F. P. Journe Souverain Tourbillon Vertical

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The Journe collection have always had a tourbillon in the lineup. This year, they added a new, and perhaps unique tourbillon to the line: the Journe Souverain Tourbillon Vertical. For this review, we take a hands-on detailed look at the platinum version.

François-Paul Journe and the tourbillon

Fascinated by the tourbillon since his youth, François-Paul Journe began to make his first watch when he was 20 – entirely by hand. It was a tourbillon pocket watch. In 1991, he created his first tourbillon wristwatch, and in 1999, he launched the first Tourbillon Souverain with remontoire d’égalité in wristwatch form, sold by subscription.

In 2003, a new generation of the Tourbillon Souverain was released with a dead beat second hand derived from the remontoire. And the movement was manufactured in rose gold.

F. P. Journe Souverain Tourbillon Vertical

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this emblematic wristwatch, F.P .Journe has developed a tourbillon whose cage is vertical, rather than the traditional horizontal cage.

“The tourbillon is dead. Long live the tourbillon!”

FrançoisPaul Journe, January 2019

Thus, the new wrist watch was released. The distinctive feature is the tourbillon at the 9 o’clock dial position, with the usual sub dials for the hour/minutes, the jumping seconds and a power reserve indicator.

F.P. Journe Souverain Tourbillon Vertical

The big talking point is the vertical tourbillon. Possibly unique in the industry.

What’s up with the vertical tourbillon?

This vertical tourbillon with remontoire d’égalité and deadbeat second makes one revolution every 30 seconds. This is faster than the usual time of one minute, and visually interesting.

The unique proposition of the vertical tourbillon. The finishing seen here is quite noteworthy. While excellent on the sides of the conical opening of the dial and on the flawless finish on the bridges, the cage shows rough finishing on the end plates and brushed arms which we find a bit out of character with a watch of this caliber. We do note that this watch was taken right FP’s wrist and is a prototype.

Turning the tourbillon cage seemed like an exercise just to be different. But is it? As it turns out many people wear their watches with deployant buckles and others prefer tang buckles. Depending on which you chose, your watch is oriented differently when you set it down for the night.

“I designed this vertical tourbillon so that the tourbillon’s functions remain constant whether the watch lies flat or is placed on its side, and the amplitude is subsequently the same, whether with a deployant clasp lying on the side or with an ardillon buckle lying flat”.

In a regular tourbillon, with the deployant buckle, crown up will have the cage in a vertical position. This is the position of a cage of a tourbillon in a pocket watch inside the owners pocket. But a wrist watch with a tang buckle will be placed dial up. In this resting state, the cage will be in a horizontal position, effectively making the spin of the tourbillon ineffective. This is why some pocket watches with tourbillons are supplied with a stand to allow it to remain in a vertical position when out of the owner’s pocket at the night stand.

But in the Tourbillon Vertical, in either case, the tourbillon remains in a vertical position, and is effective in balancing out the differential effects of gravity on the balance.

The case, dial and hands

The case is the standard Journe Souverain case, with long elegant lugs and a round case, with pronounced lips for the upper and lower bezels. The case is 42mm and is rather thick for a Journe. It measures a height of 13,6mm, compared to only 9.9mm on the regular Souverain Tourbillon. But this is a necessity, as it needs the height to allow the tourbillon cage space to spin.

The case is rather senseous. Curved at the right places, it allows the case to hug the wrists and is rather comfortable for the majority of wrist sizes.

The dial proper is in rose gold and decorated with a “Clous de Paris” guilloche. As is typical for a Journe, the hour and minutes are displayed on a sub-dial at the 3 o’clock position. But for the first time in a Journe, this sub-dial has an enamel face. The subsidiary jumping seconds indicator is also on a sub-dial with an enamel face. Both sub-dials join to form a figure of eight shape, and has rounded polished sides.

