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Review: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum

by Peter Chong on November 26, 2015

François-Paul Journe is one of the more successful independent watchmakers in the business. His early ventures began with collaboration with other greats in Sainte-Croix by founding THA (Techniques Horlogères Appliquées). This amazing technical powerhouse, now defunct after its purchase by and absorbed into Carl F. Bucherer in 2007, was founded with Denis Flageollet (now with De Bethune) and Vianney Halter (independent). He showed his first foray into independent watchmaking with the Tourbillon Souverain Remontoir d’Egalité in 1999. In this review, we feature the Chronomètre Optimum, also equipped with a similar remontoir d’egalité (constant force) which he patented in the Tourbillon.

 

The original Tourbillon Souverain Remontoir d’Egalité was interesting in its time. This was the first watch François-Paul created with his own name on the dial, and it was a technical tour de force. Made from 1999 to 2003, it had a brass movement, and a one minute tourbillon which was large, and prominently displayed. And an aperture on the dial to show the remontoir d’egalité. A world premiere in a wrist watch. The device looked like a pinion with four vanes, which jumped once a second taking 60 steps to complete one revolution. As the remontoir is discharged once every second, François-Paul later hit on the idea that he could mount a seconds hand on the pinion and create a seconds morte. Which he did in the second series of the Tourbillon Souverain Remontoir d’Egalité wihch featured his now famous rose gold movements.

This remontoir d’egalité is the basis of the Chronomètre Optimum in our review today.

 

F. P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum. The watch is very refined, exceptionally finished.

F. P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum. The watch is very refined, exceptionally finished.

 

F.P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum

 

François-Paul Journe tells of the story of the inspiration behind the watch which is fascinating. He was once asked by a friend in the late 1980s, before he had seen any success, if he had to design and build a watch for himself, what would that be. His reply was that he would make a watch which looks extremely simple on the dial side, but with exceptional chronometric performance. He would equip it with double barrels, a remontoir d’egalité, and a special escapement. But at that time he did not have the the know-how and resources to begin work. His reply resonated in his mind, and with later successes, he started on this project. He began in 2001 and it took some eleven years for this watch to be perfected so it could be introduced in 2012.

 

Detail of the dial. The choice of color combination is exceptional. The elements are beautifully finished, and the watch looks very beautiful.

Detail of the dial. The choice of color combination is exceptional. The elements are beautifully finished, and the watch looks very beautiful.

 

As we handled the watch, we found it to be very refined, and the design is very elegant and accomplished. This is a far cry from the initial watches by Journe: the two iconic timepieces were the Tourbillon Souverain Remontoir d’Egalité and the Chronomètre à Résonance.

The original watches had a raw, “made in a garage” look and feel which is at the same time both charming and full of character as well as being rough, and unrefined. François-Paul had set about refining the looks and finishing of his products consistently from the early days, and the watch which was presented to us was magnificent. The design DNA that had already been established in the early days were carried through.

The details well thought out, the finishing very nicely done, and the visual impact is powerful, and very beautiful. The choice of markings, subdials and colors are exceptional.

 

F. P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum in rose gold. The constant force escapement and a special, patented direct impulse escapement.

F. P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum in rose gold. The constant force escapement and a special, patented direct impulse escapement.

 

Elements which seemed tentative in the early watches, like the off-centered, bolted on subdials carrying the hour, minute and seconds hands, now look refined and harmonious. As was the rope design on the crown, which used to be a device to cut and dice one’s fingers when winding, now is elegant.

 

The movement: Journe Caliber 1510

The beauty is on the dial side, but the magic happens on the movement side.

 

The Journe Caliber 1510 is manually wound and made entirely of 18K rose gold.

The Journe Caliber 1510 is manually wound and made entirely of 18K rose gold.

 

As with all second generation Journe watches (first generation feature brass movements), the movement plates are in solid 18k rose gold. This gives the movement a very impressive look as it glows beautifully. The anglaged bridges and cocks gleam magnificently. The movement layout is very nice and harmonious, and is equipped with a double barrel mainspring. Gold chatons adorn 5 of the jewels and give a nice appearance.

The movement packs quite a technical punch as it features both a constant force system as well as a direct impulse escapement system.

 

Journe 1510 movement.

Journe 1510 movement.

 

The constant force system

 

 

The remontoir causes the fourth wheel to move in increments of 1 second. A hand attached to the pinion shows this progress. From the back, this hand moves counter-clockwise, making one complete revolution in 60 steps.

The remontoir causes the fourth wheel to move in increments of 1 second. A hand attached to the pinion shows this progress. From the back, this hand moves counter-clockwise, making one complete revolution in 60 steps.

We offer a wallpaper sized image of the above measuring 1920pixels x 1200pixels for free download on the condition that the image is not to be modified in any way and that it is only for personal, non-commercial use only. Click here if you accept the conditions.

 

From our examination and analysis of the gear train of the Chronomètre Optimum is arranged such that the remontoir mechanism, visible in the photograph of the movement above is directly driven. The JLC Geophysic True Second also feature a remontoir, but it is not there to provide a constant force to the escapement, but to drive the seconds morte mechanism, so it can be placed out of the power flow. In the Lange 31, the remontoir is in the power flow and provides a constant force to the escapement. And as well in the Chronomètre Optimum, it can only work as a constant force system if it is in the power flow.

