Watches

Unsung Vintage Heroes: F.P. Journe Élégante

F.P. Journe Élégante

The watch industry has spent the past 70 odd years trying to convince us what a sports watch is. We often picture a sports watch as typically oversized with chunky crowns, rotating bezels and chronographs. Obviously, for a sports issue, it is no surprise that my first thought was to pick some old Minerva pilots watch or snazzy 70s dive instrument with a beautiful manual wind chronograph calibre.

Surely nothing from a brand known for crafting exquisite haute horology dress watches? Certainly nothing in quartz? The human brain is excellent at dealing with cognitive dissonance, feeding ducks with the kids in the morning and roasting a chicken for lunch a few hours later. In the same way, Instagram and forum posts will rave about the chronometric benefits of remontoirs, hand polished vertical clutches and silicon escapements, but yes, we all know that a silicon circuit will count those precious seconds better…

Francois Paul Journe’s approach to quartz however has to assuage some of the doubts about batteries in ‘real’ watchmaking. The calibre 1210 electromechanical movement was in development for the best part of a decade and marries F.P. Journe’s mechanical expertise and high-level finishing, to a Swiss microprocessor with an ingenious energy saving mechanism. The result is one of the most beautiful quartz calibres ever produced, finished in the brands signature rose gold, and proudly visible through the sapphire crystal case back.

Still battling some of our innate mechanical snobbery, the Élégante’s clever movement design incorporates a micro-rotor at 4:30, visible through the dial that tracks the wearers motion. By pausing the hands after 35 minutes of inactivity and switching the timekeeping to its internal micro-processor, Journe has not only managed to eke out the power reserve to an impressive eight to 10 years but also provides us with an amazing dance of the hands every time it ‘wakes up’.

F.P. Journe Élégante

While another tonneau shaped brand has opted for intricately suspended tourbillons to achieve incredible shock-resistance in their calibres, the near solid-state approach taken by the Élégante is simpler to achieve, easier to maintain and arguably more suited to purpose?

Despite the name, I absolutely maintain this is a sports watch, with its Titanium case fitted to a super supple, water-proof rubber strap, the Élégante is rugged, comfortable, and light enough that it won’t slow your tennis serve.

F.P. Journe Élégante

The last piece of the puzzle for a sports watch is typically a high visibility dial, normally in black, with chunky luminous hands and bold hour markers. Interestingly, Journe has achieved maximum legibility while managing to keep his razor thin hands by presenting an entirely Super-Luminova covered dial for supreme contrast.

To around half of Journe collectors, the Élégante was a smash hit, to the wider market, it is still massively underrated, unlike the Résonance or Chronomètre Bleu, it is almost never written about and rarely splashed across social media. There’s a little Luddite in all of us, thanks to the ‘real watch-making’ marketing of the post quartz crisis Swiss brands, but if there’s ever an argument for electronic time-keeping having a ‘soul’ surely it’s this?

More details at F.P. Journe.

About the author

Chris Youé

Watch specialist at Phillips Auction House in London, Chris comes from a long background in watch retail, wears a Zenith Daytona and plays a Fender Jazzmaster in Firemist Silver (with a heavy right hand)…

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