Any piece from a manufacturer that produces about 900 watches a year is a rare treasure to be cherished. The F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier with Black Mother of Pearl Dial, however, is limited to a mere 15 piece special edition, making this piece infinitely more scarce. The Octa Calendrier is a classic representation of the F.P. Journe design ethos, with many of Journe’s most emblematic attributes and hallmarks.
F.P. Journe would likely be considered the closest living watchmaker to Abraham Louis Breguet. Arguably no other independent maker has established such a solid brand identity and garnered so much respect from the global market. Whether the styling of F.P. Journe is consistent with your tastes or not, you will likely recognize the unique quality of the brand’s pieces. Journe pieces are recognizably his own conceptions, with every timepiece to emerge from his factory featuring distinctive design attributes and obvious quality of construction. Founded in 1999, while other brands were adapting to new market trends, Journe buckled down on the classic approaches of 18th century clockmakers. Journe took a special interest in Breguet and Daniels, favoring the prioritization of quality craftsmanship over production and profit optimization. Journe’s philosophy has lifted the brand to the top of the totem pole, having ascended to a level of achievement matched by few. When analyzing pieces from F.P. Journe in detail, however, it is no surprise that the brand has attained such legendary status. Technically and aesthetically, Journe’s brilliance shines through in every facet of a piece’s execution.
The F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier was first introduced in 2002 as Journe’s annual calendar offering. In 2006, this particular Octa Calendrier was commissioned in a limited run of 15 pieces for Sincere Fine Watches — a prominent Asian watch retailer. Every Journe piece is scarce, but this Octa Calendrier is among the rarest of all Journe pieces, and represents one of the few special editions in history that Journe has made for a private retailer.
The brilliance of the Octa Calendrier lies in its logical and beautiful dial execution. When brands experiment with more artistic interpretations, often the legibility and clarity of the time display is lost. Of course this is a trade-off that many are willing to make. After all, watches are more about personal expression than practical utility. Nonetheless, a major advantage to the Journe philosophy is that while Francois-Paul experiments with entirely unique dial designs and layouts, he still maintains a user experience that allows the wearer to comfortably use the piece for its intended function — to tell the time.
The Octa Calendrier balances the hours, minutes, and subsidiary seconds subdials on the right side of the dial with the retrograde date on the left side of the dial. Perfectly positioned between these two readings are the month and day indications. While many consider the right justified time displays to be purely artistic, in actuality, this placement is entirely intentional. When the timepiece sits under the cuff of the left sleeve, only the right-most portion of the dial needs to stick out to read the time. This can be a major advantage when the wearer wants to be discreet while checking the time. The intentional layout continues to the day and month indications. The day window sits on top, with prime visibility, as it is more likely that the user will be checking the day than the month.
Although these decisions reflect incredible consideration of the practical effects of design determinations, the piece is equally beautiful and expressive artistically. The dial of the Octa Calendrier possesses a depth that alludes to the multi-layered dial construction of the piece. The time indications feature guilloche, snailing and a black polished metal frame. The retrograde date indicator is applied on top of the dial. The day and date windows are thoughtfully framed and inset from the dial surface. This three-dimensionality contributes to greater visual interest and contrast between the varying components of the dial. All of these elements are found on any Octa Calendrier, however, this example, as part of a limited edition of 15 pieces, features a breathtaking black mother of pearl dial. Unlike standard mother of pearl, black mother of pearl possesses an exceptional myriad of blue hues. These hints of color are complemented by a blue strap and blued hands. By utilizing an organic material, Journe ensures that although 15 examples of this kind were made, no two pieces are truly identical. Each dial has its own character and color palette, affording the opportunity to complement dial colors with interesting strap combinations. This explosion of color is further accentuated by the blank platinum case. Using a white metal for the case and buckle ensures that the material does not detract from the beautiful canvas of the dial.
The Octa Calendrier is powered by the caliber 1300.2. The Octa line was designed to incorporate an extra space on the dial side of the movement to create modular additions to the movement for different complications. This modified movement layout has pushed the automatic winding rotor off-center. The rose gold winding mass features gorgeously ornate barleycorn guilloche and complements the full rose gold movement. Like other Octa models, the Calendrier features 120 hours of power reserve. In actuality, the piece would continue running considerably longer, however Journe only rated the piece to 120 hours since as the power reserve is depleted, the chronometric precision is lost and the piece becomes less accurate. Thus, Journe decided to rate the piece only to 120 hours of power reserve, which is on its own incredibly impressive for a piece that is only slightly over 10mm thick.
Journe’s quality is visibly apparent as soon as the piece is flipped over. The hand finished anglage is perfectly executed, and accentuates the engraved ratings displayed on the broad bridges. Journe is certainly one of the only brands to construct their movements fully from rose gold, after having transitioned from brass movements in 2004. This movement solidity coupled with the 38mm platinum case contributes to significant wrist presence and unignorable quality.
Versus the Competition
The most natural alternatives to the F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier would be other F.P. Journe Octa pieces. With automatic winding systems and very similar movements, the entirety of the Octa collection is comprised of a slew of beautiful watches. Notably, this Octa Automatique Lune has a strikingly realistic moonphase and collectible Havana dial. The Havana dial coloring harmoniously complements the tones of the rose gold and adds an element of rarity to the piece.
Another exceptional Journe Octa piece is the rare Octa Chronograph with Ruthenium dial. We recently covered the piece in depth here, but most importantly, this Octa chronograph represents yet another limited edition from F.P. Journe’s Octa collection, and demonstrates the other directions that Journe has extended his movement system.
Outside of F.P. Journe, a fantastically similar piece would be the Urban Jurgensen Big 8. Much like F.P. Journe and Breguet, Journe’s prime inspiration, Urban Jurgensen focuses a great deal on dial texture and finish. This philosophy, shared both by UJ and F.P. Journe, is a hallmark of quality in the industry. Additionally, Urban Jurgensen has applied the familiar barleycorn guilloche to the winding mass much in Journe’s chosen aesthetic.
The collector that gravitates toward the limited Journe Octa Calendrier with black mother of pearl dial is not looking for their first watch. Journe is a brand that most don’t learn about until they have already done extensive research on classic watch making. A piece featuring this level of quality craftsmanship will be prized by the enthusiast that truly understands the magnitude of Journe’s achievement and respects Journe’s approach to watchmaking. In a world where the pricing of many watches is dependent on trendy fashion whims, a piece like the Journe Octa Calendrier is as valuable as it is as a result of factors that transcend momentary market passion. The legacy of watchmaking based on classic principles of 18th century horology substantiate this piece’s preeminence in the watchmaking hierarchy. Collectors who recognize this eternal quality will flock to purchase a piece of this caliber and prominence.
F.P. Journe is easily one of the most respected names in the watch industry. It is directly as a result of pieces like the Octa Calendrier that this fame has been achieved. A mesh of intricate dial finishing practices are complemented by supreme hand finishing on the movement side to create a watch that is just as much a practical tool as an artistic wonder. Additionally, in particularly rare fashion for F.P. Journe, this piece features a mother of pearl dial instead of a solid gold dial. Most of all, the Journe Octa Calendrier for Sincere Fine Watches accentuates the fact that details that on the surface seem whimsical are actually carefully considered design considerations made by Journe. This attention to detail and carefully meditated execution is the reason that Journe has risen to the top of the ladder and established himself as one of the most awe inspiring artisans of the century.