No Secret: The Journe Society Chronometer From F.P. Journe
Back in the day – by which I mean the early 2000s, when the leading online watch forums were gathering momentum – the world of watch enthusiasm and collector interest was very much organized by brand.
While there were general forums that allowed for commentary on topics of broad interest, the real action was in the brand-specific subpages (and in the case of The PuristS on the Independent Watchmaking page as well).
To an extent, the world of in-person watch interaction mirrored this, with now-dormant brand-specific interest groups such as the Lange Owners’ Group (LOG) and the online-offline hybrid Hour Lounge and Hour Club, focused on Vacheron Constantin watches, as a couple of notable examples.
While these days community building in the enthusiast realm seems increasingly the domain of brand-agnostic organizations such as RedBar, there remain old-school organizations whose members are devoted to the watches of a single maker.
One such group is the Journe Society: a small, low-profile group of enthusiast-owners of the watches of F.P. Journe.
The Journe Society: a club and a watch
The Journe Society isn’t a secret, but the group and its members do like their privacy to the extent that when I signed on as a founding member in 2016, I was required to sign a statement saying that I would “keep all sensitive information of The Society and its members confidential.”
So, you’ll be hearing no revelations here about who the members are, club governance, or the bizarre secret rituals practiced at club meetings – primarily because there’s really nothing that fascinating, and certainly nothing scandalous, to tell.
I can say that, like other brand-specific enthusiast organizations in the past, the Journe Society is not part of the F.P. Journe organization or brand, but rather a fully independent group. Membership is by recommendation of existing members and requires current ownership of several Journe watches, so it’s definitely a collectors’ organization.
It should come as no surprise that at some point early on it became clear that development of a “club” watch would be more or less a foregone conclusion.
Other clubs such as the Lange Owners’ Group had commissioned their own private edition watches in the past, and Mr. Journe has over the years been quite generous to both his loyal collectors and within the broader watch-related world.
For examples of the latter, we can look to the annual Young Talent Competition organized by Journe with the support of the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie and The Hour Glass, as well as Journe’s donation of phenomenal pieces, each more mind-blowing than the last, to the biennial Only Watch charity auction.
As for the former, we have the example of 2014’s issuance of the T30 Historical Anniversary Tourbillon and T10 10 Years Anniversary Tourbillon, both limited series that were allocated to long-time Journe collectors and sold at quite reasonable prices (in my opinion, at least) relative to their quality and significance, as a “thank you” to those who had supported the brand over the years.
The history of club-commissioned watches has had something of a checkered past. My observation on what typically happens in a group purchase is that everyone gets a vote (or even worse, a veto), there’s a strong desire on some parts to “do something really different,” and the resulting watch turns out to be some sort of lowest-common-denominator compromise.
I will raise the cloak of secrecy just enough to express my happiness that with the Journe Society Watch there were none of those sorts of hijinks. Strong club leadership worked directly with Mr. Journe, who had his own suggestions, and after a quick poll of the membership on one (and only one) small option the final design was put into place.
The result is very much to my taste and just different enough to make it special without being outrageous. As you may have noticed by now, the case material is a “straw gold” that is somewhere between yellow and white and that varies in color tone and intensity depending on the nature of the surrounding light.
The hands and printed indices are a nicely complementary cream color, and the dial itself is a mid-dark blue that adds some visual punch without having the overt flash of the chromed blue dial of Journe’s Chronomètre Bleu.
The base for the movement is Journe’s Caliber 1304 from the Chronomètre Souverain (CS), and as you’ll see in the photo below the movement of this watch is actually labeled with the Caliber 1304 designation.
The big functional difference between this watch and the standard CS is the presence of a crown-adjusted moon phase indication, added by Mr. Journe as a tribute to the “lunatics” who make up the Journe Society.
Cosmetically, the movement is re-labeled from “Chronomètre Souverain” to the English-language “Society Chronometer,” and in a special touch each watch comes from the manufacture with the owner’s name as well as the Society designation engraved into the back bezel.
Disclosure: the actual watch bears my full last name as an inscription; in the images of the reverse of the watch shown here I have Photoshopped out all but the first letter of my last name.
There is something pleasant about receiving a package containing a watch made specifically for you! There was somewhat of a wait to endure until enough members committed to purchases to make practical the making of the second batch of Society Chronometers to which mine belonged; but that only increased the excitement when the package with my initials arrived on my doorstep.
For me there’s a lot to like about this watch. The unique color combination helps it to stand out from the others in my watch box, and the aesthetics are classic Journe from the elegantly thin case to the pink gold movement.
The movement finishing is what I’d call “classic Journe” as well: nothing fancy but perfectly serviceable and more than appealing to the naked eye.
As far as quibbles go, while this watch does wear quite comfortably I do wish that there had been an option to have the watch in a 38 mm diameter case instead of its 40 mm; then again, having endorsed the “strong club leadership” model that led to the design of the piece, I can’t be too critical as I’m sure almost every other member would have had his or her “one little thing” to contribute to the design had it been invited.
And while I absolutely love the presence of the moon phase and its “lunatic” connotations, in some light conditions the dark blue sky and flat gold moon seem to recede into the darkness of the moon phase recess rather than being plainly visible as you can see in the straight-on photo of the watch earlier in the article.
All things equal, I’d also have liked the color of the “sky” to be a closer match to the dial’s hue.
All in all these are pretty modest complaints, I’d say. As for the exclusivity of the piece, I have mixed feelings: for me it’s a lot more about having something cool to share with friends with similar interests than it is about having something that others don’t have.
And I also realize that there are many people out there who wouldn’t be interested in this watch or in joining a club organized around enthusiasm for Journe watches in the first place!
As a longtime Journe enthusiast and collector, I’m delighted to have this one in my collection. And if there are club-related pieces or buddy watches in your watch box, I’d love to hear from you about them in the comments section. Happy wearing!
Quick Facts F.P. Journe Society Chronometer
Case: “straw” gold with front and rear sapphire crystals; 40 mm diameter; original owner’s name engraved on back bezel
Dial: matte blue with textured center section and circular grooved seconds subdial; ivory-colored steel hands and printed indications
Movement: manually wound Caliber 1304 modified with the addition of moon phase indication; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, power reserve approx. 56 hours, pink gold plates and bridges
Functions: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; moon phase adjusted via crown
Limitation: manufactured in small batches based on subscriptions by Society members
Price: not disclosed
Production years: 2017 to present