One of the things I love most about watches, especially complicated ones, is the ingenuity needed to increase their functionality or efficiency. Making a mechanical watch display another time zone or increasing its accuracy requires a certain level of creativity and expertise that is vastly more complicated than in its digital counterparts. On a digital watch adding additional functionality is so simple that you could find a cheap Casio in a drug store that has a full calendar, alarms, and more. On a mechanical one, it can be so difficult to engineer a movement to be more efficient or give it a new functionality that only a handful of people in the world have the skills to do it. A great example of this is this F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance. This latest iteration is one of the only wristwatches currently made that utilizes the scientific principle of resonance to increase its accuracy over time. It’s not one of the only watches in the world to do it because it’s uninteresting; it’s one of the only watches to do it because most other watchmakers and manufacturers just flat-out could not make this watch.
While this watch was released in 2020 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of one of Journe’s most famous watches, its full history goes back much further. Before Journe re-introduced the timekeeping world to the concept of resonance in the year 2000, horologists had been experimenting with the principles for hundreds of years. Christiaan Huygen first observed resonance in the 1600s after noticing that two pendulum clocks he had placed near each other eventually synchronized. After him, Antide Janvier was able to utilize resonance in clocks. Then in the 1800s, Abraham-Louis Breguet used the principle of resonance in a handful of pocket watches. Long pause, it then took almost two hundred years for someone to pick up the resonance mantle from watchmaking legend Breguet, and fittingly, it was another legend in the watchmaking world—none other than F.P. Journe.
Though the watch world had gone a long time without seeing resonance used in a timepiece, Journe wasted very little time introducing it, as it was one of the first watch models he created. The first Chronomètre à Résonance was released in the year 2000 when the brand was less than a year old. The watch came to symbolize Journe’s unconventional and genius approach to watchmaking, and has become a pillar in the brand’s lineup. It has appeared in various iterations from 2000 to 2019 and was then temporarily discontinued.
In 2020 on the year of the watch’s 20th anniversary, F.P. Journe brought the Résonance back and introduced the Platinum model we have here—as well as a rose gold model. Journe is a small manufacturer, and they produce less than 1,000 watches per year, so basically, every timepiece they produce is rare regardless of whether or not one dubs it a ‘limited edition’. This new version builds off of those earlier references and has a brand new design as well a new, more advanced movement worthy of the Résonance legacy.
Measuring 40mm in diameter by just 11mm thick, this classic round case watch is wearable by a large range of wrist sizes. It has a domed bezel, and its lugs which are 20mm apart, will give you a lot of strap options. The stock spring bars are curved, giving the strap a more integrated look, and they also have pull tabs for easy removal. Additionally, the lugs have a steep downturn to them, making them hug the wrist. F.P. Journe doesn’t just focus on the function of his movements but also puts great emphasis on the wearer’s experience with the watch from a comfort and usability standpoint, maybe more than any other manufacturer.
New on this model is the crown at two o’clock. Previous Résonance models had two crowns like this one, but the top crown was housed between the lugs at twelve o’clock. This made for a slightly awkward setting process, but one that many were willing to look past. The top crown on this watch sets both the 24-hour time on the left and 12-hour on the right giving this Résonance legit travel watch functionality. Altogether, you’ll find four subdials with the two timezones and seconds for each timezone on stamped white brass surrounded by a black polished stainless steel plate, which is a typical Journe design trait. There is also a power reserve on the matte white gold dial outside of the subdials. I’ve described Journe watches as having a bit of a “steampunk vibe,” and this one is no different. The dial plate, numeral font, organic hands, and exposed bridge all have a retro-futuristic vibe that Jules Verne would gush over.
Flipping the caseback over the movement is fully visible through the display caseback and is notably made almost entirely of rose gold. The finishing here is top-level and visually is one of the best-looking movements on the market. The dial is great, but to be honest, this is the best angle of the watch, and believe it or not, its beauty is surpassed by its mechanical excellence.
Inside the watch, we have an entirely new movement for this latest Résonance model. While previous versions utilized the caliber 1499.3, this model utilizes the caliber 1520. The movement still has two balances that have been tuned to operate at the same frequency and oscillate in opposite directions. Their close positioning allows them to transfer energy back and forth via sound vibrations which in turn keeps the balances in sync with one another. If the watch experiences a bump or shock and one of the wheels speeds up, the other wheel slows down in opposition, eventually bringing both balances back to their baseline frequency. In short, this movement utilizes the scientific principle of resonance to maintain a high level of accuracy over time. Additionally, this movement utilizes a single mainspring barrel as opposed to its predecessor’s double, and it also has a differential that ensures equal power to the going trains. This advanced movement represents some of Journes best work and is one of the most technically interesting contemporary watch movements in production.
Versus The Competition
I always find comparing Journe watches a bit difficult. They have a somewhat classic aesthetic combined with a renegade attitude that makes them truly original and hard to compete with. Funny enough, the watch brand that comes to mind as most similar in my eyes is Richard Mille. Like Journe, Richard Mille creates unique and exciting timepieces that flip the bird to the status quo. If that’s appealing to you, I’d suggest taking a look at this RM63-02 Titanium Worldtimer. Visually it’s worlds away from the Journe, but it’s spiritually still an avant-garde travel watch ready to be worn by a jet setter who plays by their own rules.
Another watch to consider is this early generation Résonance. Origin models in any watch line are always appealing, and while this Platinum Résonance from 2002 might not be quite as advanced as its modern counterpart, it has plenty going for it that might lure you away. For starters, its 38mm sizing might be more suitable for smaller wrists, and it makes for a great unisex option if you are inclined to share your watch with a significant other. Additionally, this model has a brass movement, a highly desirable trait for collectors. Really you just have to decide if you want an “O.G.” or the latest and greatest?
This is a thinking man/woman’s watch. I think in order to appreciate this watch truly, your love for it has to be more than skin deep, and that’s not something that applies to many other watches. With most watches, I’d say you should buy and wear the one that you appreciate and connect with visually, but this is an exception. This isn’t a bad-looking watch by any means, I find it attractive, but the bottom line is this is a movement nerd’s wristwatch.
I see this Résonance as the epitome of F.P. Journe watchmaking. It utilizes the best of modern scholarship to keep the torch of watchmaking’s past burning bright. It’s a timepiece that only Journe could deliver, and it’s an example of why the man and brand are so highly regarded. I have no doubt it will go down in horological history as one of the best creations of this era.