Recapping Part 1; we took a look at the occurrence of Resonance in watchmaking history right up to François-Paul Journe’s first encounter with one of Breguet’s double pendulum clocks; ending with Mr. Journe’s determination to make the first ever wristwatch to make use of the phenomenon.
Following, we continue specifically with F.P. Journe’s Resonance wristwatch and how it has evolved through time.
The Prototype N°1
The very first wristwatch to use the natural phenomenon of resonance, ever. The prototype took years to design, starting in 1994, and months of regulation whilst being carried around in a plastic case in the watchmaker’s pocket. It finally worked in 1998 before being cased up with a dial and “secretly” worn by Mr. Journe at Baselworld, 1998.
As i was conducting the interview for this topic, Journe pointed at my Resonance (1st series) and said, “It wasn’t the same case that you have. It wasn’t the same dial. It wasn’t the same thing, it was completely different.”
I inquired further and was told that the Resonance was somewhat redesigned from the prototype to what we have seen ever since its debut. Interestingly, the prototype case was not made in platinum but was a greyish gold case; since platinum was too expensive to use for a prototype. The watch has, since then, been uncased; the case melted and reused. All that remains of this prototype is the dial. Mr. Journe was kind enough to look through his archives and one day, I woke up to this; something never before seen during any of my research into F.P. Journe…
Well, obviously this dial has seen a lot of age but it is stunning! This dial was completely hand-engraved by Mr. Journe and although similar to what we know of early resonance dials, there are a few significant differences.
Firstly, the power reserve indicator. Not only was it a plate screwed unto the dial (we will see later what it became), but the power reserve is flipped. You see, one of the characteristics of all manual Journe movements is that the power reserve indicates how long since the last wind, instead of how much power remains i.e. “0” would be a full wind and “42” would be the end of the power reserve; something inspired by early French marine chronometers.
It remains unclear if this was intentional or a mistake since I have personally never seen a manually-wound Journe utilize a power reserve in this manner. I will try to dig up the reason and if Mr. Journe recalls I will update this portion in the future.
Secondly, the engravings. The watch is labelled as follows:
Invenit et Fecit
MONTRE A RESONNANCE F.P. JOURNE
The numbering on the dial is a first in this style (there is an additional line under the numero symbol on the dial that I could not figure out how to type or why FP did it). Underneath, the “Invenit et Fecit” is written in cursive form, again a unique format. Then the word “Montre” meaning “watch” in French. Montre was only used on this dial and we can obviously tell that it was supposed to be the original name of the watch, which was later changed to “Chronomètre à Résonance”.
Last, we have the misspelling of Resonance, having two N’s instead of one; and this was the first thing Journe mentioned regarding this dial (and good thing he fixed it later on;)).
At Baselworld in 1999, Mr. Journe unveiled his very first creations as a brand; Montres Journe SA (the company was launched that year) at the AHCI Booth. His display case had 5 Tourbillon Souverains and this Prototype Resonance on display; the first two models made under his own brand.
Throughout my research on early Resonance, I came across this photo of a very early Resonance. The photo was dug up by Journe collector Felipe Jordaö from the Antiquorum archives and was the only photo I found of this specific watch.
The photo is not very clear but we can somewhat see the change in the dial, and this evidently being the very first changes in the history of François-Paul’s resonance.
To begin, the power reserve plate has been removed and the scale now printed onto the dial itself. Further, the scale has been reversed as is the norm with all Journe watches in the Souverain collection.
Next, the model name on the dial was changed to what we know of today as “Chronomètre à Résonance” with the brand name and motto centered above in block letters that would be the standard for all future Journe timepieces.
Looking at the caseback, we get the first look at one of the most attractive movements in modern watchmaking, calibre 1499, which was made in brass until 2004. However, something seen here, and only here, is the presence of blued screws which Journe has never used in any of his production pieces (except the T30 & T10). To add, the finishing is nearly non-existent and finally, the presence of 4 slot screws for the caseback compared to the 6 unique screws that Journe used for his Resonance later on (we’ll take soon).
I am unsure of why the screws were blued and why the movement was not finished at all but from the Pre-Series label of this particular Resonance, one can only assume it was simply a test model, nothing more. What is certain is that this was most likely the first prototype of the Resonance that we know of today; made by Mr. Journe himself. Interestingly, the caseback does not have any model engravings or precious metal hallmarks, which makes me wonder if it was even cased in a precious metal.
In fact, I was curious as to how many of this series exist and if they were sold; François-Paul’s response, “Only one, I don’t even know if it still exists. The movement was slightly different so it kept changing before it made it to the current collection. This one is probably somewhere in my safe…I think.”
While not the official prototype as we have read above, this is the serial that is kept in company records (as with all other N°00 pieces.
We can now see the first publicly recognized look of Journe’s Resonance from the dial which will go on to represent the standard for the remaining First Series. For a more elaborate cover on this particular piece, please read this article.
The caseback seen here finally gets engraved and numbered. This watch takes N°000 but keep that format in mind as we will see some changes later on.
