Warning, Iceberg Dead Ahead! F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie Reviewed by Tim Mosso

by Tim Mosso

We’ve heard the chorus of conventional wisdom; buy a brand’s iconic watch if you’re going to own just one from that label. At Rolex, it means a Sub. At Omega, a Speedy Pro, and at AP, it’s the Jumbo. It works with small independents, too. That’s why the F.P. Journe-curious are steered towards a Chronomètre à Résonance or a Tourbillon Souverain.

There’s just one problem with the conventional wisdom; you wind up owning something that feels like a check in the box at best or generic at worst. Icons can be prolific, and lots of people will have one identical to yours.

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

And that’s where niche editions like today’s high jewelry F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain come into play. By the brand’s own account, it was available between 2004 and 2015, and by my estimation, it’s unlikely that a dozen left Geneva annually – and perhaps less than half that.

It’s still Journe’s iconic watch, and it’s anything but generic.

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

It’s also extremely brash and polarizing because this is an unapologetic men’s watch laden with enough ice to shutter school districts and close shipping lanes. There’s an emotional trigger factor inherent in a watch that combines unarguable horological value and historic significance while copping an old-money-be-damned attitude fit for Hublot or Richard Mille.

Feel free to fight over this one in the comments.

Pencil sketch of the prototype F.P. Journe Tourbillon from 1991

The haute joaillerie Tourbillon Souverain is the direct heir to F.P. Journe’s famous 1991 prototype, a massive pencil rendition of which sits on my desk. As the first wristwatch with a tourbillon and a remontoir constant force device, it was world premiere in waiting until the production version launched with 1999’s souscription series of the first 20 units.



In 2004, the first generation of tourbillon with remontoir gave way to the second era of Tourbillon Souverain. Compared to the earlier watch, the solid rose gold movement added opulence and heft; the original remontoir was harnessed to provide a deadbeat seconds dial. Volumes increased and sales accelerated. A GPHG Aiguille d’Or helped feed the fire.

While remaining exclusive in the broad sense, the Tourbillon Souverain of this era remained a best seller through its 2018 swan song. Finding one isn’t hard, but finding an exceptional variant is a feat.

Folding buckle of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

312. That’s how many diamonds grace the Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie – hereafter, TSJ. The action starts on the clasp buckle, which is special both for its 18 baguette diamonds and the fact that not many Journes have a folding clasp.

Diamond-set folding buckle of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Marching inward, we encounter a 40mm platinum case – a big size at the time – and 93 baguettes graded for matching color and clarity.

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Navigating the downward curves of the lug flanks demands a flowing fan of angular diamonds cut with precision to inspire awe; this is no 47th Street special. Zero gaps exist.

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Finally, the dial is 201-gun salute to the jeweler’s vocation. Solid gold dials on Journe watches aren’t unusual, but a white gold disc beaming with brilliance like this commands attention. Both for its coruscating glow and impeccable rows of concentric stones, this dial should earn a tip-of-the-hat from the gem skeptics in the crowd.

You don’t have to like it, but there’s no denying that this machine is mightier for having harnessed masters of two trades rather than watchmaking alone.



If you’re prone to frostbite, beware; there’s a full-bracelet variant of this model with over 300 additional stones on the links themselves. “Disney on Ice” has nothing on that one.

Despite the loss of at least some structural platinum, the watch still impresses with its weight on the wrist. Metal mass lost to gem-setting is recouped through the folding clasp, and, after all, this is a watch on which every major assembly is composed of gold or platinum. Fit is excellent given Journe’s traditionally compact proportions.

Until the 2019 Tourbillon Souverain, the model was known for its slim (10.2mm) and trim (48mm lug-to-lug) dimensions. Even the optional 40mm “large” case left open the door to female collectors with a taste for robust fits and bigger watches.

Gold movement of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Mechanically speaking, the TSJ is an ornate but orthodox Tourbillon Souverain. The basic idea is that a manual-wind watch with a 42-hour power reserve has been optimized for regularity over a 28-hour span. François-Paul Journe himself explained this to me in 2017 as the true source of his tourbillon’s timekeeping potential. He referenced the tourbillon as a beautiful anachronism that’s akin to breaking a bone and then rectifying the mistake with the remontoir, which he likened to a medical cast on the fracture.

Remontoir (left side) of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

While the tourbillon accomplishes comparatively little on its own, the remontoir, a twentieth-century innovation, permits ultra-precise regulation of the TSJ. During the 28 hours that the mainspring has the energy to drive the remontoir mechanism, the escapement of the watch receives a constant amount of force through each impulse of the balance by the anchor.

Thanks to that regularity, adjustments made to the balance and tourbillon assembly need only be optimized for the unwavering impulses of the lever escapement within the tourbillon.

The remontoir acts as a gatekeeper with its own escapement upstream of the tourbillon but downstream of the mainspring barrel. A linear spring with a locking mechanism and a separate pallet jewel loads energy from the barrel and releases it towards the tourbillon once per second.



