Despite what Orson Welles would have you believe, Switzerland is not famed for its cuckoo clocks. It is intricate, incredibly stylish and breathtakingly pricey watches that the country is renowned for, and Geneva is its beating heart. At least, it used to be…
"I'm the only watchmaker left in central Geneva..."
So says François-Paul Journe in an interview with the Financial Times.
While many of its competitors have headed for the suburbs, luxury watch maker FP Journe remains in its downtown 19th century Geneva factory that was formerly home to a gas lamp manufacturer.
The company's watches demonstrate individual urban sophistication coupled with historical awareness, as befits a central Genevan manufacturer.
Aurel Bacs, the international co-head of Christie's Watch Department, told Paul Fraser Collectibles that FP Journe has a unique place in the watchmaking market.
"FP Journe has my respect because he did not want to go and copy successful watch manufacturers that already existed," Bacs said.
"He has his inspiration in French chronograph making of the 18th century and he went his own way. He has his style. He brought new ideas to the market."
Born in Marseille in 1957, François-Paul Journe enrolled in the city's watchmaking school at 14 and travelled to Paris to work for his uncle, a well-known watch restorer.
After learning his trade and gaining a reputation as a master craftsmen, Journe founded his eponymous company in 1999. Since then the company has repeatedly caught the eye thanks to its willingness to experiment and introduce new movements and systems, such as the resonance chronometer.
Less than 1,000 models are produced each year, making each item highly intricate. Yet, prices are comparatively reasonable for entry level models, starting at around $20,000.
More hefty investments can also be made. A "grande et petite sonnerie" minute repeater sold for $400,000 at a Patrizzi & Co auction in 2010.