In 2000, Mr. Journe introduced his own caseback screws which appear as a three-point star, sort of. The goal was to keep any unauthorized watchmaker away from entering a world he/she was most likely untrained to enter.
“If the guy is able to make the tool, then he can go ahead and open it…” he says with a laugh.
The only production watches that were made with regular slot screws were the Soucription Tourbillons, and some early pieces that followed shortly after. Upon servicing, the screws were replaced with the special Journe screws.
The Souscription Resonance
When it comes to Souscription watches and F.P. Journe, I think it is fair to say that most of us only really thought about the Tourbillon. I mean, they have recently come into the open and were covered fairly well when they first appeared at public auctions. More information on that series can be found here.
Surprisingly, the Resonance also had a Souscription series which might not have been so obvious because there was really nothing on the dial nor caseback that could distinguish them from other resonance generations.
In contrast to the Souscription Tourbillon, the dials were not numbered and the casebacks had the same regular format of serial numbers that took place between 1999 and 2005; which I will discuss shortly.
So how many of them were made? Well, according to FP’s memory, almost everyone who purchased the Souscription Tourbillon ended up purchasing a Souscription Resonance; which he recalls to be 17 or 18 clients (20 clients for Souscription T).
All the cases were 38mm and made from platinum, housing all brass movements which were ticking behind a yellow gold dial. The official reference for the Resonance became Ref. R and would remain that way until around 2005.
Now, whereas the Tourbillons were numbered on the dial, their casebacks were simply engraved with “N°xx” and would be that way for the first 33 or 34 watches which after would take the new format “N°xx/xxT”.
As a reminder, the first set of numbers were the watch serial and the second set was, contrary to popular belief, not the year the watch was necessarily made but rather the year the case was manufactured.
For the Resonance, it would skip the first generation of numbering and would directly be numbered as “N°xxx-xxR” and that would remain until 2005 when Journe decided to stop including the year into the serial number. So after the first case N°000 mentioned above, which did not have an engraved case year, all other Resonance models would have the year, again until 2005.
That said, what exactly distinguished the Souscription from every other Resonance? The certificate and well, the fact that you can now know it was indeed a Souscription. I could not get a hold of a copy of the original certificate so below is a picture sent in by Mr. Journe…
Interesting to see that the same case number would be offered to correspond with the Souscription Tourbillon that the client had purchased before. This gesture of offering the clients the same serials within a collection was later applied in the Ruthenium sets and Vagabondage series.
The Odd Cases of ‘99
It would have made logical sense that since the Souscription pieces had cases ordered in 2000, then it should be chronological order from then onward. I have written about a Resonance with a case ordered prior to the watch’s debut, here.
Whilst it is certain that the chronological order of the Souscription cases started with “00”, they then restarted with the 21st case with “99”, until the high 20’s to low 30’s serial cases.
The First Series Ref. R
Following the souscription pieces and the first odd cases of ’99; the more regular production of the first series came to a start. The first series was characterized by having brass movements and the symmetrical resonance dial.
The watches were made in two cases namely 38mm platinum and 38mm rose gold. On the dial, a choice of three colors; white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold (the yellow available with platinum case only).
Production of the first series ran up until 2004 and although official numbers remain confidential, my research indicates that just under 400 of this series have been made. They remain highly coveted by Journe collectors to this day as a piece of FP Journe’s earliest greats. *Please note that my estimate does not take into account the Ruthenium Series.
Approximately 2,000 brass movements in total were produced by FP Journe from 1999 till their production end in 2004. The start of the gold movement era commenced in 2004 and remains the metal of preference for Journe to distinguish his movements from others in the world of haute horology.
Like the Tourbillon, the Resonance also went through different dial phases over time, both on a large aesthetical jump where we get a slightly different movement right down to the level of sheer and shine on the dial itself. In this portion, I will just mention that as the Tourbillon and Resonance were produced roughly around the same time, i.e. being there from the very start, they do share almost the same differences in dial finishes as the early tourbillon.
The resonance did not necessarily have “generations” as the Tourbillon did due to dial changes since, the dial design itself remained the same. However, the change in how shiny the dials were and whether the subdials were white or silver did also apply to the Resonance.
Following the same production years as the Tourbillon we can figure out that the early dials made in 1999-2001 were very shiny. By 2002, they were still shiny but less so. In 2003, we see the matte dials with white subdials before going back to matte and silver near 2004. Again, there are always “transition periods” so take the guideline as a general but not definitive rule.
The reason behind these dial changes is that back then, Mr. Journe did not have his own dialmakers, which he does now. As a result, the very early dials were ordered through his case suppliers and finished by Journe at his manufacture (shiny). Later on, he changed his strategy and would end up ordering them from Gerald Genta’s manufacture; hence the differences resulted from the different suppliers.
The Second Series Ref. RN
With the introduction of the “Gold-Era” in late 2004, FP Journe introduced a slightly updated Resonance with a new reference, RN (Resonance Nouveau), or New Resonance. To the naked eye it remains almost identical to the first series but let’s dive into the tiny details that set it apart.
