Thirty years ago, if you were to pick someone who would rise to the top of the watchmaking world and redefine craftsmanship and luxury, Francois Paul Journe would not have been on anyone’s list. But an intense curiosity in clocks and watch design quickly developed at a young age, and with painstaking dedication to the craft, FP Journe would beat the odds and create one of the most admired, respected, and treasured brand names in the world.
The companies motto, invenit et fecit, “he invented it and made it,” tells you most of what you need to know about how F.P. Journe watches have risen to the top of the industry.
FP Journe Beginnings
His troubled youth is well-documented and now the stuff of legend. Born in Marseille, France, in 1957, young Francois had difficulty with his academic life. He was not a good student and left school when he was 14 years old. With a decision that would later change the world of watches, Francois’s mother sent him to Paris to spend time with his uncle, Michel Journe. He would help out at his uncle’s workshop and learn the family business, the business of clock restoring.
In a stroke of luck that would capture young Francois’s curiosity, he became dedicated to the craft of clock repair and watchmaking. Not only would he be consumed with the craft, but he would have one of the finest teachers at his side, guiding him in his younger years. His uncle advised Journe to attend watchmaking school.
FP Journe Learns the Craft of Watchmaking
Journe enrolled at Lycee Laperrine d’ apprentissage technique, or the Laperrine School of technical training, to study horology. After two years, he rose through the ranks and was a standout student but was expelled for various troublemaking reasons. Out of school again, young Journe didn’t search for a different field of study but dove headfirst into the watch world by leaving Marseille and moving to Paris, close to his uncle, who just happened to be opening a new workshop.
Francois finished his studies in horology at the Ecole d’horlogerie de Paris and received a diploma in 1976. Now he could join his uncle’s shop as a full-time employee and fully immerse himself in the craft. Full-time immersion in the clock repair business would expose Francois to some of the most incredible timepieces ever created.
Dedicated to the Craft of Creating
The impression of seeing a tourbillon pocket watch up close left an incredible impression on Francois. Without the funds to purchase his own tourbillon, Journe decided to purchase a copy of The Art of Breguet by George Daniels and build a tourbillon watch for himself.
Francois would continue working in his uncle’s shop full-time and create his tourbillon in his spare time. Five years later, at age 25, he completed his first wristwatch. The result of countless hours of research and labor produced a hand-crafted tourbillon and a stunning achievement, which was finally finished.
Journe would open his own shop, take on his own clients, and continue to develop new watch designs. Large established watchmaking brands would reach out to Francois and commission work, where he would design various successful models but not receive credit for their success.
The large watch companies would market the watches as their own and not recognize the actual creators in any way. This was a major frustration of Journe’s, which kept him pushing forward on his quest to create.
Fanning the Flames of the FP Journe Brand
All roads would lead to the realization that Journe needed to create his own watch, designed, built, and sold by his own company. As an independent watchmaker, Journe could focus on building the exclusive movement and receive the credit he deserved for his stunning designs and build his own brand.
He needed to expand his operation and buy a larger building to encompass his creations, but financing was a problem. Like most great creators, Francois would realize his problem was simply an opportunity in disguise. The financing for his watchmaking would come from his customers by asking them to pay for their watch in advance. By charging in advance, Francois would offer a large discount but fund the expansion of his operations.
Not only that, but customers who waited patiently for their tourbillon watches were so enamored to finally receive them, they became the brand’s best sales agents and marketing representatives. Customers proudly showed off their newly acquired custom-made watches to all their friends and acquaintances, expanding the Journe presence among the elite clientele.
In 1994, Journe was awarded the “Gaia Watchmaker of the Year Award” by the Musee de I’Homme et du Temps in La Chaux-de-Fonds and numerous awards in the following years. Respect was growing, not only from owners of an F.P. Journe watch but also from inside the watchmaking industry. Unique pieces from Francois-Paul Journe continued year after year, and the broader public took notice of the luxurious watches.
FP Journe Brand Takes Off
The brand was off and running. With not only quality and craftsmanship at the forefront, ground-breaking design and incredible support from early buyers of the watches propelled F.P. Journe into hallowed territory rather quickly. In just a few years, Francois was able to discern the pricing and value for his creations in the open market, and those prices were rising faster than anticipated, and demand for his name began to soar among the wider public.
Journe smartly expanded retail shops to international luxury markets. The company opened authorized dealers in Tokyo by 2003, then Hong Kong just three years later in 2006, making the first retailers exclusively selling Journe watches. The brand continued expanding into global hotspots for custom watches opening shops in Geneva, New York City, Paris, and Los Angeles.
