Watches and automotive racing are intrinsically linked. Dive deep enough into the history of one, and you will most definitely encounter the other. The Centigraphe Souverain is a top tier racing chronograph from one of the best contemporary watchmakers. This specific model—the F. P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain F “Formula Jean Todt”, but more commonly known as the Centigraphe Souverain Ferrari— is an exceptionally rare variant that takes an already great watch and adds some unique touches that call back to the Centigraphe’s roots.
How rare, you might ask? Well, it’s estimated that there were only three Centigraphe Souverain Ferrari ever produced. Three of these watches are adorned with an actual Ferrari logo, and were produced specifically for executives at the eponymous supercar brand. When we talk scarcity in luxury watches, this is the real deal.
While all F.P. Journe watches are produced in small numbers, the F. P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain F was a boutique exclusive and by request only. Produced from 2008 to 2017, the production numbers are thought to be in the single digits. With this example—complete with box and papers—being dated December of 2017 it is also possible that this is the last example ever made.
The original F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain was inspired by a conversation between F.P. Journe and his friend Jean Todt who happened to be the executive director of Scuderia Ferrari at the time. They discussed what would make the ideal watch for the world of automobile racing. Both recognized that current mechanical timepieces were not up to the task. Modern racing requires timing down to 100ths of a second which is incredibly difficult do with a mechanical watch.
Three years of work and two patents later, the Centigraphe Souverain was born. It became the first watch in the world with a single movement to allow measurement down to 100ths of a second and up to ten minutes. F.P. Journe credited his friend for the inspiration, and his hard work was rewarded. The Centigraphe Souverain won the “Aiguille d’Or” at the 2008 Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix—an award that goes to the best overall watch across all categories. The cherry on top with this timepiece is that with every Centigraphe sold F.P. Journe donates 30% of the profit to medical research carried out by ICM (Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle Epinière.)
While the F.P. Journe aesthetic is not what often comes to mind when thinking about a racing chronograph, this is unmistakably a racing watch. The Ferrari red used on the dial and sub-dial hands contrasted by the familiar canary yellow center hands and blackened gold sub-dials instantly invokes images of the black prancing horse logo and the race cars it adorns. The Ferrari paint scheme makes the watch downright aggressive in the best way. The platinum case and bracelet add to the sports watch vibe while still allowing the dial to be the visual star of the show. The watch maintains the hallmarks that make it instantly recognizable as a Journe timepiece, just a sportier one.
Like most great racing watches, this is a chronograph and like all F.P. Journe watches it is executed to the highest level. Missing the pushers of a traditional chronograph, F.P. Journe opted to create a new rocker system found at two o’clock. It keeps with Journe’s organic design and allows you to start, stop, and reset with this one switch. It is also one of the two patents that belong to this watch. The three sub-dials the rocker activates measure 20 seconds, 10 minutes, and 100ths of a second simultaneously. Running the chronograph with the three sub-dials operating at such different paces is something to behold.
Powering this beast is the manual winding caliber 1506. The 18k rose gold movement is excellently finished with circular stripes on the bridges and circular graining on the baseplate that line up together perfectly. Form and function are both thoroughly thought through with all F.P. Journe watches. It’s a beautiful movement that is also state of the art. When timing things—like say a race car—down to 100ths of a second, power reserve can be a concern. F.P. Journe solves for this by using two separate wheel trains to drive the three sub-registers that are themselves driven by the center of the mainspring. This is the other of the two patents this watch holds. On top of that, the 10-minute hand is powered by a separate wheel train driven by the barrel arbor. Engineering the movement in this way isolates the chronograph from the timekeeping function of the watch and allows both to operate more accurately.
The innovations created in the original Centigraphe Souverain combined with the appropriate tribute to Jean Todt and Ferrari bring this watch full circle. With the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain Ferrari, Journe achieved what Todt and himself discussed so many years ago. This watch further maintains the decades’ long relationship between watches and racing and is a fitting tribute to these linked worlds. The Centigraphe Souverain Ferrari is the ideal timepiece for the world of modern automobile racing.