The Centigraphe Souverain has a closer connection to car racing than some automotive-themed watches. For Antiquorum’s 30th anniversary auction in 2004, Geneva watchmaker François-Paul Journe created Vagabondage, a set of three unique timepieces. Proceeds from the sale of the watches went to the Institute for Cerebral and Medullary (spinal) Disorders in Paris, the charity of Journe’s choice. Together, the watchmaker and the buyer delivered the check for more than $200,000 to one of the Institute’s founders, Jean Todt—better known as the executive director of Scuderia Ferrari, the carmaker’s Formula One division.
Journe’s visit to the Maranello test track gave him the idea for a high-precision chronograph that could measure tiny fractions of a second. “When I met Jean Todt and was introduced to the world of car racing, I realized that there was nothing serious enough in mechanical horology to time today’s racing cars,” says Journe.
Last spring, Journe debuted the Centigraphe Souverain, which is capable of recording elapsed times from ¹/100th of a second to 10 minutes, on three separate dials. By using the accompanying tachometer scales on each subdial, you can convert the times into speeds. The hand on the subdial at 6 o’clock completes one turn in 10 minutes with a tachometer scale in 20-second increments to chart speeds ranging from about 4 mph to 37 mph. On the subdial at 2 o’clock, the hand makes a revolution in 20 seconds with a tachometer scale in one-second increments to measure speeds as fast as 225 mph, the velocity of the cars that Todt oversees.
His need to measure speed still not sated, Journe added a flying seconds hand positioned at 10 o’clock, which completes a revolution in one second against a tachometer scale marked in hundredths of a second. This dial theoretically makes it possible to time a vehicle moving at nearly 224,000 mph—in case the wearer finds himself aboard a space shuttle.
Journe received a patent for his fully integrated chronograph movement, which isolates the chronograph function so that it does not affect timekeeping when engaged. A second patent was granted for the ergonomic rocker mechanism at 2 o’clock, which turns the column wheel, activating the levers that start, stop, and reset the chronograph.
The ICM foundation will receive 30 percent of the profits from the sale of each Centigraphe, which is priced at $48,100 in platinum and $43,900 in red gold. The watch will be available at the end of this year in Journe’s own boutiques—including his first U.S. store, which opened last summer in Boca Raton, Fla. Next year, the pieces will arrive at Journe’s retail dealers, who undoubtedly expect to see them move fast.