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2006 Private Preview: F.P. Journe Sonnerie Souveraine

James D. Malcolmson

Watchmaker F.P. Journe expects his forthcoming grande sonnerie timepiece to be so coveted that he will engrave both the case and the movement with its owner’s name. In doing so, Journe intends to limit the pieces’ appeal in the auction market and thus discourage anyone from acquiring one for purely speculative purposes. The model will be unveiled October 24 through 28 at Cellini in New York City, and the first three or four pieces will be delivered next year.
 
Journe previously has produced musical watches, but only on a made-to-order basis. His first regularly produced piece of this kind, the Sonnerie Souveraine (about $517,000), will be consistent with Journe’s particular style, which emphasizes precision and functionality over showmanship.
Grande sonneries chime the hours and the quarter hours on a set of internal gongs, as most minute repeaters do, but they do so automatically rather than on demand. Like most grande sonneries, the F.P. Journe piece can be set to strike the hours and the quarters (in “grande” mode) or just the hours (in “petite” mode), or to remain silent. 

For this piece, Journe advanced grande sonnerie movement design with several improvements that earned him 10 patents relating to sound quality, power distribution, and the reliability of the mechanism. These modifications are not readily apparent in what appears to be a relatively simple timepiece, but they involve some of watchmaking’s most delicate production techniques.
 
The Sonnerie Souveraine will be the first F.P. Journe timepiece made of steel, a material that the watchmaker selected for its sound propagation qualities. The design’s sliding shift enables the wearer to select grande, petite, or no strike, and it directs power from the rotor to a separate spring barrel that charges the strike works. Perhaps most important are a series of fail-safe constructions that prevent the kind of catastrophic damage that other musical models commonly sustain when, for example, one tries to adjust the watch while the gongs are sounding.

Journe clearly favors subtle practical enhancements over the flashiness some of his peers exhibit. This purist approach, combined with his progressive vision, keeps true connoisseurs eagerly anticipating his every development. In the case of the Sonnerie Souveraine, the formula already is generating the kind of heated interest usually reserved for much more complicated pieces.

F.P. Journe, 305.531.2600, www.fpjourne.com

Photo by Jim Fets
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