Highlights from Christie’s Art of F.P. Journe Auction: 3 Watches Sold for Over a Million Dollars!

On May 12, Christie’s held The Art of F. P. Journe auction at the Hotel des Bergues in Geneva, with an incredible collection of 40 rare timepieces belonging to just one owner.

This was a very rare auction of watches from a single independent watchmaker. In 2012 Sotheby’s organized a historic sale of Georges Daniels’ collection and Ineichen held a small auction Timepieces and Art: Konstantin Chaykin in 2022, and there were 14 lots, 7 watches and 7 sketches by Konstantin Chaykin himself.

We should welcome such auctions because they both open new opportunities for the auction market and help to publicize the creativity of independent watchmakers and watchmaking art.

F.P. Journe watches have attracted the attention of the collector community in recent years. Some amazing results have been achieved at auction, including the spectacular FFC Blue Only Watch 2021, which sold at Christie’s for a staggering CHF 4,500,000. Seven-figure sums at auction are nothing unusual for F.P. Journe, but the consistently high results are a sure sign that the brand has taken the lead among independents in the secondary watch market.

F. P. Journe ‘Souscription’ Tourbillon Souverain No. 2/20, circa 1999 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

The Art of F. P. Journe auction feature three lots that exceeded the million-dollar mark. Two of them were models from the earliest period of the brand, a period that is particularly appreciated by collectors: the platinum ‘Souscription’ Tourbillon Souverain No. 2/20 and the platinum ‘Pre-Souscription’ Chronomètre à Résonance. This wasn’t a big surprise.

F. P. Journe ‘Pre-Souscription’ Chronomètre à Résonance, No. 040/00R, circa 2000 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

The third ‘millionaire’ was the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain in platinum with solid platinum bracelet and jade hardstone dial.

F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain with solid platinum bracelet and jade hardstone dial (photo courtesy Christie’s)

Here, the surprise was simply the fact that this extremely rare watch appeared at auction at all. Watches with a jade dial are very few and far between. I have never seen or even heard of a jade dial F.P. Journe watch, and I follow the brand closely.

Asian collectors often have a reverent attitude to jade and perhaps this contributed to the activity of the auction participants.

F. P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain ‘Ferrari red’, No. 096-CT, circa 2010 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

When we talk about possible candidates for ‘‘millionaire’ watches at this auction, I favored three models. The first – and I suspect many readers will agree – is lot 2032, a Centigraphe Souverain in platinum, unofficially nicknamed ‘Ferrari red’. A watch from a series of three Centigraphe Souverain prototypes with a ‘Ferrari red’ dial and the Ferrari logo at 12 o’clock, which were made especially for Jean Todt, was sold at Christie’s a year earlier for 1,974,000 CHF.

Unfortunately for many of us, the deal between F.P. Journe and Scuderia Ferrari didn’t materialize. Therefore, the other Centigraphe Souverain ‘Ferrari red’ watches, of which only 20 were made according to Christie’s, don’t have the Ferrari logo on their red dials.

Nevertheless, these watches have both undisputed historical interest, are visually very appealing and have at least an indirect connection to the legendary sports car brand. Lot 2032 sold for 529,200 CHF, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this, or any other of the 20 red-dialed Centgraphes, will surpass this price Centigraphe Souverain ‘Ferrari red’ Jean Todt in the coming years.

F. P. Journe third-generation Tourbillon Souverain ‘Large Dial Screws’, No. 087/01T, circa 2001 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

The second potential ‘millionaire’ I anticipated was lot 2037, a third-generation platinum Tourbillon Souverain No. 087/01T with large screws on the dial, which sold for 768,600 CHF. When it comes to watch design I’ve always liked large screws, especially if the watchmaker took the trouble to flat polish the screw head and finish its slot with polished anglage.

In real life, large screws usually don’t justify a price tag of over a million francs, but here they are an indication of the most prized early version of the third generation Tourbillon Souverain. To be more precise, these versions should be referred to as generation 3.1 and 3.2. For the collector, this microscopic difference means a lot. For example, the generation 3.2 Tourbillon Souverain No. 228/03T went for 504,000 CHF at this auction. That’s 264,000 CHF less for a watch from the same series, of which there were only 140 pieces made and came out only two years later!

F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain ‘Régence Circulaire’, No. 669-TN, circa 2016 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

Finally, my third potential ‘millionaire’ prediction was lot 2012, a Tourbillon Souverain Ref. TN, the so-called ‘Tourbillon Nouveau,” No. 669- TN. This watch, described by Christie’s (not surprisingly) as ‘one of the most visually remarkable and incredibly rare versions,’ is part of the Tourbillon Souverain ‘Régence Circulaire’ edition of only 18 pieces.

And as Christie’s highlighted, although F. P. Journe announced a limited edition of 20 pieces, including lot 2012 there are only 10 of the models with a pink gold case and engraved white gold dial, the other examples have a pink gold case and engraved pink gold dial.

The ‘Régence Circulaire’ is F. P. Journe’s very rare foray into the genre of decorative métier d’art watches, and the series is a continuation of the other two métier d’art editions, Tourbillon Souverain ‘Labyrinthe’ (Ref. T) and Tourbillon Souverain ‘Régence Losange’ (Ref. TN ). Unfortunately, there is no information about the limitation, or the number of pieces produced.

It’s also not clear what inspired François-Paul to make these designs, only general information about his admiration for the style of the British ‘Regency’ era of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

This makes me curious because in other similar cases, much more detail is revealed – right down to the names of the collectors who inspired F. P. Journe to develop the complication or the friend who, over breakfast, persuaded François-Paul to use the experience of Abraham-Louis Breguet for his subscription watches.

F. P. Journe Platinum Triptyque Vagabondage set, No.47/69, circa 2006, 2010 & 2017 (photo courtesy Christie’s)

Another noteworthy lot from The Art of F. P. Journe auction is lot 2008, a Platinum Triptyque Vagabondage No. 47/69, which presents all three platinum examples of the Vagabondage series, all bearing the same case number.

The appearance of this trio isn’t a big surprise in itself, as all Vagabondages were primarily offered to customers who had already purchased earlier models in the series, and the proposed watch bore the same case number, as was the custom at F. P. Journe. However, this is a very rare occurrence and, to my knowledge, this is the first time the Vagabondages trio of this type has been offered at auction

For more information on the prices for all the lots in Christie’s The Art of F.P. Journe auction, please visit https://www.christies.com/en/auction/the-art-of-f-p-journe-30196/?page=1&sortby=lotnumber

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