Watchfinder sent me an email the other day explaining why a quartz watch by the name of F. P. Journe Élégante cost $13k. The logical answer: because it’s an F. P. Journe. That doesn’t cost nearly as much as other F. P. Journes. Which cost well, the website doesn’t tell you. Looking elsewhere . . .
acollectedman.com sells a garden variety Chonometre Blue Calibre 1304 for $44,788.43. Oh wait. It’s sold. As is just about everything Mssr. Journe creates, which escalate from that relatively modest sum to well over $150k.
Rare F.P.’s command significant premiums. At the Phillips Watch Auction XI, an F.P. Journe Souscription Tourbillon, Chronomètre À Résonance hammered for $2.5 Million.
So, really, the $13k quartz Élégante is an entry-level bargain. Well it might be if you could buy one at msrp. They’re sold out. Luckily, Chrono24.com has an Élégante for sale at $22k, “worn fewer than 6 times.” Yes but . . .
There’s no getting around the fact that the Élégante is a quartz watch. And we all know that battery-powered watches are far less expensive to manufacture than anything with gears and springs and lots of fiddly metal bits that have to work in perfect harmony for a very long time.
There’s got to be something that justifies paying $13k for a watch with the same movement as a $20 Prestige Medical Student Scrub Watch. There is!
F. P. Journe grows and ages their own quartz crystals. After three months, they select the most stable crystals. They test suitable examples for temperature fluctuations, then match them with an integrated circuit that works with the specific properties of a specific crystal.
Oh wait. That’s Grand Seiko. Who also provide instant date change, a twin pulse control motor (to push heavy hands around without losing power), a hidden accuracy adjuster and a wall between the gear train and the battery (to prevent dust contamination during a battery change). F. P. Journe’s Élégante doesn’t offer any of that.
Grand Seiko’s quartz watches may have a technological edge over the Élégante, but the battery powered Japanese watches have zero lume. F. P. Journe’s entire dial lights up! Just like a $79 Timex Reader! With none of those astounding Grand Seiko-style Zaratsu polished applied indices diminishing the effect.
At this point, you may have noticed the jigsaw piece missing between the 4 and 5 indices. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a miniature tourbillon – which would only be marginally less useful than it is on a mechanical watch (if you know what I mean). But no, it’s the F. P. Journe’s Élégante’s unique selling point, its raison d’etre. A power saver!
Here’s the video of the Élégante’s power saver saving power and watchfinder’s explanation:
You see that little window at around four o’clock? Looks like there’s a little rotor in there, like for winding the movement, but instead it’s a motion sensor. If the watch remains still for more than half an hour—that is, the rotor doesn’t rotate—the watch goes to sleep and the hands stop moving. For daily use, that extends the life of the battery to eight years. In rotation as part of a collection, up to eighteen years.
The Élégante goes into suspended animation after 30 minutes of motionlessness. In other words, when you take it off or after you die.
As TTAW commentator James points out, you can buy a $99 solar/analog G-SHOCK with the same power save feature, with not one but two “sleep states.” A $1350 Longines Conquest V.H.P. also hibernates. OK, you have to pull out the crown, but is that really such a bother?
The V.H.P. is accurate to five seconds a year. It recalibrates the hands to the internal timekeeper every three days, at 3 Am. Unless you knock the watch or expose it to a strong magnetic field. Then it recalibrates the next morning. F. P. Journe’s Élégante doesn’t offer any of that.
Well at least the F. P. Journe Élégante has an art deco style caseback with a little heart to combat the whole “quartz lacks soul” objection. Which brings us to the number one and number two reasons anyone would pay $13k for this watch: snobbery and looks.
You expect an F. P. Journe to be functional AF and well screwed-together. What you want is to be recognized by the F. P. worshipping cognoscenti. Who may or may not, but probably will, snigger at its quartz engine.
As for looks, the F. P. Journe Élégante is way too busy for me, and that rotor-filled missing piece is a deal killer. But the watch does have a certain je ne sais quoi. I fully support its purchase – as long as you know what you’re missing.