Six-position adjustment of the tourbillon, an exacting free-sprung architecture, and an overcoil hairspring – rare for Journe – are the final meters meant to ensure the TSJ lives up to the “chronomètre” boast on its dial.

What happens to the movement between hour 28 and hour 42? Good question! The Tourbillon Souverain deactivates its remontoir in the interest of keeping the watch running.

The moment the remontoir cuts out, the dial-side seconds hand switches from dead beat seconds (seconde morte) to conventional sweeping seconds. For this reason, Journe recommends that the watch always be wound at the same time daily. This 24-hour routine will keep the constant force system engaged on a full-time basis.

Screwed subdial of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Journe’s watches are rife with as many peculiarities as the man himself. Details once controversial – notably, the dial-side assembly screws – now are considered brand hallmarks and widely copied. The very face of this iconic model has inspired imitators; Journe reportedly was not amused by David Candaux’s 2017 debut model dubbed “1740 ‘The First 8,’” which amounted to a Journe tribute watch in all but name.

Blued steel power reserve indicator at the top of the dial of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

And all Journe watches dubbed “chronomètre” feature a quirky reversing power reserve indicator that reads “zero” when the watch is fully wound. It’s a reference to vintage marine chronometers that would have worked the same way given the need to wind them at precisely 24 hours elapsed since the last winding. Finally, the combination of knurling and twin dimples renders Journe’s the world’s most recognizable unsigned crown.

Jewel sink of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

Frankly, the TSJ also exhibits a few concessions to series production. Journe’s primary factory on Geneva’s rue de la Synagogue employs electro-spark erosion, CNC milling, and first-pass mechanical execution of bridge bevels. On the TSJ, all large jewel sinks appear to include off-centered machining remnants adjacent to the pivot stones.

Winding ratchet of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

The ratchet and crown wheels exhibit a perfunctory level of solarization and tooth polishing fit for a mass-produced Jaeger-LeCoultre or IWC product. There are no inward beveled creases or outward beveled points besides those on the tourbillon cage itself.



18 karat gold movement of the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

While this and other Journe movements are made of solid gold, that element has been calculated for effect at the expense of the kind baroque finish applied by rivals, including Romain Gauthier, Laurent Ferrier, and Lang & Heyne. To be fair, Journe’s annual production of under 1,000 mechanical watches per year – there are more Élégantes – prevents the kind of lily-gilding that Gauthier or L&H apply.

Many of Journe’s distinctive sub-dials consist of stamped brass rather than genuine reductive guilloche. This is evident on the TSJ depicted here, but it shouldn’t eclipse the fact that the main dial of this watch and most of Journe’s other dress models are made of solid precious metal.

This is no shame, secret, or scandal. For most of its 25-year history, Montres Journe has been known for offering extraordinary levels of original innovation, distinctive design, and surprisingly reasonable retail prices. Current waiting lists and aftermarket pricing make it hard to remember the recent past when Journe watches were considered relative values. Nevertheless, that history of relative cost controls is at the root of the automated procedure inherent in the production process.

Critically, these built-to-price qualifiers apply to standard F.P. Journe watches, but not today’s subject. The Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie is a halo model for a brand that sells almost nothing but halo models. It’s as special as the discontinued Journe Sonnerie Souveraine or current Astronomic Souveraine; the production gap between these monsters and the jeweled tourbillon isn’t as large as one might imagine.

F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie

With acres of excruciatingly cut and meticulously placed precious stones, the TSJ provides Dufour-level exclusivity for those who want to play in the Journe universe.

For more information, please visit www.fpjourne.com/en/collection/joaillerie-joaillerie/tourbillon-souverain-set-diamonds

Quick Facts: F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Joaillerie
Edition: Very few from 2004; sales continued into the 2020s despite end of core TS model
Reference Code: TJ
Case: 40mm in platinum, 10.2mm thick, 48mm lug-to-lug; 93 baguette gems; 30-meters WR
Clasp: Single fold in platinum (outer buckle) and white gold (swingarms): 18 baguette diamonds
Diamond Mass: 23 carats prior to cutting
Dial: White gold; set with 201 brilliant cut diamonds, tourbillon, power reserve indicator, small seconds; polished steel bezel for sub-dials; hour, minute, seconds dials in brass
Movement: Caliber 1403, manual wind with 42-hour power reserve, reserve indicator, 3Hz escapement, 1Hz deadbeat, one-minute tourbillon, remontoir, overcoil hairspring, free-sprung balance, 26 jewels, 18-karat rose gold bridges and plates
Functions: hours, minutes, deadbeat seconds, power reserve indicator, remontoir, tourbillon
2024 Market Value: Approximately $700,0000

* Tim Mosso is the media director and watch specialist at Watchbox. You can check out his very comprehensive YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/@WatchBoxStudios/videos.

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