July 5, 2019
by Rob Nudds
With 50 watches to choose from in the Only Watch 2019 lineup, standing out in a crowd that size takes some doing. One of the most well-received pieces comes from F.P. Journe. As a prototype for a new, hyper-complicated model, the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue watch is also estimated to fetch one of the highest sums at this year’s auction, due to be held on November 9th, in Geneva, and officiated by Christie’s.
F.P. Journe and the Only Watch auction have a long history. This year marks the third contribution by the famed Swiss maker. Supporting the Monegasque Association against Muscular dystrophy, which raises funds for research into Duchene Muscular dystrophy is clearly very important to a brand that has consistently impressed with its offerings since its first appearance in the Only Watch auction catalog back in 2015.
The last two pieces from F.P. Journe, the Tourbillon Souveraine Bleu watch (2015), and the F.P. Journe Split-Seconds Chronograph, tantalum case (2017), were both stellar efforts. But this year, Journe has taken things to the next level. The F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue watch combines a whole host of functions (the number of complications in this watch is in double figures) and packs them all into a surprisingly wearable 44mm case crafted from tantalum (a seldom-used, but very hard metal that the brand has used before for its Only Watch pieces).
So let’s run through the Astronomic Blue’s features. Starting with the simplest of its many functions, the F.P. Journe Astronmoic blue tells the time, although it does not do so in a normal fashion. The sub-dial at three o’clock contains not one, but two hour hands. One of these hour hands is rose gold in color, while the other is heat-treated blue. The blue hand is considered the second timezone hand, while the rose hand is supposed to tie-in with the rose gold minute hand, which is mounted centrally in the traditional location. The seconds are displayed via a sunken, numbered disc that pokes out from the southeast quadrant of the 9 o’clock sub-dial.
The seconds disc is mirrored beautifully by a moon phase complication that nestles against the bottom left corner of the 3 o’clock sub-dial. Between these two peekaboo complications, the power reserve is located. Amazingly, despite driving so many complications, the manual wind prototype caliber 1619 in 18kt rose gold has a passable power reserve of 42 hours, generated by twin barrels.
On the second sub-dial at 9 o’clock, the hours and the minutes of sidereal time are displayed on a 24-hour dial. To go along with this interesting, but rather esoteric function, the watch features an Equation of Time indicator on the back. This shows the difference in minutes between Earth time and Solar time. Indicated by a hand, the Equation of Time display is an interesting yet rarely relied upon function.
The back of the watch also holds more treats in store. An annual calendar function with a zodiacal indicator encircles the movement. The correct day, month, and star sign are indicated by a beautiful little blue pointer that hugs the scale.
Through the case back one can also see the (almost obligatory) one-minute tourbillon, and an interesting remontoire d’egalité designed to even out the force delivered from the mainspring to the escapement (to ensure accurate timekeeping). Additionally, this watch features a deadbeat seconds complication, which is always a good conversation starter for those trying to get their heads around the nuances of watchmaking.
Returning to the dial side of the watch, the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue also has a dual day/night, sunrise/sunset indicator at 12 o’clock, that is able to show when the sun will rise and set thanks to moveable shutters that widen or narrow the curved aperture through which the “sky” is viewed.
Considering the sheer amount of functions, the watch is actually quite slim, measuring just 13.75mm thick. Given the relatively wide diameter, this watch will probably not appear too unwieldy on the wrist. But even if it did, it seems unlikely the wearer would be ashamed to be noticed. The blue chrome dial marries excellently with the orange alligator strap, which is fitted with an ardillon buckle made from tantalum. And to keep the silhouette clean, Journe has somehow managed to make all of these functions controllable with a single crown at 3 o’clock. Although for those of you who noticed the slider on the left-hand side of the case, your suspicions are correct: This watch is, quite astoundingly, also a minute repeater.
F.P. Journe watches have some serious pedigree at the Only Watch auctions. The 2015 iteration sold for CHF 550,000, while the 2017 F.P. Journe Split-Seconds Chronograph brought in an enormous CHF 1,500,000. This year, the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue watch is slated to make $300,000-$600,000, making it one of the most valued pieces at the show. Learn more about this and other mind-bending timepieces at fpjourne.com.