F.P. Journe is convinced that if nineteenth-century watchmakers had access to quartz technology to make marine chronometers, those much-heralded horological masters would have certainly used electronic movements. When Journe began to consider options for his first ladies collection more than eight years ago, he almost immediately considered quartz technology, but with a twist.
When I started this project, I thought maybe I’d make something electronic that didn’t already exist,” says Journe. Convinced that most women prefer the advantages of quartz timepieces, but wary of the too-common dead-battery problems most quartz watch owners experience at some point, he sought to enhance the battery life of his own electronic watch design. “I created this watch because for twenty years women have been asking me to design a watch for them; a watch that was different and comfortable to wear, and that suited their needs and desires. I therefore created this long-lasting watch especially for them.”
The resulting Élégante collection, which Journe debuted early last year, features Journe’s patented tortue-cased three-hand design, but with a special hibernation feature that extends the working capacity of an already long-lasting battery.
“I chose a larger, thicker battery, and I designed the watch around the battery,” he explains. The long-lasting cell inside, an almost quarter-sized lithium battery also found in several popular long-life sports watches, lasts for eight-to-ten-years, but with the watch’s standby mode active, battery power can extend to eighteen years, Journe says.
That standby mode, however, is not all electrons and capacitors. The electromechanical Élégante watch features a mechanical motion detector, which is clearly made visible on the dial at 5 o’clock.
When the watch is off the wrist for more than thirty minutes, it will stop. In standby mode, the dual-motor microprocessor (designed for Journe by veteran Swiss timepiece engineer Walter Hammer, a member of the team that developed the very first quartz timepieces) continues to keep time, while the gears, two rotors and hands stop moving to save energy. When the watch is again placed onto the wrist it automatically sets itself to the correct time. The hands will in fact take the shortest path – either clockwise or counterclockwise – to the current time, also saving battery power.
Of course, all the mechanical components in the Élégante movement are designed and manufactured by F.P. Journe to his usual high standards. The clear caseback, itself an unusual aspect of any quartz watch, exposes a specially designed movement plate that Journe created to emphasize the watch’s electronic nature with a hand-crafted design, typically seen only from the back of fine mechanical timepieces.
F.P. Journe makes the Élégante with several case options: A light titanium case with colorful rubber insets (that mimic cloisonné) with a matching rubber strap, a red gold case and a platinum case. The titanium models are available with white, rose, light blue, midnight blue, chocolate, burgundy red, and khaki green rubber insets and straps. Each titanium model also features full-dial SuperLuminova luminescence. The red gold version comes with a brown strap, and the platinum version with a dark blue strap. Diamonds can also be set on any model.
Élégante for Charity
A charity auction in Geneva earlier this year raised about $700,000 through the sale of two F.P. Journe timepieces. Led by auctioneer and consultant Aurel Bacs, this new auction was organized for the 15th Anniversary of the Geneva-based Action Innocence, which battles the online exploitation of children. The lively event saw financier Robert Manoukian and jeweler Claude Sfeir bidding against each other for an F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain. As Sfeir won the battle, Manoukian then quickly donated an additional $300,000 to the final price to benefit the foundation. A second piece also up for auction – an F.P. Journe Élégante in titanium and rubber (below) – also sold for a record price of about $60,000. The two unique watches were specially designed in purple, which is the color of Action Innocence.
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