In a major milestone for independent watchmaking fraternity, the original F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain “Souscription” - the one that helped founder François-Paul Journe launch his eponymous watch company was auctioned off for CHF1,400,000 ($1.47 million) at the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XI on June 27 and 28. His second subscription watch, the Resonance, also fetched in excess of a million dollars on the night. The watches sold for more than 10 times their minimum pre-sale estimate.

The first Tourbillon Souverain was sold via a subscription model

For the uninitiated, a subscription system is a now-antiquated concept whereby future owners would pay upfront part of the price of the watch. Watchmakers like Abrahm-Louis Breguet used it famously in the 18th century. Journe only made 20 pieces of first subscription model in 1999. The Tourbillon Souverain is the first wristwatch with a tourbillon and rementoire (a device that ensure a constant force of energy to the escapement) and was sold (via the subscription model) to the celebrated Parisian jeweler Lorenz Baümer).

Tourbillon Souverain is the first wristwatch with a tourbillon and rementoire.

This particular timepiece uses a 38 mm platinum case and is appearing on the auction block for the very first time. The watch is sold with an undated subscription contract detailing the purchase of the watch signed by Journe himself, two additional leather straps, product leaflet, two technical printouts, polishing cloth, fitted wooden presentation box and outer packaging.

Lorenz Baümer and Journe, who have since become close friends, completed another transaction a year later in 2000 when Journe offered his first clients the opportunity to subscribe to sophomore effort, the groundbreaking Resonance model. Baümer made some changes to make it a unique; the watch featured a pink gold middle case with a bezel and caseback in platinum and a white gold dial.

The groundbreaking Resonance model from 2000

That particular wristwatch was sold for CHF1,040,000 ($1.09 million). The Resonance is an important milestone in the horological history - it was the first wristwatch to use the resonance phenomenon whereby the movement is composed of two independent balances, alternatively serving as an “exciter” and “resonator”. When in motion, the balances create the resonance effect and beat in opposition, naturally evening out each other’s discrepancies and thus allowing for greater accuracy.

This isn’t the first instance of an F.P. Journe wristwatch breaching the million dollar/ Swiss Franc mark – in November 2019, the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue, with a staggering 18 complications, sold for CHF1.8 million (approx. $1.8 million) at the Only Watch Auction.