The travel watch goes by many different names: GMT, World Time, Sky-Dweller, Dual Time, and others. They all afford the ability to track two (or more) time zones, aimed equally at frequent travelers as they are at those who work in either bicoastal or international offices. There’s incredible variety in how different brands achieve this; a peripheral city ring, an independent 24-hour hand, and a second time dial are but a few of the approaches. In more striking instances, a globe—in all its three-dimensional glory—has been utilized. The challenge in creating these watches is striking the balance between functionality and legibility. F.P. Journe, a master of clean design, makes his attempt at this balancing act with the F.P. Journe Octa UTC.
While F.P. Journe needs no introduction, the Octa line might. The Octa line, with its debut Réserve de Marche model, was released in 2001. Following the Tourbillon Souverain and the Chronomètre à Résonance, Journe sought to build his first automatic caliber, but of course it couldn’t be just an automatic movement. Journe created the 1300, a caliber that could accommodate any number of complications without having to change the dimensions. To date, it’s been fitted with a power reserve, a chronograph, a moonphase, an annual calendar, and of course the UTC world time function. Every single complication stacks effectively onto the Octa’s 13 ligne movement.
The case of the F.P. Journe Octa UTC is the masterwork of elegant design that you may expect from the renowned watchmaker. At an ideal 40mm in diameter and 10mm thick, the 18k rose gold case is smooth and simple. The case is polished throughout and features a rounded bezel and lugs that have a dramatic curve, ending perpendicular to the case. Combined with the thinness, the lugs will allow for an exceptionally comfortable wear on the wrist. Aiding this is a brown alligator leather strap with a branded rose gold deployant clasp. At three o’clock is the understanded crown with the roping along its edge and the double-dimple motif found on all Journe crowns; the UTC corrector sits just below the crown, flush with the case at four o’clock. The dial is seen through a subtly domed sapphire crystal.
Let’s start with the UTC indicator. (First, know that Universal Time, Coordinated replaced Greenwich Meantime as the international standard due to the latter’s issues with variation.) At 7:30 on the dial, a vividly colored depiction of earth is segmented rather harshly into 24 time zones. Above the rotating earth are hand-printed numbers for winter and summer time, allowing adjustment for daylight savings. The multiple colors and dividing lines would be helpful if the total area were enlarged, but as such, they inhibit any practical use of the UTC indicator beyond the winter/summer adjustment. The earth display can be set one of two ways: with the corrector at four o’clock or via the crown while setting the 24-hour hand.
Just above the UTC indicator is a retrograde 120-hour power reserve printed on the dial itself with Journe’s signature blued hand. Slightly off-center and immediately adjacent to the power reserve is the large date display featuring concentric wheels for the digits, both on the same plane. The date window is nicely beveled, smoothing its incorporation into the rest of the dial. The time is displayed on a white gold dial surrounded by a black-polsihed steel bezel. Blued Journe hands indicate the local time with hand-printed black arabic numerals and a railroad minute track, which are set against radially finishing. The 24-hour arabic numerals and corresponding 24-hour hand are rose gold gilt steel, and surround a guilloché central area (note that the 24-hour numerals have their zero at the 12-hour. The subseconds features a radial pattern matching that of the local time tracks. The date and both local and home time are set via the crown.
The F.P. Journe Caliber 1300 is not simply a sight to behold—it is a technological achievement. In 2001, the resurgence of mechanical timepieces was in flight, but hadn’t yet reached orbit. Developing a new movement in house was an incredible undertaking. Developing a modular movement that would allow for a variety of integrated complications was unheard of. Yet here we are, with the Caliber 1300. The Octa UTC features the 1300.3, an automatic movement with unidirectional winding, rendered in solid 18k rose gold (the 1300.3 was preceded by the 1300, made of rhodium-plated brass, and the 1300.2, made of rose gold but featuring a bidirectional rotor).
With a 22k gold offset rotor, the 1300.3 features the astonishing finishing that one expects from F.P. Journe: sharp anglage, circular Côtes de Genève, and perlage on the plates and bridges, chamfering and graining on the wheels, and guilloché on the rotor. The movement has 342 components and is equipped with 40 jewels. It features an incredible 160-hour power reserve (120-hour limit on the dial indicator refers to the duration during which chronometer accuracy can be guaranteed), afforded by the one-meter mainspring. The balance is free-sprung within a four-arm wheel with four weights, adjusted to five positions; it beats at 21,600 vph. The Caliber 1300 is such an accomplishment that, having made new movements for the 20th anniversaries of the Tourbillon Souverain and the Chronomètre à Résonance, Journe declared there would be no new automatic caliber because the 1300.3 could simply not be improved upon.
Versus the Competition
One of the clearest alternatives to the F.P. Journe Octa UTC is the Patek Philippe 5131 World Time. With a hand-painted cloisonné enamel central dial showing the earth and its oceans, the 5131 at a glance seems much more cluttered than the Octa UTC, which it is. For better or worse, this is the nature of world time watches. Once the local time is set with the crown, pushing the 10 o’clock actuator rotates the hour ring and the city ring sets the time to your current city, displayed at 12 o’clock. Thus aligned, the time is also displayed for the other 23 time zones around the globe. Two times, easily determined at a glance, with beautiful artistry to boot.
When it comes to Rolex, the GMT-Masters may get all the attention, but the Rolex Sky-Dweller is an undoubtedly more impressive watch. With one of The Crown’s most complicated calibers, the Sky-Dweller offers not only a subsidiary dial to show a second timezone, but an annual calendar as well; a peripheral red indicator aligns with the appropriate marker to indicate the month, while the model features Rolex signature cyclops date. Despite its exceptional functionality, the Sky-Dweller’s fluted bezel makes it more versatile than the overt tool design ofthe GMT-Master.
The elephant in the room is the F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance. A dual time watch that exemplifies the beauty and mechanical genius of F. P. Journe, the watch is rightly considered one of the most impressive ever made by the brand, and is accordingly highly sought after. The revolutionary movement features twin balances that function resonantly, providing added accuracy. The dial is a simple exhibition of two classic Journe dials, with a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. While lacking the color afforded by the Octa UTC, the Chronomètre à Résonance exceeds its sibling in almost every other way.
The F.P. Journe Octa UTC adds an extra spin to the traditional travel watch, and that desire for added flair is what will attract many buyers. There are a number of other options (as discussed) for a handcrafted dual time watch, but few if any others have an independent UTC display, much less one as colorful as the one found on the UTC. Add to that the technical marvel that is the caliber 1300.3, and this watch is ideal for watch lovers who want only the best money can buy, but with a bit of modest flair usually not offered by the brands that occupy that tier.
The Octa UTC offers an elegant display for a second time zone, but its UTC display leaves a bit to be desired. While it’s bright and colorful, its poor legibility limits its utility. Though still a Journe through and through, the watch falls seems to fall a bit short of the standard set by the brand’s other models.