Following the highly successful sale of its Astronomic Bleu watch at the Only Watch auction earlier this month for $1.8 million, F.P. Journe announced that it would offer a similar version of the timepiece in steel called the Astronomic Souveraine. The prototype version that sold in early November had all the extraordinary features of the new Souveraine version, but its many complications are housed in a Tantalum case—the same hard, anti-corrosive, difficult-to-machine material used for the watchmaker’s popular Chronomètre Bleu model. The record-setting watch sold at auction also featured a blue chrome dial, orange alligator strap and unfinished movement plates and bridges.
At $889,000, the Astronomic Souveraine is every bit as stunning at the Astronomic Blue. The very few collectors with the good taste and the money to buy an F.P. Journe have probably already put their down payments on this timepiece. (The fervor of Journe’s admirers is such that one collector bought four timepieces in one fell swoop.) It is also notoriously difficult to ingratiate oneself into Journe’s circle and to earn the right to collect the pieces. They’re very limited, and one can see why when considering the extraordinary amount of work it takes to make a watch this complex.
Let’s start with the dial side: The watch displays a day/night indicator in an aperture at 12 o’clock with the sunrise on the left and sunset on the right. The hour is displayed by the orange hand in the dial on the right, which also features a second timezone hour displayed in blue. Minutes are told by the elongated orange hand in the center of the watch. A moon phase indicator (etched in the likeness of the moon from a NASA photograph) sits just below the hour dial. A jumping seconds indicator sits just below the sidereal time dial at 9 o’clock, and 40 hours of power reserve are indicated at 6 o’clock.
The back of the watch plays host to another slew of complications in an 18-karat rose gold movement, including a Tourbillon with a remontoir d’égalité (a device used to provide constant force to the watch escapement), an annual calendar at 10 o’clock and an indication of the location of the sun in the zodiac (both are indicated along a track around the circumference of the back of the watch). There’s also an equation of time indicator told by the elongated blue hand on the back and indicated on the curved marker between 9 o’clock and 11 o’clock. The equation of time is the difference between mean solar time and actual solar time, which can be approximately plus or minus 15 minutes at different times during the year. It was once useful when clocks were set using sundials. This is not a terribly useful function for modern times, but neither are mechanical watches themselves. This watch is about the art of measuring time. Think of it as a mini-museum for the wrist.
Topping off this extraordinary timepiece is the fact that all of the functions can be set using just one crown, am almost impossible feat and just another of the many reasons why this watch affirms François-Paul Journe as one of the most talented watchmakers of our time.