Theft, Friendship, and a Custom F.P. Journe Resonance

Mark Cho of The Armoury tells the tale.
FP Journe Resonance The Armoury Mark Cho 1

As far as watch collecting stories go, I think this is a pretty good one.

2012 – I was on a bit of a tear for F.P. Journes. I had a Chronometre Souverain (regret I sold it) and a Reserve de Marche (bought it and sold it quite quickly).

What I have always been interested in are smaller watches, and at the time, the 36mm Octa Divine in particular, technically part of the ladies’ collection. F.P. Journe didn’t make very many of them and I had certainly never come across any in the wild. Eventually, while I was in New York trying to set up The Armoury Tribeca, I found a dealer in California that had a second-hand one available. The price was okay so I bought it.

FP Journe Octa Divine 36mm Mark Cho 1

The Octa Divine that started it all

About two years ago, the date wheel of the Divine stopped advancing. I had a colleague drop it off at the New York boutique. A few days later, I got an alarming e-mail from F.P. Journe saying the watch was stolen property. I was asked to produce all of its paperwork so F.P. Journe could ascertain how I got a hold of it. And I was also told the watch would not be coming back to me. It was to be confiscated and returned to F.P. Journe’s insurer.

Why the insurer? Because the watch was stolen from its Paris boutique ten years earlier. Of course, being a good citizen as well as an avid keeper of e-mails, I provided F.P. Journe the entire thread of communication between myself and the dealer, as well as my wire transfer receipt. As I had proved I had unwittingly bought stolen property, I was no longer a suspect though I was certainly poorer by one watch and its purchase price.

The issue was handled by Pierre Halimi, the head of Montres Journe America. Over our calls and e-mails, we developed a rapport and he invited me to visit him at his New York boutique next time we were both in town. I was happy to put a face to the name and we met late last year.

We got to know each other and I explained what I did, namely The Armoury and Drake’s. During the chat at his boutique, two of my favourite customers at The Armoury Tribeca came through the door. I had not realized that one of them, JS, was one of the most important collectors of F.P. Journe in the United States.

The pair joined in on the conversation and Pierre decided it would be worth his time to check out what The Armoury did down in Tribeca. He came the next day, loved it and we discussed doing some events together, which eventually became a little presentation on different types of tailored clothing for F.P. Journe customers at The Armoury. It was a fun event and hopefully people learnt something.

Given my love for smaller watches, I often talked to Pierre about how I missed the 38mm – and smaller – case that F.P. Journe used to produce. Francois-Paul himself is occasionally willing to make a one-off piece for the brand’s best clients. Pierre knew JS and I had a good relationship, so he asked if JS would be willing to request a one-off, 38mm piece on my behalf as a custom, “application” watch. JS was interested in seeing what might come of this, so he agreed to forward my application.

Pierre also very kindly lent me his 38mm Resonance, one of the few with a dial that had patina’d quite strongly, and allowed me to keep it for a while. It ended up being four months, with me very regularly wearing Pierre’s watch.

FP Journe Resonance Pierre Halimi 1

Pierre Halimi’s Resonance

I was thrilled that a one-off 38mm watch was on offer, and what form this watch would take was often on my mind. I made some basic renders using Photoshop and existing imagery of F.P. Journes that I liked. I showed some of the renders to my colleague Jan, who made the good point of asking if they could make more than one, as we probably had some friends that might like an “FPJ Mark Cho Special”.

I also showed the renders to JS, who liked how the project was developing and was willing to expand the application to a small batch of watches. So I kept on with the renders, aiming to make something that might appeal to him and a small group of friends.

Around March this year, I was in London checking out the Andreas Gursky exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London and I hit upon one large photograph that had the perfect colours: shot from up high, a scene of a blue-grey ocean with cream and taupe cliffs. I put it together in Photoshop and after some tweaking, finally had something interesting.

Then I thought about the watches that really resonated with me – pun intended. The first would be the Souverain minute repeater, the only serially produced model with a white dial and navy markings. JS owned one and let me have an extended look at his. I was smitten.

