Regarded as a watchmaking legend in his own lifetime, F.P. Journe’s watches are a bridge between the golden age of horology and contemporary watchmaking. One of the most influential independent watchmakers, the Invenit et Fecit logo of the brand suits Journe’s scientific mind to perfection. The introduction of the Octa automatic movement in 2001 was a milestone in Journe’s pursuit of genuine horological content, will fewer historical ties perhaps, but nevertheless extremely practical. Unwilling to sacrifice chronometric precision in the name of a self-winding movement, the Octa not only guaranteed chronometric accuracy but delivered an impressive 120-hour/5-day power reserve. The Octa would soon become the base movement of an entire collection finding its way into models of greater complexity like the Octa Zodiaque or Perpetual Calendar and slightly less complex models with Moon Phases, such as the elegant Octa Lune, and the other lunar watch, the Automatique Lune. Refreshed in 2019, we decided to take a short trip down memory lane and admire the F.P. Journe Automatique Lune in a 42mm gleaming platinum case. An impressive balancing act of different geometries, the result is an eccentric yet balanced work of art powered by Journe’s impeccable calibre 1300.3 in rose gold.
After graduation from the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Paris (1976) and having honed his skills at his uncle’s watch restoration workshop in Paris, F.P. Journe created his first tourbillon pocket watch from scratch in 1978. This was followed by increasingly complex commissions like the mechanism for a planetarium he conceived for Asprey and a planetary pocket watch he made for a collector of scientific objects. His first two wristwatches wowed the watch community and paved the way for the astronomical career as an independent watchmaker that lay ahead. In 1999 he presented the Tourbillon Souverain with a remontoir (constant force) device to increase the accuracy. Fascinated by the science of horology, Journe released the Chronomètre à Résonance in 2000, which incorporated the phenomenon of resonance inside the limited confines of a wristwatch.
The Moon watches from FPJ
In 2001, Journe presented his first automatic movement: the Octa. Not only was it his first self-winding movement, but it also delivered an impressive 120-hour or 5-day power reserve without compromising chronometry. Designed as a base calibre to host future complications, one of these was the moon phase appearing on the Octa Lune of 2003 that took home the GPHG’s Men’s Watch Prize that same year. Like Picasso’s different creative periods, the F.P. Journe Octa Lune, produced from 2003 to 2005, belongs to his ‘brass movement era’.
Although MONOCHROME wasn’t around to cover the first Octa Lune (we were founded in 2006), you can get a feel for the layout of the dial and the rhodium-plated brass movement in this 20th-anniversary Octa Automatique edition, albeit without the moon phase complication.
The first Octa Lune, like every subsequent Octa Lune model, including this latest Journe Automatique Lune, is powered by calibre 1300.3. There’s something reassuring about a movement that has not been overhauled for 18 years and the reason why the case height of 10.6mm never varies, although, to be fair, Journe did change the bidirectional winding system for a unidirectional one mounted on ceramic ball bearings. Another change was the replacement of the rhodium-plated brass parts with solid gold in 2004 to up the luxurious factor of the watches and make them even more durable.
Naturally, there have been changes to the habillage, and the original 38mm was joined by a 40mm diameter from 2004 to 2015. However, the most significant change was operated when FPJ launched the Automatique Lune in 2007, revealing a dial that still used the moon as the main complication, however with a completely different layout. Compared to the Octa Lune and its off-centred indications, the Automatique Lune is cleaner, sharper, less busy, more legible and infinitely more classical. While the large date window, moon phase aperture and small seconds retained their original positions on the dial, the off-centred hours and minutes sub-dial was eliminated, and the power reserve indicator was neatly positioned inside a fan-shaped area on the left side of the dial. The Arabic hours were centralised with minutes on a peripheral railroad track read by classic blued hands with pointy tips.
Bigger is better
The 2019 Automatique Lune replaces the abovementioned model and comes in 40 and 42mm platinum or red gold cases with solid gold galvanised silver dials. Although it respects the layout of the former edition, there are some BIG changes, and we’re not just referring to the new 42mm case size. For one, the patented large date aperture has been enlarged and now measures 4.7mm x 2.6mm. Unfortunately, we don’t have an earlier model to gauge what this means in terms of mm, but it certainly looks bigger and more legible. As Journe fans will know, the big date is patented and relies on two concentric discs carrying the numerals on the same plane. A bevelled frame adds depth to the date aperture located at 11 o’clock.
One of my favourite crown designs is Journe’s crown, which I erroneously referred to as a garland crown, but is officially described as a silk-rope motif. Whichever way, it is now larger and obviously easier to manipulate. The three-position crown can be used to wind the watch in position 0 by turning it clockwise; to correct the date in position 2 by winding it anticlockwise; to correct the moon in position 2 clockwise; and finally, to correct the time in position 3.
Sweeping across the lower left quarter of the dial is the moon phase aperture that is larger and now features a tinted sapphire disc. The remaining elements on the dial are similar to the 2018 edition, although the lovely Arabic numerals are blue to match the railroad minutes track and the sharp blued steel hour and minute hands and the small seconds hand with its circular counterweight. Speaking of which, have you noticed how the numerals at 4 and 9 are reduced – not truncated – in size to accommodate the power reserve and small seconds? It’s these kinds of detail that give the watch its engaging personality. Despite the different shapes on the dial – the rectangular date window, the fan-shaped power reserve, the bosom-shaped moon phase, and the round small seconds – the overall effect is one of great balance, the signature of great design.
The central part of the dial features a crisp Clous de Paris guilloché pattern contrasting with the elegant snailed interior of the small seconds counter and power reserve (0 to 120) along with the raised F.P.Journe Invenit et Fecit at 3 o’clock.
Gold octa calibre 1300.3
The beautiful automatic movement, crafted in 18k rose gold, harnesses energy produced by the slightest wrist movement with its unidirectional 22k rose gold rotor decorated with a barleycorn guilloché motif. The rotor is mounted on ball bearings and is slightly off centred. The movement, which is just 5.95mm thick, beats at a frequency of 21,600vph and delivers an autonomy of 160 ± 10 hours. The finishings are superlative with circular Geneva stripes, hand-polished bevel, circular graining on the base plate, polished screw heads with chamfered slots, polished and chamfered steel parts…you get the picture.
Availability and price
As mentioned, the F.P. Journe Automatique Lune is available in 40mm and 42mm in either platinum or 18k red gold with a choice of bracelet or leather strap. The model we covered here is the 42mm platinum Automatique Lune which currently retails for CHF 48,100.
More information at FPJourne.com.