The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain is a special watch. And not only because it is the work of one of the most desirable independent watch brands on the planet. Although that is, of course, a key part of its allure. This is the timepiece that connects F.P. Journe to the rest of the world. The piece that crosses over into the mainstream if you will. You don’t have to be a hardcore watch nut to appreciate the beauty of its construction. Or the elegant simplicity of its design. And let’s not forget its exceptional wearability. Speaking from personal experience, the Chronomètre Souverain is not only a good watch to own. It’s a great one. Keep reading to find out why.
A (Very) Brief History Of The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain
If you’re new to the world of independent (indie) watch brands, allow me to paint you a picture. I’ll use an analogy from another world I’m very familiar with; tech. Indie watch brands are like start-ups in a tech world dominated by big players like Amazon. Except in the watch world, those big players are brands like Patek and AP. To survive and thrive, these start-ups have to be more innovative and skilled at what they do.
Once in a while, a “unicorn” such as Airbnb or Zoom emerges and catches all the attention and limelight. In the watch world, F.P. Journe is such a “unicorn”. In fact, it is often regarded as the best known “indie” brand in the watch making space. Its phenomenal commercial success has made it the darling of watch collectors. I would even go as far as saying that owning an F.P. Journe timepiece would be a dream come true for many watch lovers.
The entry level F.P. Journe mechanical watch model is the Chronometre Bleu (CB). (Affiliate link). At least it should be, based on the list price. The reality is though that the CB is out of reach for most watch collectors. Annual production is around 100 or so pieces and most (if not all) are already spoken for. It’s no surprise then that prices on the secondary market and at auction are about 3-4 times retail. So, by default, the Chronometre Souverain has become the bona fide entry level to the kingdom of F.P. Journe.
Don’t Underestimate The Chronomètre Souverain
This is not to suggest the Chronomètre Souverain is somehow ‘less than’ other Journe pieces. Quite the opposite in fact. In this writer’s mind it is nothing short of a masterpiece. Which is why it won the Best Men’s Watch Prize at the GPHG in 2005. A 2008 interview with WatchTime Magazine asked Mr. F.P. Journe to name his favorite creation. He replied, “I’d have to say the Chronomètre Souverain is my favorite, since it is the watch I wanted to do from the beginning”.
The “Souverain” collection made its debut in 2005. It might surprise you to learn that this was also Journe’s first watch with a central time display. As the name indicates, the focus of this collection is chronometric precision. A sort of tribute to the traditional chronometers of old. Yet the design is contemporary. Showing the genius of the watchmaker behind it. Large, central hour and minute hands. Power reserve at 3 o’clock. And seconds indications at 7 to 8 o’clock. Everything you need and nothing you don’t. All in an easy to read yet still distinctive format.
A Blank Canvas
You can gauge the success of the model from the fact it’s been in production the longest. This is very much a foundational piece for Journe. Yet, in many ways the Chronomètre Souverain has also served as something of a blank canvas. Its beautiful form becoming the base for a variety of special editions. Each with its own unique character.
The choice of calibre for the Chronomètre Souverain though has not changed over the years. Each model in the family features the same stunning, manual wind Calibre 1304. Yet, there are many versions of the dial, case and strap/bracelet produced over the last 16-17 years. The variations include the following:
- Case size: 38mm, 40mm
- Case materials: platinum, rose gold, stainless steel and titanium
- Dial materials: silver, rose gold, mother-of-pearl and Damascus steel
- Dial making technique: guilloche and raised numerals
- Bracelet/strap: leather, gold bracelet and platinum bracelet
The above is not an exhaustive list. Rather it’s intended to give the reader a sense of the variety that exists in this model. Now, let’s take a look at some of the most stunning Chronomètre Souverain models produced. Including one from my personal collection.
The First Chronomètre Souverain – 2004
The likely first Chronomètre Souverain model ever, was case number “No 001-CS”. Presented in a 40mm platinum case, it features heat blued hands. And a lovely guilloche pattern on the center of the dial. It recently appeared at the “Geneva Watch Auction XIII” in May 2021. The final price was an incredible $181K, 7.5 times the original list price. It is remarkable to know that this exact model is still currently in production.
Anniversary Tokyo Boutique – 2005
F.P. Journe boutique editions are always sought after by collectors. And this unique version of the Chronomètre Souverain is no exception. It forms part of a special, five-watch anniversary collection. Launched in 2005, to mark the 1-year anniversary of the Journe Tokyo boutique. This is first time we see the Chronomètre Souverain with a polished titanium case. While the dial is in a striking ruthenium-coated silver. With contrasting rose gold hands and dial markings. With production limited to only 20 pieces this is a very rare watch indeed.
“FP to George Daniels my Mentor 2010” – 2010
In 2010, Mr. Journe gifted his mentor – and master watchmaker – George Daniels, a special timepiece. A unique, Chronomètre Souverain in a platinum case. A symbol of the admiration of one great contemporary watchmaker for another. On the balance bridge he inscribed the words “FP to George Daniels my Mentor 2010“. We saw this piece at the Christie’s “An Exceptional Season of Watches” auction on May 22, 2021 in Hong Kong. Although a highlight, few had predicted the eye-popping final price of US$418K. A new record for a Chronomètre Souverain timepiece.