 

The remontoir system.

The remontoir system. The labels are as follows. 2 is the Second wheel driven by the twin barrels. 3 is the third wheel, hidden below, whose teeth meshes with the pinion of the fourth wheel, marked 4. Note that 4 carries the counterclockwise seconds hand. sw is the star wheel on which the vanes are attached on the other side. The photograph is intentionally made brighter to show the wheels below.

 

The system uses the increased power from twin barrels. The barrels drive the second wheel (marked 2), which in turn drives the third wheel (marked 3). The third wheel is partially hidden in the photograph above. At this stage, the movement is a regular wheel train. The third wheel’s teeth meshes with the pinion of the fourth wheel (marked 4). The is wheel carries the seconds hand, and its teeth meshes with the pinion of the star wheel (marked sw). The Star wheel is blocked by a yoke (not visible) which is connected to remontoir spring (marked s). The spring is in the power flow and is wound by the third wheel. As it is wound, it nudges one arm of the yoke. The yoke thus advances according to the power from the train, and once every second its tooth drops over one of the star wheel’s teeth, causing it to release. the star wheel jumps until the yoke catches the next tooth in line. This action causes the fourth wheel to move by one increment, creating the seconds morte.

On the dial side, this star wheel’s pinion is attached to the four vanes to use air damping to prevent the hand from jitter.

The fourth wheel’s pinion meshes with the setting wheel which also meshes with a second fourth wheel on the other side. This is seen in the diagram in the escapement section below. The setting wheel is the one in the center of the diagram, shown with its cock. The second seconds wheel then drive the escapement system.

 

The direct impulse escapement system

The escapement is rather special as well. Called the Echappement BHP or High-Performance Bi-axial Escapement has also been patented (patent EP11405210.3). Detailed workings are shown in the patent document attached.

 

The escapement and remontoir assembly. Shown in the centre is the fourth wheel which is driven by the third wheel of the drive train. Up to this wheel, the train is quite standard. Note to the right of the drawing is the remontoir assembly. And to the left is the escapement. Photo by F.P.Journe

The escapement and remontoir assembly. Shown in the centre is the fourth wheel which is driven by the third wheel of the drive train. Up to this wheel, the train is quite standard.
Note to the right of the drawing is the remontoir assembly. And to the left is the escapement.
Photo by F.P.Journe

 

The escapement is based on the echappment naturale invented by A.L. Breguet, but uses a two wheel direct impulse escapement without any oils. The direct impulse escapement starts on its own, and is claimed to be able to be operated over 50 hours without loss of amplitude.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum has a very positive, very high quality build feel to it. The case, dial, hands are very beautifully designed, and nicely finished. On the dial side it looks like a nice, 3 hand watch, simple and refined. As François-Paul had intended it to be.

 

On the wrist, the watch exudes class, and discreteness. It feels solid, and with a nice heft.

On the wrist, the watch exudes class, and discreteness. It feels solid, and with a nice heft.

 

All the magic and the technical artistry happens on the movement side. The innovative use of a remontoir system to provide constant force is admirable. Though the concept is quite simple, the adjustment and attention to detail required for the remontoir to work properly requires a high level of skill and precision. The addition of a special escapement with direct impulse double wheel system which requires no lubrication makes it even more horologically spectacular.

The movement is impressive and resplendent in rose gold, and is beautifully finished. The classical finnisage and detailing is addressed par excellence. And looks magnificent.

Priced at S$125,200 in rose gold.

 

F.P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum Technical Specs

Movement

Calibre 1510

Manual winding / 27 turns of crown

18K rose Gold

Dimensions of the Movement

Overall diameter: 34.40 mm

Casing-up diameter: 33.60 mm

Overall height: 3.75 mm

Height of winding stem: 2.395 mm

Diameter of stem thread: S1.20 mm

Balance

Chronometric balance with inertia weight

Hair spring with Phillips curve

Mobile stud holder

Free sprung

Pinned GE stud

Frequency: 21,600v/h (3Hz)

Inertia: 10.10 mg x cm2

Angle of lift : 58°

Amplitude : 0h dial up : > 260°

24h dial up : > 280°

Main characteristics

1 second remontoire at 11h, very light in Titanium and balanced

Natural dead beat second on the back of the movement

High performance Bi-axial escapement with arbor and wheels in Titanium, functioning without oil, (inspired by that of A.L.Breguet created in the XVIII Century)

2 mainspring barrels in parallel

2 position crown

Time adjustment in position 2

Indications

Off centre hours and minutes

Small second at 9h00

Power reserve at 6h00

Large dead beat second on the back

Power reserve

70 hours

Finishes

Circular graining on baseplate

Geneva waves on bridges

Polished screw heads with chamfered slots

Pegs with polished rounded ends

Case

Platinum or 18K red Gold

Diameter : 40 or 42 mm

Total height : 10.10 mm

Dial : Gold and Silver guilloché clous de Paris

Number of parts

Movement without dial : 240

Cased up with strap : 264

Jewels 44

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