Quick Take

The 2019 edition of Only Watch has been announced, along with a slew of watches produced by makers who are supporting the auction. For the uninitiated, Only Watch is a biennial charity auction, held to support the Monegasque Association Against Muscular Dystrophy, and in particular research into better treatments and hopefully, a cure for the most severe form, which is Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy is a congenital disorder, in which muscle tissue gradually weakens over time due to an inability to form proteins necessary for healthy muscles. Only Watch was co-founded by Luc Pettavino, whose son Paul passed away from complications of Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2016, at the age of 21. This year's auction will take place, not in Monaco, but rather, at Christie's Geneva, and the donated watches will be shown as part of a world tour, organized by Christie's, which will launch in Monaco at the Monaco Yacht Show.
François-Paul Journe has been a consistent supporter of Only Watch. In the 2015 edition of the auction, Journe created the F. P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Bleu, with a tantalum case (tantalum is a rare, hard metal – between hafnium and tungsten on the periodic table, if you're interested) which has the advantages of being tough, highly corrosion resistant, and which also has an unusual blue-grey luster. As Cara Barrett mentioned in our 2015 coverage, Journe had used the metal before, in the Chronomètre Blue Byblos Limited edition. The Tourbillon Souverain Bleu ended up being one of the top performing lots at Only Watch 2015, hammering for CHF 550,000 from a buyer in the room, and was followed by an even more spectacular result in 2017. For that edition of Only Watch, Journe created a split seconds chronograph (again in a tantalum case) which went for CHF 1.15 million, making it one of the most expensive watches ever made by an independent watch brand or maker.
The Tourbillon Souveraine Bleu, Only Watch 2015
The use of tantalum, as well as the introduction of new-to-Journe complications, is a general theme for F. P. Journe at Only Watch, who seems to regard the event – at least on the strength of the 2017 offering – as an opportunity to not only support a very worthwhile cause, but also to introduce new technical innovations as well, which not only generates considerably more buzz than, say, a new dial treatment, but also makes for a more substantive and interesting auction. The new timepiece is highly complex. The case, as was true of Journe's last two Only Watch pieces, is tantalum, 44mm x 13.75mm; it's hand-wound, and has indications on both the front and back of the watch. On the front, there are two separate dials; on the left, sidereal time is shown (sidereal time – literally, "star" time – is the time reckoned from the movement of stars rather than the Sun, and is about four minutes shorter than a solar day). On the right, two hands show the hours in two separate time zones; there is a central minute hand.*
Journe Split-Seconds Chronograph, tantalum case, Only Watch 2017
The watch also has a combined day/night, sunrise/sunset complication, in a sector at 12:00; the amount of time the Sun is visible (corresponding to sunrise and sunset) is determined by shutters at each side of the opening. This is a relatively rare method for showing the sunrise/sunset times; historically, it was often used in clocks (longcase and mantel clocks) and it was also used by Patek Philippe in its Star Caliber 2000 pocket watch (we were able to view a prototype of the latter, at Patek Philippe's factory in Geneva, back in 2013). Running (deadbeat) seconds are shown in a small sector adjacent to the sidereal time dial, and in the same position but adjacent to the dial for the hours, is a moonphase display; the power reserve is at 6:00.*
The Astronomic Blue, Only Watch 2019
On the back, there is a very beautifully placed hand for the Equation of Time (the number of minutes' difference plus or minus between mean solar time and true solar time) along with a combination of an annual calendar, and indication of the position of the Sun in the Zodiac (both indicated by a pointer carried on a peripheral track around the caseback). The view from the back also shows a remontoir d'egalité (a constant force device which is something of a signature for Journe) as well as a one-minute tourbillon, the Equation of Time cam itself, and a centrifugal regulator at the upper right adjacent to the month of December – this gives away the fact that on top of everything else, the watch is also a minute repeater.
Remarkably, all indications can be set by the crown; there are no pushers or correctors in the case flanks (which seems impossible given the number of indications, but so sayeth François-Paul). Oh, and oui, bien sûr, the movement is made of 18 karat rose gold.
Initial Thoughts

It goes without saying that this sort of thing is going to have serious F. P. Journe collectors and enthusiasts absolutely salivating. This is not without reason. François-Paul Journe's watchmaking has tended to arouse strong feelings among the relative few who can collect at this level, and who have the specific tastes to which his watches appeal and the Astronomic Blue is probably going to be no exception. Journe's approach to complicated watchmaking has as much to do with an intelligent and tasteful integration of all the information presented, as it does with mechanical complexity per se, and despite the number of complications it contains, the Astronomic Blue manages to avoid that most serious potential pitfall of complicated watches – what George Daniels described as their tendency to look like gas meters.
Indeed, the approach Journe has taken to the design of the Astronomic Blue is one in which balanced design and legibility are critical elements – the watch is instantly recognizable as an F. P. Journe timepiece and it is at the same time, to anyone used to looking at his watches, immediately apparent that this is a new design. One of Journe's great talents is his ability to create a wide range of watches which all use a common design language, yet which manage to achieve an individual identity in each iteration. The use of astronomical indications on the back of the watch actually gives the watch greater interest as an object to examine (at one's leisure in one of the several libraries in one of one's several mansions, one imagines, given the likely cost of the watch) and is an echo of the tendency makers of highly complex pocket watches had in centuries past, to make logical use of both the recto and verso of the watch in the interests of legibility (something which makers of such watches, including Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, of course continue to do to this day). The estimate for the watch given by Only Watch is $300,000 to $600,000 although I think no one would be surprised to see a unique piece from Journe, at this level of complexity and desirability, go for quite a bit more.
The Basics

Brand: F.P. Journe
Model: Astronomic Blue
Diameter: 44mm
Thickness: 13.75mm
Case Material: Tantalum
Dial Color: Blue chrome
Strap/Bracelet: Orange alligator with tantalum pin buckle
The Movement

Caliber: Prototype caliber 1619 in rose gold
Functions: Hours in two time zones; minutes; moonphase; sidereal time; day/night indication; sunrise/sunset indication; power reserve; annual calendar with Zodiac indication; Equation of Time
Power Reserve: 42 hours
Winding: Manual
Additional Details: One minute tourbillon with remontoire d'egalité and deadbeat seconds.
Pricing & Availability

Price: Estimated at $300,000 - $600,000
Availability: On the block at Only Watch in Geneva, November 9, 2019
Limited Edition: Unique piece.*
See more at OnlyWatch.com.


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