of making a timekeeper that could be carried on board a ship."
The hand finishing is expertly conducted, mixing a combination of circular graining with sunburst and wave patterns. All screw heads are polished and all edges neatly chamfered with a Côte de Genève motif on the bridges.
This F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain comes with its F.P. Journe box and guarantee card (dated from 2007). This watch comes on a Stockholm strap with curved-ends, as well as its F.P. Journe alligator strap and platinum pin buckle.