« Pour exister dans un métier, quand on a moins d’argent et de force, Il faut avoir plus d’inventivité. » F.P. JOURNE

Among the greatest names in contemporary independent watchmaking, Philippe Dufour, Daniel Roth, and François-Paul Journe, one thing stands out : an environment that has shaped their destiny.

François-Paul Journe was born in the warm sunshine of Marseille in the 60s, where he spent his childhood. At the age of 14, his mother sent him to Paris to assist his uncle, a watchmaker specializing in grand complications. Despite being a poor student in school, he continued his apprenticeship alongside his uncle. He graduated from the École d'horlogerie de Paris in 1976 at the age of 19 and began working as an employee in his uncle's workshop.

This period was crucial for his professional future, thanks to the restoration of timepieces from the 18th-century masters, notably a wall clock signed Breguet N°3177, sold to King Louis XVIII in 1821. This double-dial, double-movement, double-balance clock would have a particular resonance on François-Paul Journe's life, inspiring his famous "Résonance" complication.

Francois-Paul Journe next to a regulator clock by Antide Janvier, on his wrist a Chronomètre à Résonance, which works on the same principles, courtesy of A collected Man

At the heart of his independence was his desire to own a complicated watch and his lack of means to buy one. Helped by the book "The Art of Breguet" by George Daniels, as well as his uncle's experience and tools, he embarked on designing his first Tourbillon pocket watch.

This book gives us the keys to the directions taken by F.P. Journe in his creations. Reflecting on the art of watchmaking as a concept, at a time when scientific discoveries were crushing the essence of the object, Breguet contributed to the development of the visual and the technical, elevating watchmaking to the status of a work of art throughout Europe. A revolution that F.P. Journe has captured and appropriated in his thinking on contemporary watches.

In 1985, he took the decisive step of opening his own workshop on rue de Verneuil in Paris. He began by creating unique pieces for discerning collectors. Today, François-Paul Journe has 12 boutiques worldwide, has won the most prestigious international watchmaking awards, and his Geneva manufacture produces nearly 900 watches per year.

As a successful businessman, he surrounded himself with the right people and carved out a prominent place in the watchmaking industry by combining inventive genius, traditional craftsmanship, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Similar to luxury brands, he invigorates his firm with fruitful collaborations, such as the one with Francis Ford Coppola for the FFC Blue watch, auctioned for 4,500,000 CHF at the OnlyWatch charity sale in 2021, followed by a limited production of 10 pieces in 2023.

He also expanded his business into gastronomy by associating his name with a restaurant, "F.P. Journe le Restaurant," opened in 2023 in collaboration with chef Dominique Gauthier.

His significance in the watch market is further highlighted by the establishment of a Heritage service in 2016, allowing collectors to acquire F.P. Journe watches that are no longer in production, revised and guaranteed by the manufacture.

But beyond his commercial successes, let's take a closer look at FP Journe's work.

The early 1990s marked the end of the quartz crisis and the resurgence of automatic and mechanical wristwatches. Major manufactures and independents took advantage of this wave to present their new models.

In 1991, François-Paul Journe completed the design of his first wristwatch, the Tourbillon Souverain prototype. At the same time, Philippe Dufour presented the Grande et Petite Sonnerie wristwatch at the Basel Fair. These two watchmakers made history in contemporary watchmaking by miniaturizing high-complication movements for wristwatches. However, their approaches remain very different.

Philippe Dufour draws inspiration from Valjoux movements from the 1850s to the 1970s. His work focuses on the artisanal manufacture of movement components, with a production time frame much more "ancestral" - even iconoclastic - than that of François-Paul Journe.

Paradoxically, the latter is inspired by an earlier period, drawing on research and timepieces from the 18th century, notably those of Breguet and Antide Janvier, but his approach is resolutely modern: rather than considering each piece as a work of art in itself, as with Philippe Dufour, it is the concept of the movement itself that acts as a work of art.

