The Return of F.P. Journe’s Watch Event was held at The Hour Glass Singapore, Malmaison in April. It is our honour to have Mr François-Paul Journe to share with us his journey right after the watch holidays in Switzerland.
1) How it got you started on your watch journey?
I was a naughty boy and my mother did not know what to do with me. My uncle, 14 years prior to that, followed the watchmaking school in Marseilles and as he became successful, my parents decided to register me there. After 2 years, I was still undisciplined and I was expelled from the Marseille school.
I thus joined my uncle in Paris and in the same time, registered in the Paris watchmaking school. When I didn’t have class, I was working in my uncle’s antique horology restoration workshop in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I discovered the intellectual process of brilliant minds from the 18th century as Antide Janvier, Abraham Louis Breguet, Ferdinand Berthoud and a few others geniuses, studying the heart of their creations and the science of chronometry.
I really became a constructor in chronometric mechanisms at the age of 25, after I finished my first – all handmade- pocket-watch with tourbillon. Each component was made entirely by hand and it took 5 years of all my free time. When it was completed, collectors asked me to do another watch for them and I never stopped since then.
I then crafted unique objects such as Pendules Sympathique, astronomical pocket watches or planetarium, but each made again entirely by hand took at least a year each.
I then received requests from prestigious watch companies in Switzerland to develop movements with complications for them. At the time, watch companies did not have a constructor in-house and called upon independent constructors. But I wanted to create my own brand, with a collection of haute horology precision chronometers that would respect the fundamental principles of haute horology. You know the rest . . .
2) Name two interesting things or something which your collectors do not know about you.
Most of our collectors have become friends with time and they know quite a bit about me. Other than that, I keep my private life private and that will remain so.
3) How old are you this year and what are your most memorable thing(s) you ever done?
I am 59 this year. I believe the most memorable thing in a whole is the extraordinary watch journey I was able to live because of my passion for horology. But also to be able to construct a watch from scratch and see a complicated mechanism come to life after years of research. I can spend the whole night looking at its movement ticking with precision.
I particularly think of the sophisticate Sonnerie Souveraine the most difficult and most accomplished horological creation never realized and the one that has certainly given me the widest challenge in my career. It means six years of research for the Invenit and 10 patents for the Fecit, over 500 components, 4 month of assembling, adjusting and fine tuning, and this without counting the manufacturing of the components entirely produced in our central Geneva Manufacture.
Operating a chiming watch has always been risky. If you did the slightest thing wrong, like setting the time while the chimes were ringing, you damaged precious mechanisms. My challenge was to create a Grande Sonnerie that was safe to use, and what sets it on a higher plane is that it is the only grand strike clock watch safe to use existing today.
4) What are some of your favourite local Singapore dishes?
Generally, when I am there, I like to eat products of the sea.
5) Your personal views about Singapore’s horological craftsmanship and the watch collector’s community.
I don’t really know horological craftsmanship made in Singapore and I cannot answer. The Singapore collectors are divided in two, those who like to collect toy-watches and others, which are rarer, who like the horological culture, I am closer to the latter.
6) Share with us more about your strategic alliance with The Hour Glass Singapore.
The company of our previous representative has been sold to a Chinese corporation; I thus decided in 2008 to not sell watches in Singapore anymore and wait to see how the market would reorganize. It appears clearly that The Hour Glass is the very best company and Michael Tay is passionate about beautiful horology. It is thus not difficult to understand why we are working together
7) Anything else you will like to add on to tell your collectors?
Eight years of absence is very long in a profession and in such an important market place. I hope collectors are not too cross with us but it was necessary to protect the brand. As far as new collectors are concerned, I wish they can discover what is genuine contemporary haute horology established on secular tradition.