While it’s been around for over three hundred years, the minute repeater complication is still one of the most challenging to manufacture. It was invented so its wearer could tell the time in the dark—artificial light was a lot harder to come by in the 1700s—via a series of chimes like a grandfather clock. This functionality—like most things related to mechanical watches—isn’t needed anymore. However, the complication is still beloved by collectors due to its charm and the high degree of skill required to create it.
The F.P. Journe Répétition Souveraine is—as you would expect from Journe—an exceptionally innovative take on the minute repeater that includes two patented inventions. The first of these is a flat gong, which in addition to being flat and taking up less space, produces louder and clearer chimes than a standard gong. The other innovation is a system of striking racks and strike selection mechanisms that are both highly optimized for space. The result is the manual winding in house caliber 1408, which was the thinnest minute repeater ever made at the time of its release.
Despite consisting of 312 pieces, the caliber 1408 measures an insanely thin 4.00mm. The ultra-thin movement allows the fully cased up watch to measure in at a svelte 8.65mm thick, which is only 0.4mm thicker than then its time only sibling the Chronomètre Souverain. To help put this in perspective, the caliber 1304 in the Chronomètre Souverain consists of just 161 pieces, almost half of the Répétition. The two watches share similar dimensions and much more.
The Répétition Souverain takes its design directly from the Chronomètre Souverain, with only subtle differences. Looking at the shared whitened guilloché silver dial, you’ll notice the cut out for the striking mechanism is the most apparent difference. Less obvious, though, is the use of blue instead of black for the numerals and railroad tracks. The use of blue is a charming touch that’s not often seen on Journe timepieces, and the consistency of color across the different elements, including the strap, looks excellent. Sometimes blue can be overused in watch design, but F.P. Journe implements it perfectly here.
The stainless steel case is another point of difference between the Chronomètre and Répétition. Though steel is a popular metal at the moment, it seems like an odd choice for such a prestigious and complicated watch, especially when most Journe watches are made of precious metals. However, F.P. Journe contends that steel is the best material for striking watches as it has a better resonance and creates strong crystalline notes. The form follows function and the common material adds to this watch’s deceptively unassuming design.
Like only F.P. Journe can he created a boundary-pushing, award-winning, record-setting watch and put it in a form factor that prioritizes wearability over extravagance. To the uninitiated, the Répétition Souveraine looks just like a standard watch, but inside beats a work of horological art. That’s what makes this watch so great, it is the ultimate sleeper watch, and it sounds like a dream.