Despite being a comparatively young watch brand (it was founded in 1999), F.P. Journe and its eponymous founder have revisited on numerous occasions the technology, materials, and decorative technique of the 18th century — “the golden age of time measurement” — in their quest to make modern watches inspired by horology’s rich history and following in the footsteps of giants like Abraham-Louis Breguet and Ferdinand Berthoud. With the newest special edition of its groundbreaking Tourbillon Souverain, the watchmaker pays tribute to 18th century clockmaking artisans with the addition of a hand-engraved Régence Circulaire dial.
The dial’s geometrical motifs are an artistic hallmark of the so-called Regency era of Great Britain, circa 1811-1820, sandwiched between the more widely documented Georgian and Victorian periods. It takes two days for a Geneva-based artisan to hand-engrave each dial, starting with drawing the pattern onto the raw white gold base, then incising the patterns into it with the use of various types and shapes of burins, the latter prepared ahead of time so as to be perfectly suited and sized to the artist’s hands. After roughing out the surface’s grained and champlevé decorations, the dialmaker proceeds to perfect the background texture and to execute a final finishing of all the lines; all the processes require an immense amount of patience and dexterity. In the final step, another artisan applies the final polishing that gives the dial its elegant, shimmering look.
Journe being Journe, the watch’s inner heart, F.P. Journe’s in-house-made Caliber 1403, is just as remarkable as its face. The movement of the Tourbillon Souverain is one of the watchmaker’s most notable technical achievements, equipped with the constant force mechanism that he first invented in 1983 and an independent seconde morte (or dead-beat seconds) system. The latter feature, another innovation from the early days of watchmaking and exceedingly rare in contemporary timepieces, ensures that the seconds hand remains stopped, i.e. “dead,” until a full second has elapsed, resulting in a more accurate reading of the time on the hours and minutes subdial at 3 o’clock and the seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. The large tourbillon at 9 ‘clock is also, of course, a horological invention from timekeeping’s embryonic era, patented in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, originally to compensate for the ill effects of gravity on pocketwatches. Completing the picture at 12 o’clock is a hand-type indicator for the watch’s 42-hour power reserve.
The 18k rose gold case of the Tourbillon Souverain Regence Circulaire measure 40 mm in diameter and just shy of 10 mm thick. The back is fitted with a sapphire window to reveal the movement, with its many gold parts (another Journe hallmark) adorned with circular stripes on the bridges, Geneva waves on the baseplate, polished and beveled screw heads and polished, round-ended pegs. Delivered on a brown alligator leather strap and limited to just 20 pieces priced at 171,000 euros, the timepiece is available exclusively at F.P. Journe boutiques and Espaces.