The Remarkable True Story Behind Why F.P. Journe Abandoned The 38mm Case Size

The Remarkable True Story Behind Why F.P. Journe Abandoned The 38mm Case Size

The little-known, much-desired "Coffret" collection.

The little-known, much-desired "Coffret" collection.

Our first live auctions of the fall 2023 season are here! The PHILLIPS Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVII, takes place on November 24 and 25, at our West Kowloon headquarters. The auction includes more than 200 of the world's finest watches – including all five of the stainless steel, 38mm F.P. Journe examples, originally sold in a run of 38 sets in 2015.

The very first F.P. Journe watches from 1999 utilized 38mm cases, and they eventually were joined a few years down the road by an alternative option in 40mm. Those two size options lasted until 2015, when F.P. Journe announced that the 38mm case would soon be discontinued in favor of the 40mm size and a new 42mm diameter option.

Lot 816: F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance. Estimate: HKD $950,000 - 1,550,000

Journe isn’t one for an abrupt exit, however, so he put together an impressive package of five watches (a Tourbillon Souverain, a Chronomètre à Résonance, an Octa Automatique, an Octa Calendrier, and a Chronomètre Souverain), all executed in 38mm stainless steel cases with bronze-tone dials. Only 38 examples of this box set, which is now known as the “Coffret Set” by collectors, were produced, each carrying an initial list price of just over $300,000.

And that is, quite literally, the last time we saw a new 38mm F.P. Journe watch. (The only F.P. Journe watch that remains in the company's catalog and is still under 40mm in diameter is the Chronomètre Bleu with its unique tantalum case.)

Lot 815: F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain

Estimate: HKD $1,200,000 - 2,400,000

A true revolution, Journe's dedication to pushing the boundaries of haute horology pulled the heartstrings of both critics and collectors, and by 2004, his ingeniousness was taken to a whole new level as he radicalised the way we see tourbillons with the addition of a deadbeat seconds, which became the Remontoire d'Egalité avec Seconde Morte. Encased in a 38mm stainless steel case, the present Tourbillon Souverain is indeed part of the highly exclusive boxset of five limited edition timepieces, made to mark the discontinuation of Journe's 38mm watches.

Lot 815: F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain. Estimate: HKD $1,200,000 - 2,400,000

While the other watches in this set are equipped with movements indistinguishable to those in the regular production models, the movement in this tourbillon is unique. First generation FP Journe tourbillons (1999-2003) are strictly fitted with the conventional brass movements with a 'Remontoir d'Egalité'; rather than a dead-seconds complication as per the pink gold movements in the current production. As a nod to his original design, Journe combines the two in the 2015 stainless steel tourbillon, resulting in a movement that is mechanically identical the initial brass cal. 1498 with a base plate and bridges in pink gold. Incrediby rare, only the 38-piece limited edition steel tourbillons will ever have this movement.

Moving onto the dial, the tastefully executed layout draws attention to each individual feature without overcrowding the brilliant bronze-coloured canvas. The one-second Rementoir d'Egalité system is deliberately placed in line with the hours and minutes dial which suggests it is an equal counterpart to the time display. Visible via the large aperture, it emphasizes its status as a complication as it provides a constant force to the escapement, acting as a transmission and balancing system for the transfer of power between the mainspring and the escapement. The two large apertures invite its wearer to peek into the fantastic movement within, along with its striking perlage finishes. Numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 examples, the present Tourbillon Souverain offers the ideal opportunity for connoisseurs to acquire a well-preserved and esteemed masterpiece.

Lot 816: F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance

Estimate: HKD $950,000 - 1,550,000

Inspired by the work of the great 18th century watchmaker Antide Janvier, and ultimately influenced by Abraham-Louis Breguet, Journe took on the challenge in creating the first-ever wristwatch that uses two resonating escapements, placed very closely together, that feed off each other's dissipating energy. Two is better than one, the synchronized escapements enhance the watch's precision and are less susceptible to discrepancies than a solitary unit.

