Two people look at an F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu: one sees an unusual watch and continues on without a care. The other sees a piece of art that’s incredibly hard to create and therefore becomes fixated. There’s obviously a difference between these two people, but what exactly is it? What makes a person care about horology?
The second person clearly has a fascination and appreciation that the first lacks. The most likely cause for said appreciation is not only knowledge of horology, but the aesthetics of watchmaking, as well. The average person will have no clue what kind of craftsmanship and design goes into a piece of horology, not to mention high horology (also known as Haute Horlogerie). The work and craftsmanship behind the watch simply go unnoticed. If the first person were simply told how the watch was made, surely they would come to appreciate it? If that were the case, there would probably be a lot more people interested in this art. However, the unfortunate and simple truth is that people aren’t that receptive to knowledge, especially when they don’t care in the first place. If you’re reading this, though, chances are that you care to some degree.
Most people that have an appreciation for horology understand the mechanics of how a watch works and find the gears and movement (think of the movement as the engine of the watch, if you will) itself quite aesthetically pleasing. Also, the handiwork on the dial, as well as the case—practically everything from the movement, case, and dial—those who appreciate horology mainly appreciate the handiwork and aesthetics that go into all of that. The history of the brand, as well as the history that goes into watchmaking itself, is another key aspect of why people are obsessed with horology.
Let’s go back to the timepiece we introduced in this article, for example, the F.P. Journe Chronomètre Bleu. Its case is made from Tantalum. Previously known as Tantalium, it is a chemical element whose symbol is Ta; it is a rare, hard, blue-gray, and lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion-resistant. It sports a 39mm case, which I would say is just the right size; not too big and definitely nowhere near too small. With the lugs, the case is approximately 42mm in size. The dial itself is a beautiful mirror blue, hence the given name of this model, Chronomètre Bleu. This beautiful mirror blue color is obtained from seven layers of blue lacquer, each applied carefully by hand and each hand-polished to a mirror finish before the next lacquer is applied. The seconds sub-dial (located between seven and eight o’clock) is beautifully guilloched. The hands, you’ll notice, are shaped like a duck’s bill (typically referred to as “duck-billed” hands); this is a feature that is typical to F.P. Journe. This dial of theirs, which is made in-house, is probably their most complex dial. A lot of these dials, if not the majority of them, don’t even meet the commercialization standards; they end up being destroyed in order to keep the perfect ones.
Now let’s talk about the gorgeous looking hand-wound (also known as manual-wind) movement (displayed above). F.P. Journe is one of the very few independent watchmakers that exclusively uses 18k gold (for this model, 18k rose gold) for their movements (the baseplate and bridges are all made of 18k rose gold). Everything is carefully and meticulously hand-polished, hand-assembled, and all done in-house. Such is their high standard to ensure exclusivity. F.P. Journe’s motto, “Invenit et Fecit,” which is Latin for “(He) Invented it and made it,” says it all. Suffice it to say, exclusivity is what most Haute Horlogerie clientele seek. Of course, all of this comes with a pretty sizeable price tag.
When one talks about horology and what it is about, one has to take into consideration, not just the timepiece itself, not just the sheer fact that it is an instrument that is used to tell time; rather, it is of utmost importance that one takes into consideration the history, the passion of the watchmaker, and all of the manual hard labor that goes into creating it.
F.P. Journe is just one of the many independent luxury watch manufacturers that fit into the Haute Horlogerie category. All the technical aspects aside, at first glance this timepiece is already quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A beautiful mirror blue dial, easy-to-read Arabic numerals, a guilloched and carefully placed seconds sub-dial, a solid and pleasantly heavy case, a see-through case-back that displays the carefully and impeccably assembled in-house movement, this timepiece is truly a unique one. It tells the story of the passion of the watchmaker and his hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating his masterpiece. When one talks about horology and what it is about, one has to take into consideration, not just the timepiece itself, not just the sheer fact that it is an instrument that is used to tell time; rather, it is of utmost importance that one takes into consideration the history, the passion of the watchmaker, and all of the manual hard labor that goes into creating it. F.P. Journe aside, many high-end watchmakers go through the same processes when it comes to creating their timepieces. Remember all of those times you’ve seen a high-end timepiece, gawked at the price, and possibly shrugged it off? Well, now you can surely understand (and appreciate) why they are (mostly) justifiably priced that high.