F.P. Journe has become a phenomenon in the watch industry, offering extraordinarily rare, gorgeous, and avant-garde timepieces, and becoming a true benchmark of independent watchmaking in a relatively short period of time. The brand’s Chronomètre Souverain Nacre Boutique Edition perfectly illustrates all of those points. Even though the collection is an award-winning design already, this version stands out among its peers in large part due to its captivating blue mother-of-pearl dial.
François-Paul Journe himself has stated in the past that the Chronomètre Souverain is his favorite timepiece overall, and it was the first one he wanted to create. While it was not the first, the Chronomètre Souverain was introduced into his offering in 2005, just six years after launching his first collections in 1999. This timepiece was an immediate hit, and it even won the Men’s Watch category in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. For those unfamiliar, the GPHG is akin to the Oscars, but for horology. The Nacre boutique edition debuted in 2012 in both rose gold and platinum and in 40mm and 38mm case sizes. The Nacre editions also launched in the Octa Automatique and Octa Automatique Lune; however, since 2019, the Chronomètre Souvrain is the only version still in production.
The dial of this particular timepiece has to be the star of the show. The blue mother-of-pearl shows brilliantly between the whitened Clous de Paris guilloché in the dial’s interior and the outer platinum case. The brand’s logo, the Arabic numerals, and the railroad tracks surrounding both the second subdial and the minute track are all painted a bright blue. The blued steel hands contrast perfectly against the dial’s white background. An interesting note is that Francois-Paul chose to adjust the size of the numerals instead of cutting into them when the other dial elements intrude on the number’s space. Another peculiarity is how the power reserve indicator shifts toward 0 as the timepiece is wound. The reason for this design choice is to pay tribute to the early marine chronometers of the 1800s, in which it was more important to know how long it’s been since it was last wound, rather than how much of the power reserve remained.
F.P. Journe timepieces have always had a very classical elegance to them. During the 1990s, the trend for watches was big and bold, yet Journe stayed mostly between 38mm-42mm with very few exceptions. With its 9mm thickness and a 40mm case size, this piece gives it that perfect sweet spot for most collectors. The high polished platinum case is uncomplicated, with nothing overly distinctive except the rope-like embellishing on the crown. The strap is a Journe traditional blue double-sided crocodile fitted to the case with a curved quick-change spring bar. The curved spring bar allows the strap to move unimpaired by the case and allows shorter lugs to be utilized. The beauty of Journe’s designs is that while simple and elegant, every tiny detail is meticulously thought out to create his vision of a perfect timepiece.
The Chronomètre Souvrain houses the Caliber 1304, a stunning 18-carat gold in-house manual-winding movement decorated to perfection and is a total feast for the eyes. Each layer of the movement has a different finish, starting with the Côtes de Genève of the upper bridges, followed by the circular graining of the base plate, and finally, the perlage on the main plate. Each edge is beveled, and the screws all have a mirror polish. A unique aspect of this movement is that Journe hid the drivetrain under the base plate, only exposing the twin barrels that give this movement its 56-hour power reserve. The focus of this double-barrel movement is consistent power to the free-sprung balance escapement that beats at 21,600vph, rather than extending the power reserve. The emphasis on accuracy is further notated in the engraving stating that this movement is tested in 6 positions rather than the standard 5 for a chronometer.
Versus The Competition
Journe has set his brand apart from others in many ways, which one can see reflected in demand for these pieces; however, there are some similarities between this timepiece and the Gronefeld 1941 Principia Automatic, especially this turquoise dial version. They are both relatively simple as far as complications, the Gronefeld lacking the Journe’s power reserve indicator but including an automatic rotor. Both are from small manufacturers that produce very few timepieces, with the watchmakers bearing its name still creating their watches. This one is steel, but overall a very comparable feel on the wrist. The light blue color scheme, blued steel hands, and blue strap match the feel of the Chronomètre Souvrain.
Now an opposite spectrum of complications, one could compare the feel of this Patek Philippe 5905P to the Journe as well. Both are housed in platinum, finished in high polished cases, and held to the wrist with blue alligator straps. These two are more similar in price than the Gronefeld; however, the Patek is much more complicated than the Journe, giving the owner an annual calendar and flyback chronograph. The classic and clean aesthetics feel very close when comparing these two timepieces.
Journe has grown in demand exponentially over the last few years. This watch is for the niche collector who wants to set themselves even apart from the already exclusive pack that collects F.P. Journe timepieces. This collector is attracted to the total beauty of this watch. The blue mother of pearl is very rare; one might say it is typically reserved for a more feminine look; however, this is clearly not the case here. The owner of these specific versions of the Chronomètre Souvrain has specifically sought this model to round out their collection.
Journe is known for his attention to detail. This collection has seen many dial variations; however, this rare one will stand the test of time and distinguish itself amongst collectors. As the rest of the Nacre pieces have been discontinued, one might want to try to add this one before it’s no longer available either.