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FP Journe’s record-breaking concept watch, the FFC Blue, is now available to the public

Previously a one-off auction piece, the FP Journe FFC Blue was the result of a chat with film legend Francis Ford Coppola, and is now part of the permanent collection thanks to an award-winning movement.

In partnership with The Hour Glass

FP Journe’s record-breaking concept watch, the FFC Blue, is now available to the public

The FFC Blue (Photo: FP Journe; art: Chernling)

Cross-industry collaborations aren’t uncommon in watchmaking, but if you were expecting a watch named after Francis Ford Coppola to be inspired by one of his films, think again. The FP Journe FFC Blue was Francois-Paul Journe’s contribution to the 2021 edition of the Only Watch charity auction, and while its curious dial doesn’t hide an easter egg, it does have quite the remarkable story to tell.

It all began in 2009, when Coppola’s wife gifted him with an FP Journe Chronometre a Resonance. Thoroughly entranced by it, he invited the watchmaker to his winery in the Napa Valley three years later. In a conversation over dinner, Coppola wondered if it would be possible to create a watch that utilised the ancient system of dactylonomy, or finger-counting, to tell the time. Intrigued by the idea, Journe finally decided to give it a go in 2014, spending eight years on what would eventually become the FFC Blue.

The design of the FFC Blue is inspired by the prosthetics developed by 16th-century French surgeon Ambroise Pare. (Photo: FP Journe)

Taking design cues from the prosthetics developed by 16th-century French surgeon Ambroise Pare, the titanium hand in the centre of the dial became an automaton that used 12 distinct finger combinations to indicate the hours. The minutes could be read from a rotating chapter ring and a fixed arrow at 12 o’clock. Nothing like it had been made before, and the watch went on to sell for CHF 4.5 million (S$6.9 million), about four times over its estimate, making it the most expensive watch the brand had ever sold.

The Calibre 1300.3 is proudly exhibited through sapphire crystal case backs. (Photo: FP Journe)

It would have been reasonable to expect that such an outrageous and inventive timepiece would remain a piece unique or at least a future limited edition. But much to everyone’s surprise (and delight), it was announced earlier this year that the FFC would go into regular production. However, one of the differences is that the case will be in platinum instead of tantalum, and the hand will be a light grey colour. Of course, the watch will still be produced in limited numbers each year given its complexity.

Still, the reason the FFC can be produced serially is due in large part to the brand’s most famous movement, the Calibre 1300.3. Unveiled in 2001, Journe’s first automatic movement was designed specifically to allow easy integration of complications. Deriding modular builds, Journe wanted a base movement that stayed under 11mm in height no matter what complication he crammed into it. The fact that it has been minimally updated only twice in its 22-year history speaks to the workhorse movement’s reliability and flexibility. The first change was to craft it out of solid gold instead of brass, and the second was to replace the bi-directional winding system to a more efficient uni-directional one mounted on ceramic ball bearings.

The Automatique Lune 40/42mm with platinium and silver dial. (Photo: The Hour Glass)
The Lune 40/42mm in platinium. (Photo: The Hour Glass)

The Calibre 1300.3 has since powered every single one of FP Journe’s self-winding watches. As promised, complications found an easy way into the movement, starting with the Octa Lune and the Octa Divine in 2003, both boasting a moon phase, patented outsized date, small seconds, and power reserve indicator. The former even won the Men’s Watch Prize at the GPHG that same year. The Automatique Lune soon followed in 2007 with a more traditional dial layout with centralised hours and minutes.

The Divine 40/42mm in platinium. (Photo: The Hour Glass)

Of course, a watchmaker of Journe’s renown was bound to tackle the king of astronomical complications eventually, and in 2013 he unveiled the Quantieme Perpetual as the successor to the discontinued Octa Perpetuelle. In this model, the Calibre 1300.3 is accompanied by day, date, month and leap year indicators, with all but the leap year displayed through easy-to-read windows. As a rare bonus, all corrections can be made by the wearer, and without the use of special tools. The three-position crown takes care of the time, day, and date, while a hidden leaver behind one of the lugs adjusts the months.

The Quantieme Perpetual. (Photo: The Hour Glass)

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the calibre in 2021, the brand launched the Automatique as a 99-piece limited edition. Even as a relatively simple offering, the Automatique proved such a hit that it joined the Classique collection last year and is now available in white gold or red gold with matching gold dials.

The 20th anniversary limited edition Automatique. (Photo: The Hour Glass)

Not counting the FFC, all the above-mentioned watches have seen aesthetic updates in recent years, with case sizes increasing to 40mm and 42mm, and subtle changes to the dial designs to accommodate the extra room. (The FFC is only available in 42mm.) But in all these watches, the Calibre 1300.3 is proudly exhibited through sapphire crystal case backs, as the movement’s lavish finishing — which include circular Cotes de Geneve, circular graining, chamfered slots, guilloche, polishing, and bevelled edges — deserves to be admired. With a frequency of 3Hz and a staggering power reserve of over 120 hours, we believe the Calibre 1300.3 will continue to welcome marvellous complications both traditional and unexpected for years to come.

Source: CNA/bt