To Start, the second series was produced in two case metals, as before, however it was also made in two different sizes; namely 38mm and 40mm. The dials and movements remained the exact same between the two sizes, though the larger case was only 2mm thicker and had a slightly larger crown to accommodate (sources say 1mm larger). There is one exception to the color of the dials; namely that the yellow dials ceased production in 2003/2004 as the color clashed with the rose gold movements.
The dial was pretty much carried forward from the first series however, to differentiate between the two series, Journe updated the steel frame that surrounds the time subdials. During the brass-era, the frame that screws onto the dial had a sharper edge or turn, shaped somewhat like a “bell”; whereas the new frames had a more curved, integrated design.
To Mr. Journe, the connection a dial has to its movement is of the utmost importance. The eyes must recognize exactly what lies behind the dial just by looking at the dial itself. To mark the difference between the brass and gold movements on the dial, Journe decided to slightly reshape the steel frames which although a very small change, were significant enough for collectors to notice (if they were into such details).
Interestingly, although the change took place across all the Journe models, it is possible to find a few watches here and there (mostly made during the transition years 2004-2005) that had the older “bell” frames but were cased with a gold movement. I can’t confirm the exact reason but one can safely assume that since FP Journe fabricates its components in large quantities every so often, i.e. for example, 300 frames per batch, it is possible that the company decided to make use of the existing frames before moving onto the new design. This is not the only circumstance where we see parts mixed around as Journe has been known to “use what is available”.
Regarding dial textures, the start of the gold-era was when the brand started to produce far more consistent dials that carried on until present day; thus since 2005 we can say that almost all Journe dials had a matte finish.
Caliber 1499.2 & 1499.3
With the introduction of the gold-era in 2005, all existing calibers that were carried over had a new caliber code. In the case of the Resonance ref. RN, the caliber was referred to as 1499.2; indicating the second version of the movement.
Aesthetically, the movement remains almost the same except that the barrel bridge has been redesigned to integrate the ratchet wheels underneath the bridge. I can only assume that it was done for aesthetic purposes as if had it been the same, the colors would have clashed. This was probably what drove an entirely new reference despite the same general movement, R to RN.
On the other hand, while Journe was developing the Chronometre Souverain (released in 2005), he developed a new ratchet/winding system that he found to be far more efficient due to less parts and thus less friction. Whilst the mechanism debuted with the Chonometre Souverain, Journe later decided to update his Resonance with this power reserve which ultimately lead to another caliber reference; 1499.3. This change was done sometime in 2006.
In summary, ref. RN used two movements namely caliber 1499.2, which indicated the shift to rose gold; and 1499.3 which indicated a new power reserve. We can conclude that very few 1499.2 movements were made in the short period between 2005 to 2006.
Reference RN. restarted the serial numbers from #1 and was discontinued near 2009.
The Third Series Ref. RT
2010 marked the Resonance’s 10th anniversary and with that Mr. Journe reintroduced the masterpiece, this time with what would perhaps be the most substantial aesthetical dial change to date. The ref. RT (Resonance Trois) had a heavily modified dial that took advantage of the Resonance’s independent setting capability.
The left time subdial was modified to have a new system utilizing 24hr discs instead of conventional hands. Since the watch was always capable of displaying two different timezones, Journe adapted the dial to emphasize that capability so now the owner can set the left subdial to their home time and the right, traditional display to their local time.
The design of ref. RT began 5 or 6 years prior to its release and it was only in 2010 when Journe made the decision to finally produce it. As with the prior ref. RN, the new reference restarted the serial numbering from #1 and was available in both 38mm and 40mm in both rose gold and platinum cases with either rose gold or white gold dials. The movement remains the same despite the dial change.
To note, when the Resonance was originally released in 2000, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve had still not started and as a result Journe could not enter his original Resonance into the competition. In 2010, Journe entered his ref. RT and won the Haute Complication award.
The current ref. RT watch is still in production and is the only resonance watch in the current collection.
The Resonance is an F.P. Journe icon and many would argue that next to the Tourbillon, it is a backbone to the brand and perhaps the one Journe you must have. That said, Mr. Journe has planned to stop production of this caliber entirely by 2019 to make way for a completely new and updated Resonance. Following a recent visit to the manufacture, Mr. Journe hinted that the design of the new Resonance has been finalized but a prototype is not coming anytime soon considering his other projects that will be released sooner.
In terms of the movement, Journe mentioned that the new Resonance will make use of his remontoir d’egalité, a single barrel, an entirely improved system and a potentially new escapement…”if I can make it work,” he added.
The Resonance & George Daniels
Sometime in the early 2000’s, George Daniels paid a visit to François-Paul’s manufacture alongside Journe’s friend, renowned horological historian Jean-Claude Sabrier. It was during this visit that Journe showed Mr. Daniels his Resonance and not only was Mr. Daniels impressed but, he wanted to buy one. François-Paul refused to sell the watch to George Daniels but told him that he would like to propose a trade; a Resonance for a Daniels; which George agreed to.
The deal never went through as George grew busy the following years and worked far less during his later years but François-Paul still recalls George’s remarks very clearly:
“He told me I was very brave to make a resonance wristwatch, and it was true.”