The remontoire driven tourbillon retains the seconde morte function, causing the seconds hand to move in 1 second increments. Interestingly, the dial has a cutout under the power reserve indicator, presumably to allow access to the power reserve mechanism. But the joinery is visible over the clous de Paris style dial texture.

Surrounding the cage, a cone-shaped mirror-polished ring concentrates light, reflecting it into the tourbillon cage. A second reflector is placed behind the tourbillon on the back of the movement to throw even more light onto the cage.

The typeface of the hour and minute markers are typical Journe, and have an unusual elegance of the Belle Époque. The hands are also the signature Journe hands, short, somewhat stubby, but elegantly tapered from one bulbous end to the tip.

Overall the watch looks quite elegant. The dial’s features extend this graceful aesthetics further.

The movement

The movement is the new Journe Caliber 1519, executed in rose gold. The movement plates are finished with circular fauss côtes. The movement is purpose built for this watch, and is suitably impressive with fine finishing befitting the lofty ambitions of the Souverain Tourbillon Vertical.

The movement as it is visible from the open case back shows the remontoire arm and spring which can be observed to load and discharge once every second.

Visible on the back are the remontoire arm and spring, which can be seen to load and discharge once every second, moving the jumping seconds hand one step, and also the tourbillon cage one step. The bridges and the remontoire mechanism seem to constructed in stainless steel, and is highly polished to a mirror finish.

The sides of the dial cutout are chamfered into a conical shape and black polished to reflect light into the tourbillon. Another similarly finished plate is below the cage is used to bring light into the system. Note also the bridges are also black polished. And the Phillips overcoil on the balance spring. Also note the sides of the sub-dial enamel carriers are rounded and finished in a high polish.

The competitive landscape

The landscape for a vertically placed tourbillon is absolutely barren, as the Journe is probably unique. The price is a rather high at S$359,600 for this version in platinum, but with a unique watch with little competition for the same features, one can pretty much set the price.

On the wrist, it looks the part…and fits well.

The closest is perhaps the Panerai  LoScienziato Luminor 1950 Tourbillon Titanio. Priced at S$204,500 in a sintered titanium case, the setting of the tourbillon is different. Arguably, the Panerai solution is far more complex, as the cage is flipped on its axis with each rotation. However the Panerai does not feature a constant force mechanism, and as a result, no jumping seconds.

Another possible comparison might be to one of the inclined tourbillons from Greubel Forsey. An example might be the Greubel Forsey Tourbillon 24 Secondes Vision (in red gold €322,000, approximately S$ 499,000), so a bit more expensive. But we can also take as an example the Greubel Forsey Differential d’Egalite (similarly priced at CHF 265,000 in a white gold case, LE 33 pieces) which features an inclined balance, but no tourbillon. The Greubel Forsey also has a constant force system which feeds the jumping seconds display, but the execution is different.

Or perhaps one might consider the standard Souverain Tourbillon. This previous version, now discontinued was S$242,500 for plat, S$237,000 for red gold. Almost identical feature wise except for the tourbillon which is the classical one instead of being placed vertically.

Concluding thoughts

The F.P. Journe Souverain Tourbillon Vertical is perhaps unique in the placement of the tourbillon cage, which as the name indicates, is placed vertically. It solves a problem which is perhaps not the most pressing, but at the same time, we applaud François-Paul for thinking totally out of the box and able to surprised the jaded high horology world with an interesting and perhaps even exciting watch.

And a very nice watch at that. The lines of the case and lugs are very elegant. An air of beauty that is repeated with the dial and hands. The finishing is beautiful, and finely executed. Though as we noted in the caption under the tourbillon cage detailed photograph, there are minor inconsistencies. Perhaps due to the prototype we photographed.

But overall, this a high end watch, appropriately priced, and targeted at the top. Given these aspirations, which we think it meets well, it will be a nice piece to grace their wrist and a talking point for those who can muster the asking price. And personally I like it, and endorsed it as one of the highlights of this year’s Geneva shows.


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