The dawn of Montres Journe
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 George Daniels, as well as a handful of prototype wristwatches integrating a tourbillon and remontoir d’égalité systems. However, 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.
An early Tourbillon Souverain
The Tourbillon Souverain was the very first production wristwatch from Montres Journe, originally made between 1999 and 2003. During that period, it is estimated that less than 500 Tourbillon Souverains were produced with a brass movement, across all configurations, including the 99 pieces from the Ruthenium Collection.
Produced in 2003, this piece belongs to the fourth and final generation of the Tourbillon Souverain, as evidenced by the "20X/03T" engraving on the caseback. It presents a range of other distinctive features, such as the smaller screws on the dial, flat remontoire cock and deeper caseback engravings. Among the 2,000 brass movement F.P. Journe watches were ever produced, across all models, is estimated that somewhere between 220 to 320 fourth-generation Tourbillon Souverains were produced, making this example as rare, as it is desirable.
In 2004, Journe began manufacturing movements from 18-carat gold, having developed the brand sufficiently to further the manufacturing process. Interestingly, it is François-Paul Journe's earliest brass-movement pieces which command more interest from collectors.
The quintessential design
The design of the Tourbillon Souverain, building on Journe’s earliest prototypes, has come to define the visual aesthetic of all tourbillons from the manufacture to this very day. The combination of the platinum case and lightly textured yellow gold dial has become synonymous with François-Paul Journe, with this example representing what many envision in their minds when they think of a tourbillon by the watchmaker. This aesthetic was honed by Journe during the creation of the prototypes building up to the Tourbillon Souverain, 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 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. Overall, the dial layout is clean and highly legible. When held in the sunlight, this piece displays an intensity and shimmer typically only found on the earliest of examples.
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 watch is housed in a 38mm platinum case, integrating F.P. Journe’s signature 'flat crown’ with a rope-like pattern.
The manual-winding, F.P. Journe caliber 1498 tourbillon movement is rhodium-plated brass, with Côtes de Genève, 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'.
The watch is accompanied by its outer cardboard box, inner wooden box, instruction manual and Warranty Card (stamped and dated in April 2004). It is also accompanied by an F.P. Journe servicing receipt from 2018.
It comes on one of our Geneva smoked brown nubuck straps (measuring 20 x 19mm), as well as a brown F.P. Journe alligator strap and platinum tang buckle.