This is the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain Boutique Edition—a special edition variant of the standard Centigraphe Souverain in rose gold, with a black dial that was only made available at F.P. Journe boutiques. Now, a regular production F.P. Journe is already an exceptional watch, so much so that a standard Journe timepiece rivals and bests most limited and special edition watches from bigger manufacturers in terms of both rarity and originality. A special edition Journe like this one takes things to an entirely new level.
The story behind the Centigraphe Souverain begins well before the watch was made. F.P. Journe and his friend—the executive director of Scuderia Ferrari—Jean Todt were having a conversation about automobile racing and watches and how, at the time, there just weren’t really any mechanical watches that were up to the task of measuring modern racing. Automobile racing had come a long way since its early days, and while the cars had advanced and gotten much faster, mechanical chronographs hadn’t kept up. This conversation with Todt convinced Journe that he should rectify this.
After three years and a couple of patented technical innovations, F.P. Journe introduced the first Centigraphe Souverain, which would go on to win the “Aiguille d’Or” at the 2008 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix. This award is reserved for the best overall watch across all categories, think Best Picture at the Oscars. This was the first mechanical watch ever made that was capable of tracking down to 100ths of a second and up to 10 minutes, fulfilling the modern racing needs that Journe and Todt had discussed.
This particular model is a special edition that was only made available at F.P. Journe boutiques. Its rose gold case and black dial are exclusive to the boutique-only collection, making it instantly recognizable to any Journe enthusiast. This boutique exclusive was not a limited edition per se, but it is exceedingly rare as it was only produced from 2010 to 2016—four years less than the standard edition Centigraphe Souverain—and F.P. Journe only produces somewhere around 1,000 watches per year across their whole product line. It’s hard to be sure just how many of these were made, but we can be sure it wasn’t a lot.
Visually, F.P. Journe watches are very distinct and a bit contradictory. They are somehow both modern and traditional while being organic and technical. This watch leans into that contradictory nature by being formal and elegant while also sporty and almost utilitarian. The combination of the 18k rose gold case with the black dial gives the watch an old-money elegance that draws attention but isn’t too loud. The 40mm case is polished, curvy, and looks good enough to eat, as do the gilt rose gold numerals. One detail that stands out and is a little incongruent is the white subdials. With their black polished steel plate border, exposed screws, and red hands and numerals, they look like they’re straight off of an instrument panel, and while they might look a little out of place, they do offer optimal legibility. Overall this design allows the watch to function equally well as a dress watch and legible chronograph, with neither role overshadowing the other.
Additionally, you’ll notice that despite being a chronograph, there are no pushers on this watch. Journe has instead replaced them with a patented rocker located between two and three o’clock. The rocker allows you to start, stop, and reset the chronograph function and is both intuitive and visually subtle. That said, the subtle personality of the watch is only when the chronograph is not being used; things turn up a bit when the rocker is flicked to start.
Engaging the chronograph sends all the red hands in motion at varying speeds with the top left sub-dial rapidly spinning to measure 100ths of a second, the top right subdial tracking increments of 20 seconds, and the bottom subdial measuring up to 10 minutes all simultaneously. Visually it looks like the watch is losing its mind or in a fit of rage, but it makes for a spectacular display of horological theater. If I owned this watch, I use the chronograph so often I would likely cut the recommended service interval in half.
Powering this speed demon of a chronograph is the in-house manual winding caliber 1506. It has an 80-hour power reserve when the chronograph is not activated and a 24-hour power reserve when it is. This 50 jeweled movement is visible through the display caseback, and you’ll notice right away that it is made almost entirely of 18k rose gold—this is a common trait of Journe watches, but it’s very uncommon in the broader watch world. The movement is excellently finished with circular stripes and graining on the bridges and baseplate. As a testament to Journe’s attention to detail, you’ll notice all the finishing lines up together perfectly as if the plates and bridges were all formally one piece.
Mechanically, the patented movement is very advanced. Because of the high energy requirements of the foudroyante, Journe had to get innovative to ensure the watch would not sacrifice its timing accuracy at the expense of its chronograph complication. Foudroyante’s or “Flying Seconds” chronographs move much faster than standard chronographs, so understandably, they require more energy, but if a watch’s energy winds down too much, it can affect the timepiece’s timekeeping accuracy. To solve for this massive energy need, Journe uses two separate wheel trains to drive the three sub-registers that are themselves driven by the center of the mainspring. Additionally, the 10-minute hand is separated from the other two chronograph functions and is powered by a different wheel train that’s driven by the barrel arbor.
What this does practically is it isolates the chronograph from the timekeeping functions of the watch and allows both to operate more accurately. This aggressive over-engineering and innovation is exactly what you pay for when you buy an F.P. Journe timepiece. The brand is constantly pushing mechanical watchmaking forward with good old-fashioned engineering know-how.
Versus The Competition
This boutique edition Centigraphe Souverain is an elite-level watch. If it were an athlete, it would be in the hall of fame. However, the hall of fame is, well, a hall that’s full of other amazing athletes, and at $209,500, this watch does not sit alone in its place in the market. Here are some alternatives to consider.
One option is this rose gold Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph. Valued at $250,900, the Nautilus, like the Journe, has a unique aesthetic and straddles the line between formal and casual. With the Nautilus, you’re getting a similar color scheme to the Journe but with a more durable and sporty case. That said, no one is going to scoff at a gold Nautilus in more dressed-up situations, so I would argue this watch is much more versatile. Additionally, while this Nautilus isn’t a special edition per se, it does have the rare and coveted Tiffany & Co stamped dial. This watch is serious competition, and in my eyes, the deciding factor between these two is whether you want to go with the hype watch or the hipster watch.
Another option to consider is actually within the F.P. Journe family. The F.P. Journe Centigraphe LineSport. Depending on the material, this watch can range from $100-$130k, which is quite a bit less than the boutique-only Centigraphe Souverain. Visually these two watches are very different, but inside, these two are practically identical. This watch uses the same caliber 1506 but in a full-on sports watch package that some might feel is more in line with the timepiece’s heritage and purpose. If you’re bought into the story of the Centigraphe Souverain but don’t want the price tag or responsibility tied to owning a timepiece as precious as this boutique-only edition, then this is the route to go. For more information, we have a full write-up on the Centigraphe LineSport here.
Cars and watches have a lot of crossover as hobbies, and this watch bridges those two worlds better than most. This highly collectible racing-inspired timepiece is the perfect watch for a serious horology and automobile enthusiast, particularly a Journe and Ferrari aficionado. This belongs nestled up against some nice racing gloves while they grip the steering wheel of 1961 Ferrari 250GT California.
This F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain Boutique Edition is beautiful, over-engineered, and almost doesn’t make sense as a timepiece. It’s a wearable contradiction from the mind of a horological mad scientist, and it could only be made by F.P. Journe, and that’s exactly why I love it.