With sales climbing for the independent watchmaker, FP Journe expanded to Beirut in 2014, Kiev in 2017, then Miami and Dubai in 2019. The highly exclusive brand was now capable of servicing the most demanding clientele worldwide through the network of F.P. Journe boutiques.
The Journe brand continues to innovate. From the subscription model, which helped launch the brand into superstardom, to exclusive partnerships for distribution, buyers of F.P. Journe watches understand they are on the cutting edge of watchmaking brilliance.
The First FP Journe Models
Some of the very first F.P. Journe watches the company created are now legendary collector pieces in the watch world. Supply was extremely limited in the early 2000s, as the company was slowly and carefully perfecting its manufacturing process. The first generation of Tourbillon Souverain watches F.P. Journe produced from 1999 have sold at auction for over a million dollars.
The F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue watch recently sold for $1.8 million at auction. In the first few years, the company only produced twenty to forty pieces of each model.
Early models of the Octa Reserve de Marche models are unthinkable of owning for most watch collectors. The F.P. Journe Chronometre a Resonance was one of the first three models produced by the company in the early 2000s and remained in incredibly high demand by collectors.
Even with demand at an all-time high, the watchmaker still only produces about 800 pieces per year. For a global brand at the forefront of an enormous industry, these are tiny production numbers. Competing brands produce ten to twenty times the number of watches per year, but the F.P. Journe name only grows stronger.
The FP Journe slogan, Invenit et Fecit, does well to summarize what the company has to offer. The brand’s motto is Latin for “He invented it and made it,” this simplistic statement captures the wishes of watch collectors and investors around the world.
Some of the first F.P. Journe models produced were part of the Octa Collection. The Octa Calendrier was the first Journe wristwatch integrated with an annual calendar and a large date. Octa’s were loaded with a power reserve of more than 120 hours with the automatic Octa Calibre automatic movement. Octa watches can be found selling in the range of $40,000 to $95,000 at reputable online watch resellers such as Chrono24.
Quantieme Perpetuel Calibre
The F.P. Journe Quantieme Perpetuel Calendar models display the exact date automatically, taking into account the variable length of months and leap-year cycles. This incredible watchmaking achievement is possible through a mechanical movement with a special memory of 1,461 days to account for all four years of calendar variability.
Several hundred components are carefully packed into the watch and displayed with perfect readability through an uncluttered dial. Journe Perpetual Calendar watches currently sell in the range of $60,000 – $100,000 through various online watch retailers.
One of the personal favorites F.P. Journe wears almost everywhere is the Sonnerie Souveraine. The watch features a musical complication with tones indicating the passing hours. The watch comes in two types of models, the Grand Sonnerie and the Petite Sonnerie. The Journe Sonnerie Souveraine model was completed in 2005, and only 30 pieces were produced. Prices for the Souveraine can reach the mid to upper six figures.
Chronometre a Resonance
Over twenty years ago, F.P. Journe debuted the Chronometre a Resonance with a limited series of 22 pieces. Over the years, there have been a few variations but all using the same movement. What is actually happening inside the movement is two balance wheels harmonizing with each other.
The energy from one transmits to the other, and as the arm is moved around, the watch oscillates in opposite directions. The competing negative effects inside the movement sharing energy back and forth make up the principles behind the Chronometre a Resonance. These models start in the $200,000 range and can be much higher depending on the specific model.
Some of the most amazing F.P. Journe watches are produced as a special edition, limited edition, or limited series pieces. A few years ago, the Journe limited edition titanium, 18-karat rose gold tourbillon wristwatch, Souverain model from 2008 sold at a Christie’s auction for over $180,000. The watch was produced to commemorate the first anniversary of the F.P. Journe Geneva boutique and was personally signed by F.P. Journe himself.
A unique feature of the brand is every Journe movement is produced in 18K rose gold. Every Journe movement is signed with the label Invenit et Fecit, completely invented and assembled in the Geneva workshops.
How Did F.P. Journe Do It?
The watchmaker found a huge demand for something new and truly great in the luxury watch world. Why did we need another high-end watchmaker to go along with Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega, Breitling, and the dozens of other watchmakers selling expensive watches?
It’s because F.P. Journe brought a new twist to an old, established, and sometimes stale market. Amazing designs built completely by the FP Journe company, incredible dedication to the craft of watchmaking, and minimal production numbers are a few reasons the brand soared past the competition.
A Personal Touch
But there’s more to the story. Not to be overlooked, the rouge founder, Francois-Paul Journe, has a persona responsible for the brand’s success as any design found on the watch. He’s someone people can relate to and admire on a personal level.
Starting from nothing and dedicating himself to greatness over a long period of time, FP Journe is a great success story. Taking on the biggest and heavily financed competitors head-on and winning the fight. Journe is the underdog you love to root for and has made it to the very top.