The Chronomètre Souverain is one of F.P. Journe’s most sought-after watches and is one of François-Paul Journe’s favorites. This 2020 limited edition is a novel take on the Souverain made to mark a brand milestone and as a tribute to the city of Dubai. This model is 1 of 99 examples that were only available at retail in Dubai boutiques. All F.P. Journe watches are special due to the brand’s legendarily high quality and limited production numbers, but this timepiece is on another level.
When François-Paul Journe launched his eponymous brand in 1999, he wanted the Chronomètre Souverain to be the brand’s first timepiece. The concept of the Chronomètre Souverain, which was inspired by 19th-century marine chronometers, has always been near and dear to Journe’s heart. Still, ultimately, he chose to save his passion project until after he had established himself a bit more. The watch would eventually be released in 2005 and would go on to win the Best Men’s Watch prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, subsequently cementing itself as a flagship model for the brand.
This particular limited edition was launched on October 30th, 2019, to celebrate the opening of F.P. Journe’s new boutique in Dubai. This might not be a huge occasion for a larger brand, but this marked just the 10th boutique opening for Journe and was worthy of commemoration. Journe chose an all-green motif for this watch, and though green is an extremely trendy color in watches right now, that’s not why he chose it. The olive green used for this watch’s dial and strap was chosen for its symbolic representation of chance, fortune, and fertility in the middle east. As stated, the watch is a limited edition, and only 99 examples were made, making this a rare timepiece even for Journe, who produces less than 1000 watches per year.
The Chronomètre Souverain is one of F.P. Journe’s most straightforward designs, and despite the color of this watch being loud the rest of it is quite reserved. Even compared to other Chronomètre Souverain timepieces, this example stands out as yet more pared down. Many Chronomètre Souverain watches feature intricate dials with alternating finishing and have a power reserve display. Neither of those things are present on this watch. Instead, you have a totally smooth olive green dial with white gold Arabic numerals, rhodium-plated steel hour and minute hands, and a recessed subdial for the seconds. That’s it.
Both the subdial and main dial are surrounded by matching railroad tracks that give the watch a touch of classic design to go with Journe’s unique styling. Traits like the typeface for the numerals and the style of the hour and minute hands on Journe watches are very distinct. The numerals are a bit whimsical, and the hands have an organic shape that reminds me of a kiwi bird. You’ll also notice the white gold numerals and rhodium-plated steel hands are a bit darker than the lustrous platinum case, but I think they help pare down the dial a bit, and I like the contrast. The dial appears to be a shade or so darker than the strap, which I think will allow the color of the strap to catch up as it ages, which I believe will also tone the watch down a bit. Out of the box, this is a loud timepiece, but I think as the strap gets darker with age or if one were to switch out the factory strap for a dark brown or black strap, this could easily become a more versatile timepiece.
Speaking of switching straps, Journe has made this an easy task by including pull tabs on the spring bars for easy, lug-safe strap swapping. Additionally, the spring bars are curved so as to follow the shape of the case. This allows the strap to conform perfectly and gives the watch a more integrated look. Along with curving the spring bars to conform to the case shape Journe has curved the lugs to conform to one’s wrist. This ergonomic design choice, combined with the watch’s 40mm x 8.6mm dimensions, makes it an exceptionally wearable timepiece. Journe always puts a ton of emphasis on the user experience, and though some of these details seem small, they add up and make for a timepiece that caters to the wearer and not the other way around.
Inside this green machine is the solid rose gold in-house caliber 1304. The rose gold hue and stunning Côte de Genève finishing make for a beautiful movement, but there are brains to complement the beauty as well. Inside two mainspring barrels in parallel work together to provide a stable force to the escapement and allow for 56 hours of operation before needing additional winding. Also, the watch has been adjusted to meet chronometer standards despite not being officially certified. Journe doesn’t see the need to submit his watches for certification as his own standards are plenty high. What can you say? The man marches to the beat of his own drum.
The movement is entirely visible through the display caseback, allowing one to appreciate the circular sunburst wave-patterned graining, polished screw heads, and chamfered edges. However, what you can not see are the train wheels that Journe has hidden under the movement. Journe calls this his “mystery balance.” It’s a big reason why the architecture of the movement looks so different from other manually wound time-only watches. All in all, this is a typical F.P. Journe caliber in that it’s beautiful to look at, horologically advanced, and is practically perfect in every way.
Versus the Competition
Commemorating a brand accomplishment with a special watch is a pretty common occurrence. These types of limited edition watches hold a special place in a brand’s history and serve as unique representations of the milestones they celebrate. Here are a few watches that celebrate brand milestone’s like the Chronomètre Souverain that could serve as alternative options.
First up is the Patek Philippe Pagoda 5500P. This timepiece was released in 1997 to commemorate Patek Philippe’s new watchmaking center in Geneva. Like the Souverain, it’s a dress watch made of platinum, but it is slightly less rare, with 150 pieces produced. The design is meant to mimic the building it commemorates, making it a uniquely styled dress watch, just like the Chronomètre Souverain.
Another commemorative piece that could be of interest is this A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Homage to Walter Lange. The watch was released in 2018 as a tribute to the brand’s late founder Walter Lange. The watch utilizes the founder’s favorite—but rarely seen— jumping seconds complication. This rose gold example is limited to just 90 examples, so it’s a bit rarer than the Journe, but it’s also not nearly as quirky.
Or, if you find yourself attracted to the Chronomètre Souverain in general and don’t need a special edition model, you could check out this platinum reference from 2005. It’s still going to be relatively rare and collectible, being one of the model’s earliest examples, but it is a standard production piece.
This is a loud, fun watch with an interesting back story. It’s unique looking and is one of the most playful and whimsical Journe designs out there. Because of that, I think any serious Journe collector could find a place for it in their collection, even one that already has a Chronomètre Souverain. That said, it could be especially meaningful for a collector who has a strong connection to Dubai or the Emirates.
F.P. Journe is very serious about watchmaking, and his brand produces some of the best contemporary watches on the market today. But he’s not above having fun, and watches like this quirky green Chronomètre Souverain remind us that while watches can be a serious topic, their main purpose is just to bring us joy.