By Seth Tilli
When you start talking about innovation and great engineering in the world of horology, the name Francois-Paul Journe is sure to come up. F.P. Journe is driven by the desire to innovate and create something new, a watch or movement design that has not been done before - even by him, so all of his watches are new inventions designed and executed by him and his team at his manufacture in Geneva. The company tagline is “Invenit Et Fecit”, translated to “Invented and Made”.
As one grows their collection, certain complications are always on the list and annual calendars are one of the most useful and intricate complications. While they might not get the media attention of their leap year-tracking cousins, annual calendars are an amazing feat of engineering. The only separation from a perpetual calendar is that an annual calendar must be advanced by one day on March 1st. The rest of the year, as long as you keep the watch movement wound, it will never need an adjustment. This particular watch, the F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier, was the very first wristwatch to include an annual calendar with a large date indication as well as a power reserve of more than 120 hours. That’s right, FIVE DAYS of power reserve from a single mainspring. More importantly, as with all F.P. Journe watches, it is specifically designed to be highly accurate throughout the duration of those five days.
Fortunately, the F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier is equipped with a sapphire crystal exhibition case back so, you don’t have to just talk about the merits of this innovative movement, you can turn the watch over and actually see it in all of its 18k gold glory. Yes, the movements fitted in F.P. Journe’s watches are made from solid red gold and are beautifully decorated. The first thing you notice on the back of the watch is the large, 22k gold, guilloche decorated, bi-directional winding rotor. This rotor is also uniquely mounted off-center to enhance its winding efficiency on the wrist. All of the bridges are decorated with circular stripes and the base plate has received a perlage treatment resulting in a beautiful dance in different lighting.
With all the technical prowess we just discussed, one has to wonder, “Well what is it like to actually wear this watch?” This is where things get even better because the proportions of the case are absolutely perfect. It sits low and flat on the wrist, which for a platinum watch is an amazing asset as it reduces the center of gravity, resulting in more comfort since it doesn’t want to topple over and bang into the back of your hand. Now, most all high-end watch brands go out of their way at some point to make an “ultra-thin” watch. For F.P. Journe, being able to make a highly complicated and technically superior watch, includes making one that is relatively thin. The case of the Octa Calendrier is 10.6mm thick. For an automatic watch with an annual calendar complication and a five day power reserve, 10.6mm is very thin. For comparison, the Patek Phillippe reference 5146 -also an automatic annual calendar- is 11.2mm thick, yet has only 45 hours of power reserve.
All F.P. Journe watches come with a beautiful hand-made crocodile strap or matching metal bracelet. This particular model has the strap and it is one of the nicest straps I’ve ever worn. What stands out the most is how thin it is, allowing it to conform instantly to your wrist. It is secured by a platinum tang buckle and curved quick-change spring bars. The curved spring bars ensure a tight fit against the case and the quick-change feature really should be on all straps. It’s just so easy.
Ultimately about 95% of the decision to buy a watch is going to be based on the dial. All the technical and innovative merits a watch may have can easily be wiped away by an ugly dial. The dial of the F.P Journe Octa Calendrier is beautiful. Much like the case, it is perfectly proportioned and provides a lot of information in a clean layout, devoid of clutter. In the time I spent with this watch I found myself staring at it a lot... ok, an inordinate and perhaps inappropriate amount of time. It's stunning, it’s perfect. If you’re someone who appreciates fine watchmaking and you also want to fly under the radar, this may very well be the piece for you. In terms of quality craftsmanship, innovation, and wearability, it doesn’t get much better than the F.P. Journe Octa Calendrier.