Lot 816: F.P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance. Estimate: HKD $950,000 - 1,550,000

With 38 examples made only, the present Chronomètre á Résonance is no ordinary specimen and is part of the highly coveted limited edition boxset of five emblematic Journe creations. Notably, these watches are the last of their kind that measure at 38mm as FP Journe bids farewell to the traditional dress watch case size in 2015. The overall design evokes the original configuration in production from 2000 to 2009 with the most obvious difference in its rare stainless steel case. Distinctly different from later examples, the current dial is composed of two symmetrically positioned 12- hour dials, each with their own small seconds subdial. Sandwiched between the two, at the twelve o'clock position, is a power reserve indicator drawing inspiration from marine chronometers of the past. The purpose of this power reserve indicator is reversed, not indicating how many hours of power remain, but rather how many hours since the movement was last wound.

With the dashing good looks of a first generation Résonance, the movement that powers the present timepiece is identical to the pink gold cal. 1499.3 in the present production . This timepiece stands as a horological dream that harnesses a resonance phenomenon to provide unparalleled chronometric performance and an enduring demonstration of FP Journe's mastery of complex high watchmaking. Numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 pieces, the present stainless steel Chronomètre á Résonance is certainly a peculiar sight for Journe collectors, preserved in “like-new” condition.

Lot 817: F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier

Estimate: HKD $480,000 - 960,000

First introduced in 2002, the Octa Calendrier enjoyed instant recognition at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève and was honored with the 'Special Jury Prize' by the most prestigious award ceremony in the watch industry. This annual calendar dress watch is quintessentially an FP Journe, in both its design language and movement.

Housed in a 38mm case, the present Octa Calendrier is part of the 2015 limited edition box set of stainless steel watches that celebrated the end of Journe's classical case size. The warm, yellow-toned dial creates the perfect juxtaposition against the cool steel case and is delicately finished with a softly-grained texture. To the left of the dial, the annual calendar takes center-stage as it indicates the day and month in two apertures, followed by an automatically advancing date for months with 29, 30 and 31 days. The overall dial layout is distinctly clean and legible, with the hours, minutes and small seconds displayed in a separate guilloche dial on the right.

Lot 817: F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier. Estimate: HKD $480,000 - 960,000

While the timepiece itself is undeniably handsome, it is the movement that FP Journe is famous for. Since the debut of the original Octa Reserve de Marche in 2001, mechanical F. P Journe watches have been divided into two types of movements, the manually-wound 'Souverain' and self-winding 'Octa' (Latin for 'infinite'). Remarkably, all models in Octa family are identical, both in diameter and thickness, equipped with fully-integrated complications in the same volume. This automatic, caliber 1300.3 movement is crafted in pink gold and boasts hand- finished fausses côtes embellishments.

By tastefully balancing sophisticated functions through harmonious proportions and an intelligible dial layout, the present stainless steel Octa Calendrier, numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 pieces, achieves a subtle perfection that reflects its creator's unwavering standards.

Lot 818: F.P. Journe Octa Réserve de Marche

Estimate: HKD $320,000 - 640,000

The Octa Réserve de Marche holds an auspicious place in FP Journe's oeuvre as the brand's first selfwinding wristwatch. Produced between 2001 to 2014, the debutants were first fitted with the brass cal. 1300, before transitioning to a more opulent pink gold movement in 2004.

A quintessential Journe creation, the present Octa Réserve de Marche is no ordinary example. Numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 pieces, this timepiece is exclusively armored in stainless steel and is a part of the boxset that marked the end of an era, where 38mm cases made their final appearance in the FP Journe catalog in 2015. The case is made distinctive by its seamless and sensual curves, along with the watchmaker's signature flat crown embellished with a rope-like grip.

Lot 818: F.P. Journe Octa Réserve de Marche. Estimate: HKD $320,000 - 640,000

Aesthetically majestic, the dial shines on its own, boasting a softly grained yellow gold canvas, paired with elegant blued steel hands and the iconic stand-alone silver guilloché dial for the hours and minutes. Between 8 and 9 o'clock is a power reserve indicator, with a large date aperture above, highlighting FP Journe's principle of "invention and manufacture." Every element, even auxiliary functions, fulfills a rationale aligned with its creator's vision.