His impact on contemporary watchmaking is evident through achievements such as the Chronomètre à Résonance wristwatch, unveiled as a world exclusive in 2000, inspired by the work of Antide Janvier, known at the time as the Pendule Double.

The physical phenomenon observed on two pendulums placed side by side, in motion, at a reasonable distance, is the disturbance of their oscillation frequency. This change in frequency is explained by the influence exerted by the energy of one pendulum on the other, and vice versa. The pendulums are "resonant" systems, a term used in physics to signify the sensitivity of a system to certain frequencies. These systems can accumulate energy, in this case, from the neighboring pendulum, and add to the energy already accumulated to enter into "phase" with it. In other words, the respective energies of the pendulums accumulate and synchronize, entering a "resonance frequency."

Journe applies this phenomenon to a wristwatch, where the two balances are set within a spectrum of less than 5 seconds. The "resonance" of the movement simply enhances the performance of the watch, as, explained by François-Paul Journe, when the watch is disturbed by a movement, the frequency of one pendulum is altered, and by resonance, the frequency of the second is modified to return to synchronization: the disturbance is thus canceled out.

F.P. JOURNE, The full Set Platinum Dual Time Resonance Chronometer by corradomattarelli.com

The word "résonance" has two meanings in the French dictionary Le Robert. The first, in the literal sense, means an increase in the duration or intensity of sounds or vibrations. The second, in the figurative sense, is an effect that resonates (in the mind).

It is amusing to note that the figurative sense comes closest to the physical phenomenon of movement, and one can better understand why François-Paul Journe gave this complication this name.

We must applaud his watchmaking prowess in miniaturizing such a complication and the ingenuity he displayed in the manufacturing of this movement. It is worth noting that the first movements were made of rhodium-plated brass, and then, in a bid for luxury, were produced with components and a patina in gold.

F.P. JOURNE, The full Set Platinum Dual Time Resonance Chronometer by corradomattarelli.com

Beyond the technical aspect, François-Paul Journe seeks to elevate craftsmanship to the level of art.

Let's return to the word "résonance" in the literal sense, with the Sonnerie Souveraine wristwatch presented in 2000 as a tribute to the new century. Inspired by his colleague Philippe Dufour, his idea was to differentiate himself from the latter through a progression of the movement, starting with the use of flat metal gongs (instead of circular gongs encircling the movement), which would allow him to gain ground on the rest of the movement, as well as by obtaining a single barrel instead of two, which again resonates as a technical feat.

Going beyond, Journe explores new horizons by offering a unique sensory experience. On his website, a unique sound experience, the Sonnerie Souveraine recorded in the anechoic chamber of the EPFL in Lausanne, plunges the listener into the sound universe of the watch movement. Through binaural technique, the sound is reproduced in three dimensions, offering a striking immersion into the mechanical components.

With this initiative by F.P. Journe delivers a true artistic performance, an invitation to explore the miniature world of haute horlogerie through the senses. By engaging the listener's imagination, this sound experience transcends the traditional boundaries of watchmaking to become a genuine work of art.

Captation Sonnerie Souveraine à la chambre anéchoïque de EPFL à Lausanne, with the courtesy of Wave Studios.

François-Paul Journe's style is immediately recognizable. It is reflected in innovative concepts, such as showing part of the mechanism on the dial. Cut, carved, off-centered, hollowed out, the dials are worked like paintings, to which he gives meaning. By differentiating and giving as much space as possible to each of his complications, he highlights the work of the watchmaker and presents the dial as a stage where the complications are the protagonists.

Journe, a true director of his movements, designs pieces that follow in the footsteps of the watchmaking philosophy initiated by Breguet.

Today, François-Paul Journe is a contemporary artist who continually pushes the boundaries of mechanics and watch design. At a conference organized by Osama Sendi, also known as "The Journe Guy," Journe presents his ideal of the ultimate watch: a watch without friction, without the need for oil.

Today, more inclined to delegate management and focus on creation, it is difficult to know what challenge he will take on in his endless quest for the absolute.