Crown Affair

The Astronomic Souveraine watch is F.P. Journe’s most impressive horological achievement yet.

I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful crown. And in the world of crowns, F.P. Journe is in a league of its own. Case in point, the F.P. Journe Astronomic Souveraine, the most complex watch François-Paul has ever created, which we celebrated during its U.S. debut in Miami at a NovelaWatch Collectors Club event co-hosted with F.P. Journe. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

The complexity is astounding, with 18 functions and complications in a wearable 44mm case. Turning convention on this head, the movement is 18K gold, and the case is stainless steel. The complications contain everything you’d expect from a high complication watch and a few more. Tourbillon and minute repeater, of course, but as the name Astronomic implies, it beckons you to look at the stars above. There is the sidereal time dial, which allows the observation of the stars, and at the top of the dial a blue aperture shows the sunrise and sunset in a unique curved window following the sun’s path, with metal shutters at each end which lengthen or shorten the days depending on the time of the year. On the reverse are an equation of time and a full annual calendar encircled by the signs of the zodiac. This is where the tourbillon can be admired. It’s a beautiful watch for your friends to see and an extraordinary 2nd astronomical marvel on the back just for you.

How did we get to this astronomical marvel? Well, François-Paul Journe’s son, Charles, sketched a watch with a curved opening for the sun’s path; a unique idea, and François-Paul thought it was really cool. Six years of research later, the Astronomic was presented to the world at the charity auction in Monaco known as “Only Watch,” which has become a gathering for the “Who’s Who” of the watch world. It also promptly sold for the record amount of $2 million.

The Astronomic Souveraine is much like all the watches François-Paul has produced since he founded F.P. Journe in 1999. Everything is “Invenit et Fecit” proudly displayed on the dial — Latin for “invented and made” at their central Geneva headquarters — and includes the movement, the case, the dial, and the crown.

Like all entrepreneurs, it was not always easy for F.P. Journe. When your business plan consists of no market research and only making what you love, the commerce part of the endeavor could be a tough propostion to many. Fortunately, for the many who believed in the project, their faith has been rewarded not only with a beautiful statement on their wrist but an excellent investment, too. F.P. Journe now ranks as a standout independent brand, with secondary market prices many multiples above retail. That is, if you can find one.

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