The original F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain “Souscription” - the timepiece that helped founder François-Paul Journe launch his eponymous watch company - is coming to the auction block this month. This timepiece is among the highlights of the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI, scheduled for June 27 and 28 at the Hotel La Réserve.
Considered one of the greatest watchmakers alive today, François-Paul Journe only made 20 pieces of this subscription model in 1999. To raise money to fund the production of these timepieces, the watchmaker adopted the subscription (souscription in French) method adopted by watchmakers of yore like Abraham-Louis Breguet that allowed patrons to pay part of the money upfront to get the project going.
Back in 1999, the introduction of the Tourbillon Souverain heralded the arrival of the enigmatic independent watchmaker. It was the first wristwatch with a tourbillon and rementoire (an archaic device that ensure a constant force of energy to the escapement). The use of these two devices together results in improved isochronism and accuracy. Suffice to say, the Tourbillon Souverain is one of the most important timepieces made in the history of high horology.
The watch scheduled for the auction block this month belongs to the celebrated Parisian jeweler Lorenz Baümer. When Journe came up with his sophomore effort – the groundbreaking Resonance model – via another subscription system, Baümer snapped that one up too. However, he made some changes to make this Resonance a unique model. Notably, the watch features a pink gold middle case with a bezel and caseback in platinum and a white gold dial.
Launched in 2000, the Resonance again was a landmark wristwatch and notably featured two balance wheels that oscillate in resonance with each other. Both these watches are now being offered at the June auction. While the Tourbillon Souverain has a pre-sale estimate of CHF150,000-300,000, the Resonance is offered with a pre-sale estimate of CHF80,000-160,000.
While Rolex and Patek Philippe dominate demand at vintage watch auctions and in the pre-owned market, observers have constantly noted an increased demand for F.P. Journe in recent years. Given the provenance, historical significance, technical ingenuity, and rarity (Journe makes less than 1,000 watches a year) of these watches, it will be interesting to see how these two fare at the Geneva auction this month.