Gold Dials with Raised Numerals – 2014
For the 10th anniversary of the Chronomètre Souverain in 2014, Journe imagined a new dial design. Quite different from the traditional guilloche silvered dials seen thus far. For a start, these new dials are hewn from a single block of gold. With the hour markers carved in relief from this same block. Hence the name “raised numerals”. These models are available today as part of the Classique Collection.
Stainless Steel Case – 2015
Up until 2015, the Chronomètre Souverain was available in two case sizes; 40mm and 38mm. For whatever reason though, Journe decided to end the production of smaller cases. Not only for this model but across the board. As a farewell to 38mm, the brand released a set of five of his most iconic watches in stainless steel cases. Production encompassed a total of 38 sets, a nod to the 38mm case size. Needless to say, the use of steel, the low quantities and marking the end of an era make these watches sought-after today. If you prefer the smaller case though you can still find them on the secondary market. Here’s a lovely example in rose gold. (Affiliate link.)
Havana Dial – 2017
In 2017, a special warm-colored dial matched with caramel alligator strap became available. These exotic “Havana” CS pieces were instant hits with collectors.
Dubai Boutique Edition – 2020
This stunning green beauty celebrated the opening of F.P. Journe Boutique in Dubai in 2020. Somewhat preceding the green dial trend, Journe chose the color as it is a symbol for fortune in the Middle East. The initial offering sold out but they do come up on the secondary market from time to time. Here’s a great example of one currently for sale. (Affiliate link.)
Boutique Collection Chronomètre Souverain Nacre
I set my sights on getting a Chronomètre Souverain model as my first Journe piece in 2019. In the end I decided to go for the Boutique Collection CS Nacre with the rose gold dial. I placed an order with an AD who was also an e-Space partner and had access to boutique edition models. It took seven months before my piece finally arrived.
Let me tell you, it was worth the wait. What a stunning beauty!
First of all, this is a watch in which the dial, case and movement are all made of rose gold. This was likely unprecedented in the watchmaking history. The case profile is quite slim and streamlined with a thin crown. While the dial layout and the hands are elegant and classy with unmistakable F.P. Journe design DNA. An outer chapter ring in pink mother-of-pearl captures the light nicely. And the center area of the dial features classic guilloche patterns. The movement is like a miniature 3-D sculpture that is exquisitely decorated. Yet it is also a high precision timing machine.
It is a treat to check out the engravings on the caseback and the movement. With the help of a 10x loupe, here is the information I found.
Engravings on the caseback:
- “FP. Journe”
- “Inv. Fecit”
- “Chronomètre Souverain”
- “No 2-6xx CS” – the “2” indicates 1000 here, so this piece is number 16xx in the CS production queue. This would suggest an annual production volume of about 100 for all the CS models since 2005.
- “AU750” – symbol for 18 karat gold
Engravings on the movement:
- “F.P. Journe”
- “Invenit et Fecit”
- “Chronomètre Souverain”
- “Adjusted in 6 positions” – the industry standard is 5 positions.
- “Geneva Made” – “Swiss Made” is more typical.
- “18K Gold Movement”
- “Cal. 1304”
- “22 Jewels”
As with all my watches, I measured the timing accuracy with a mobile app called WatchTracker. The result is -0.8 seconds per day measured over 26 days. The manual wind movement delivers a power reserve of 56 hours. So, I’ve fallen into an easy cadence of one wind every two days.
That power reserve may seem low for a modern, manual wind watch. And indeed, one may wonder why two barrels only deliver 56 hours of autonomy? The answer is that the goal was a more consistent delivery of power. So only part of the energy stored in the barrel is actually used. As a chronometer this timepiece gives preference to accuracy above all else. And as the numbers show, it back up that promise with performance.
F.P. Journe – King of the Indies
F.P. Journe is a titan and “unicorn” of the independent watchmaking scene today. There is strong interest from collectors and media alike. And the prices at auction and on the secondary markets have gone through the roof. Many people have wondered at the reasons for F.P. Journe’s success. Well, there’s a lot one can learn by looking at this entry level model that has endured for 17 years and counting.
Let’s assume production of about 1,700 pieces, which have made 1,700 collectors very happy. In each of these pieces, we see dedication, innovation, passion and craftsmanship. The Chronomètre Souverain is a foundational model for F.P. Journe. With its iconic dial and movement, it is the quintessential Journe piece to own.
If you’re looking to add one to your collection, please check out the excellent selection on offer from our retail partner WatchBox. (Affiliate link.)
Technical Specifications: F.P. Journe Chronomètre Souverain
- Case: 40 mm x 8.6mm – platinum or 6N gold – see-through caseback – scratch resistant sapphire crystal on both side – waterproof to 50 metres.
- Dial: whitened Silver or whitened guilloché Silver – hands in rhodium plated steel, blued steel or 5N gilt steel – running seconds on sub-dial – power reserve indicator.
- Movement: Calibre 1304 – in-house – manual-winding – 56-hour power reserve – movement in 18k rose gold.
- Price: Varies depending on case metal.
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.