F.P. Journe released the Centigraphe Souverain to mainly support the ICM Institute in Paris, contributing to medical research to help fight brain and spinal cord disease. In the process of doing so, Francois-Paul Journe has created a mechanical chronograph unlike any that has ever been made before. The Centigraphe sports three beautifully-designed sub dials that indicates elapsed times from a 100th of a second to 10 minutes. Each sub dial has a time scale in red and a tachometer scale in black.
The tachometer scales allow for the conversion of time units for 1 kilometer into speeds ranging from 6 km/h to 36,000 km/h which is way above the escape velocity of a rocket hitting into low level orbit.
The release of the Centigraphe Souverain by F.P. Journe has created a fair share of debates mainly because it is not deemed possible to split 1 second into 100 with a 3Hz movement. Technically speaking, it would require a 50Hz movement or an equivalent of 360,000 vph to consistently split 1 second into a 100th. With a 3Hz movement, one can technically split a second into six parts and this is where the Centigraphe Souverain is unique whereby it is able to stop anywhere between the six parts.
Case, Dial and Hands
The Centigraphe Souverain comes with a choice of platinum or red gold casing that measures at 40 mm. The round casing of the watch is well finished and one unique feature of this timepiece is the position of the buttons in the case band. The chronograph can be started, stopped and zeroed by a rocker positioned at the 2 o’clock region in the case band, instead of the usual buttons on either side of the crown. This ergonomic design of the casing is patented by F.P. Journe.
The dial of the timepiece features three sub dials; the one-second chronograph at the 10 o’clock position, 20-seconds chronograph at the 2 o’clock position and the 10-minutes chronograph at the 6 o’clock position. For the one-second chronograph, the hand revolves around the dial in one second on a scale marked in hundredths of a second. With that, it is theoretically possible to time an object moving at a lightning fast speed of 36,000 km/h with the tachometer on the watch.
On the dial at the 2 o’clock position, the hand would revolve once every 20 seconds on a time scale divided into seconds. The external tachometer scale indicates speeds. Lastly, on the third dial, the 10-minutes chronograph at the 6 o’clock position features a similar tachometer scale that has speeds corresponding to 20-second markers.
As mentioned earlier, the Centigraphe Souverain is uniquely differentiated with its ability to split a second into a 100th purely with a 3Hz movement. This is only made possible with the mechanism’s unique configuration which is also patented where the chronograph is completely isolated from the timekeeping function. This would mean that the balance amplitude is unaffected when the chronograph is running.
The 100th of a seconds hand is being released by the watch’s escapement, allowing it to make one revolution of the dial per second. A wheel mounted on the escape wheel releases the arbor to which the hand is fitted. The seconds are driven by the going train from the barrel, and by the energy of the chronograph train, as transmitted by the barrel arbor. In order for the timepiece to stop anywhere along the dial, F.P. Journe vertically disengaged the pinion of the 100th of a second hand from the escapement, which presses on the pivot shank and acts as a brake.
The hands of the 100th of a second counter, the 20 seconds and the 10 minutes hand are driven by 2 different wheel trains, themselves driven by the centre of the mainspring (system patented for the Sonnerie Souveraine). In addition to that, the 1-second counter and the 20-seconds counter are driven by 2 wheel trains on either side of a single intermediate wheel driven by the barrel arbor. Another separate train of wheels, also driven by the barrel arbor, drives the 10-minutes hand. The barrel also features a maintaining power system to ensure that driving force does not decrease during winding and in doing so, the mainspring supplies at least 80 hours of power reserve without chronograph and 24 hours with the chronograph running.
We like the design of the casing and the finishing of it. The complexity of the dial is inevitable given that this timepiece was designed with a purpose to measure speeds up to 36,000 km/h thus the need for three different sub dials to have precise measures. The blued tear-shaped hands are beautiful and complements very well with the colour of the dial.
The F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain features the Calibre 1506 movement, an in-house movement that is built on a solid gold movement plate and comprises a total of 50 jewels. This movement operates at a frequency of 21,600 vph (3 Hz) and features a power reserve of up to 80 hours without the chronograph and 24 hours with the chronograph running.
The main feature of this movement is the isolation of the main time train from the chronograph train. In terms of finishing, the movement has circular stripes on its bridges and we see circular graining on the baseplate of it which is reasonably well-finished.
The F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain is a timepiece filled with complexities; different wheel trains to drive different hands and having to isolate the main time train from that of the chronograph train. On the whole, this timepiece is functionally impressive given its ability to measure extreme speeds of up to 36,000 km/h but then again, one would question about the practicality of owning such a timepiece, do I really need to measure such high speeds?
We think this is an outstanding piece given its functions but perhaps feel that efforts can be re-diverted to other aspects of the watch such as its aesthetics or movements to captivate a larger crowd besides race enthusiasts.