Why I Gave It: A Pair Of Élégantes By F.P. Journe
In an earlier article, I described the tortuous process involved in selecting a suitable gift for MrsGaryG. On the occasion of that article, an important “birthaversary,” it resulted in giving her a watch she’d admired for some time, the Petit Skull from Fiona Krüger.
But the Skull wasn’t the first piece I’d given MrsG; in fact, when she was recently asked whether she was a “watch collector,” she wasn’t able to recall a single watch in her possession that she’d actually paid for herself. And, yet, her portion of the safe deposit box seems to be filled with a variety of watches!
I’ll come back later to how, and why, this possibly could have happened, but for now let’s focus on two watches that I’ve happily added to MrsG’s collection: a pair of Élégantes from F.P. Journe.
In the beginning
Well, perhaps it wasn’t quite the beginning, but it was the long-ago time of Christmas, 2015 that MrsG’s first Élégante, the red gold version, made its way into our household. It seems like yesterday that Journe introduced the first references of his ladies’ watch, but that had been even earlier, in January of 2014, and MrsG had been able to take a good hard look at both the dressy gold version and the more utilitarian titanium/rubber-encased pieces before she opted for the former.
A few conversations with my friends at F.P. Journe’s New York boutique, and the watch was on its way.
Why she loved the F.P. Journe Élégante – and why I gave it
As you might imagine, there’s a substantial overlap between why she loved the watch once she had it in hand and why I thought it would make a great gift.
First and foremost, there’s the matter of winding the watch – or more specifically, not having to wind it.
It’s almost a cliché that women don’t like to wind and set their watches. But there is often at least a kernel of truth behind each cliché, and for MrsG the act of pulling out a watch crown and cranking it around to wind her watch is akin to a few minutes of torture.
Happily for her, Mr. Journe’s vision of “what women want” incorporates a substantial battery behind the striped plate you see in the photo above. It powers a quartz movement whose processor sits beneath the small heart on the circuit board saving power by using a patented two-rotor motor to drive the main hands separately from the small seconds.
If worn continuously, the watch would run for 10 years between battery changes. But if you know this watch, you know that there’s more: the small aperture at 4 o’clock reveals a sensor that stops the movement of the watch’s hands when it is no longer on the wrist, returning them to the now-correct time (by spinning them either forward or backward, whichever is closer) when the watch is placed back on the wrist.
MrsG likes that feature, and I also thought it was unbelievably tricky from a technical perspective. Both of us love to see the hands returning majestically to the current time, and I love both the ingenuity required to conceive of such a mechanism and the real-world benefit that results: left unworn, the watch would function for an astonishing 18 years before the battery needs to be replaced.
Anyone can make a quartz watch, but only F.P. Journe was clever enough to create an electromechanical timekeeper that its owner needs to tend to perhaps three or four times during her lifetime of ownership.
And it’s beautiful! The gold version is particularly, shall I say, elegant with its black sapphire crystal dial, gold hands, and contrasting dial surrounds; and the distinctive, trademarked Journe tortue case is immediately recognizable.
Its beauty is also practical, with other features including a quick-release rubber strap that in many lights looks more like satin but that wears like iron and has “FPJ” waffling on the reverse to get a bit of air to the wearer’s wrist.
Finally, the Élégante is a true independent timepiece: for those like MrsG and myself who have had the privilege to meet and know the leading figures on the indie watch scene, there’s real joy in owning one of their watches for oneself, and particularly in MrsG’s case one that isn’t simply a recycled men’s watch but a design that was seemingly conceived with her in mind.
As much as MrsG loved her first Élégante, over time she became a bit uncomfortable wearing it at her work as a veterinarian. And when recently at our local Journe dealer we came across a titanium piece with its blue rubber bezel and case sides, luminous white dial, and easily readable small seconds, she remembered why she’d almost opted for that version in the first place.
With this gift, I did violate one of the cardinal rules of giving: MrsG specifically said, “Don’t buy this watch for me!” However, as I’d already picked it up the week prior to her giving me that directive, I figured I’d take the risk and follow through with the gift. And now we’re both glad that I did.
While the gold version is quite legible, there’s nothing quite like a white, luminous dial with dark, blued hands to ensure that you’re always able to get an exact fix on the time.
Does it make sense to own the same watch in two different case and dial colors? It’s really not that unusual: for instance, there are folks out there who make a point of owning pieces like the Patek Philippe Reference 5070 chronograph or A. Lange & Söhne 1815 chronograph in all of the different metals.
To MrsG, owning two different Élégantes makes even more sense as the changes in tone and color between her two pieces are so dramatic that they seem completely different on the wrist. For the day, there’s the surgically crisp titanium, white, and blue.
And when evening rolls around, the titanium watch can go back into the safe, and its red gold alter ego is ready to play.
So, why do I give them?
Who doesn’t like giving gifts to his or her spouse? I suppose that there are some out there who don’t, but I’m certainly not among them.
But why watches when there are so many other things in the world and MrsG didn’t start out as a watch fanatic? I’ll confess that there’s at least a bit of it that has to do with indulging my own desire to buy more and more watches.
Over time, though, it’s become much more about having shared interests and experiences with my wife, and building shared friendships together with her with the wacky collectors and inspiring creators who populate our little community.
It’s wonderful having MrsG as part of the gang, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Is the F.P. Journe Élégante right for you?
MrsG seems quite convinced that this is a watch for her – times two – but should you go on the hunt, either for yourself or for a loved one? I’d say yes if the prospective wearer:
- Has an affinity for independent watchmaking and is looking for a somewhat accessible entry point.
- Enjoys the functional cleverness (and resulting practical benefits) of the Élégante’s technical features.
- Would love to contemplate the look of this piece as it edges out from under her cuff.
On the other hand, there may be better choices if the potential owner:
- Has a strict aversion to electromechanical watches, no matter how they are dressed up.
- Prefers more of a unisex or even masculine look in wristwear (in which case the more recent 48 mm titanium version of the Élégante may actually appeal).
- Is a devotee of mainstream brands from major manufactures.
As always, I’ll look forward to your thoughts in the comments section, both on these watches from F.P. Journe and on the topic of gift-giving more broadly!
For more information, please visit www.fpjourne.com/en/collection/elegante-collection/elegante-40mm-titanium.
Quick Facts F.P. Journe Élégante 40 mm in titanium
Case: 40 x 35 x 7.35 mm; titanium flat Tortue case decorated with cloisonné rubber inserts and two rows of diamonds
Dial and hands: luminescent sapphire crystal dial center with outer dial screwed steel elements; blued steel hands
Movement: electromechanical Caliber 1210 with patented two-rotor motor, dedicated processor, and low-consumption features; standby after 35 minutes motionless with restart and automatic time-setting when watch is put back on
Autonomy: 8 to 10 years in daily use; 18 years in standby
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds
Price: beginning at CHF 10,600
Production years: 2014 onward
* This article was first published on June 29, 2019 at Why I Gave It: A Pair Of Élégantes By F.P. Journe.
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I don’t remember anything about diamonds and batteries in the famous Prince song.