At its core lies the revolutionary cal. 1300.3, the movement that laid the foundation for FP Journe's automatic complications. Its ingenious architecture allows complications such as the annual calendar and flyback chronograph to smoothly integrate into the modest 38mm case, while powering an unmatched 120-hour power reserve, without drastic augmentations. Destined to be collected by passionate connoisseurs of the brand, the present stainless steel Octa Réserve de Marche, numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 pieces, conjures an alluring blend of technical prowess, refined aesthetics and exceptional rarity.

Lot 819: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain

Estimate: HKD $320,000 - 640,000

An iconic backbone of the brand, the Chronomètre Souverain epitomises FP Journe's undying commitment to cognitive design and precision. Translated from marine chronometers of the early 20th century, the model was introduced in 2005 and received instant recognition at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève , winning the Favorite Men's Watch award of the year. Granted the GPHG is the most prestigious award ceremony in Haute horology, it not only cemented his standing within the industry but further elevated his presence beyond the watch community. With only a small number of pieces Produced, along with a handful of custom requests from existing clients, this model has since established itself as one of the brand's most coveted dress watches. Embodying Journe's iconic design, the present Chronomètre Souverain is part of the ultra-rare 2015 limited edition boxset that was made to turn heads.

Lot 819: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain. Estimate: HKD $320,000 - 640,000

The present example is made apparent by its extraordinary two-toned dial, boasting a distinct Clous de Paris guilloche center in the most gorgeous golden hue, surrounded by a silvered hour chapter with a smooth granulated finish. Complementing its cool steel case, the dial is topped with blued steel hands with matching Arabic numerals. The power reserve indicator, flanked at 3 o'clock, is an interesting mechanism that indicates upwards towards “0”, rather than reading downwards heading from “0” to “56”. A calculated move by the watchmaker, this feature was borrowed from marine chronometer clocks and is supposed to tell its wearer how many hours have advanced since the watch was wound, instead of the number of hours remaining. Complete by a subsidiary seconds register, strategically placed between 7 and 8 o'clock, the dial is well-balanced and very easy on the eyes.

Because the Chronomètre Souverain has the largest hands of any watch in the set, the dark blue of the dial is more prominent here than on any of the others, making the color of numerals more prominent. Despite being simple the Chronomètre Souverain includes some clever details, including the shrunken “7” and “8” on the dial. Neither is immediately apparent, but it ensures that the seconds sub-dial does not cut into any of the numerals.

Lot 819: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain. Estimate: HKD $320,000 - 640,000

Belonging to the manual-winding Souverain family, the present timepiece is the reflection of independent watchmaking at its finest, driven by the in-house cal. 1304 made entirely of pink gold. On display via its sapphire caseback, the movement has two mainspring barrels in parallel, working in unison to power the wristwatch. Beautifully executed, each component is hand-finished with a combination of perlage and sunburst patterns, further defined by the chamfered edges and Côte de Genève bridges. Numbered 27 of a limited edition of 38 pieces, the current Chronomètre Souverain from the 38mm Steel Set is a tastefully crafted precision instrument made for the modern gentry.

You can learn more, place a bid, and view the entire he Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVII right here.

About Phillips In Association With Bacs & Russo

The team of specialists at PHILLIPS Watches is dedicated to an uncompromised approach to quality, transparency, and client service. Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo holds the world record for the most successful watch auction, with its Geneva Watch Auction: XIV having realized $74.5 million in 2021. Over the course of 2021 and 2022, the company sold 100% of the watches offered, a first in the industry, resulting in the highest annual total in history across all the auction houses at $227 million.

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About Logan Baker

Logan has spent the past decade reporting on every aspect of the watch business. He joined Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo at the start of 2023 as the department's Senior Editorial Manager. He splits his time between New York and Geneva.

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A Beginner’s Guide To The World Of F.P. Journe

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