FP Journe Souverain Repeater JS Mark cho 1

JS’ minute repeater in stainless steel

The second was Pierre’s personal Resonance, the only one I had ever come across that developed such a patina. I love the Resonance, not just aesthetically but as a horological feat. Spending quality time with Pierre’s piece put me down the path of trying to make a special version for myself.

FP Journe Resonance Pierre Halimi 2

My wrist, Pierre’s watch

I had some mockups of a white-dial Resonance in the repeater’s colours but I wasn’t fully convinced. Then I considered what really drew me to Pierre’s watch – the soft, faded colours of the dial and its markings. Thus I aimed to make a modern Resonance that was a little less stark in appearance, an homage to a well-worn Resonance.

In the end, we used Gursky’s ocean colours and warm land tones for the main dial and its lettering. For the right side sub-dial, it was the repeater’s white and navy combination. We submitted the application and awaited Francois-Paul’s response. I couldn’t really believe I had come so far, and had I been outright rejected, I certainly would have held no ill will. Or I might have been shattered, it’s hard to say.

FP Journe Resonance The Armoury Mark Cho 3

F.P. Journe x Mark Cho

FP Journe Resonance The Armoury Mark Cho 4

Fortunately, it did happen. F.P. Journe agreed to use the last of their 38mm platinum cases to make five “FPJ Mark Cho Specials”, which were just delivered last week. JS, who let me borrow his repeater, three of my good friends, and myself each have one. As I met all these people through The Armoury, I also requested that the “A” in “Chronometre à Resonance” be printed in The Armoury’s signature gold, which F.P. Journe kindly obliged.

FP Journe Resonance The Armoury Mark Cho 2

As for the stolen Octa Divine 36 that started the whole tale: I contacted the dealer, who unfortunately was uncooperative with a refund, suggesting instead that they would direct me to the original seller of the watch and I should speak to that person. I had to resort to legal means, after which they eventually settled with me. I recovered the price paid for the watch plus a portion of my legal fees.

With Pierre’s help, I also managed to buy the Octa Divine 36 from F.P. Journe’s insurer at a significant discount, as they were not interested in holding onto a watch that they had paid out for ten years ago.

The watch was already in Geneva, so I asked F.P. Journe to service it before returning it to me. A year and a half after it first broke down, I finally got the watch back, and it eventually cost much less than I had paid for it six years ago, even with the legal bills and servicing. I was struck by how great the watch looked after servicing, certainly much better than I remembered; kudos to F.P. Journe.

FP Journe Resonance The Armoury Mark Cho 5

The road was winding but I’m glad I could take it. I made new friends, met great people, got a very special watch from one of the watchmaking greats, and am now the proud owner of two very special F.P. Journe pieces.

Special thanks to F.P. Journe, Pierre, JS, William, and Adam Marelli, who produced the portraits of the watch, and everyone else who helped me along the way. Nice when things turn out better than expected, eh?

PS: The Resonance is turning 20 this year and there will be a special version produced only in 2019, after which it will be replaced by a new model; SJX Watches has a great write-up about it.


Mark Cho is the co-founder of The Armoury, a menswear and accessories shop for the discerning gentleman with outposts in Hong Kong and New York. He is also one of the owners of Drake’s, the English maker of ties and pocket squares.

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

F.P. Journe Introduces Resonance Final Edition with 24-Hour Dial

Produced only in 2019.

Striking Season's Greetings From F.P. Journe

Hands-On with the F.P. Journe Octa Havana Dial

F.P. Journe's self-winding wristwatches get a coffee coloured dial that has a tropical flavour.

Year in Review – Top Stories of 2018

Stories that shaped the year.
year in review 2018

From the latest business news to auction reports to reviews of the latest and greatest, it’s obvious that readers love solid content. We’re most proud of what we do, which is intended to help readers gain an insight into watchmaking and make informed decisions. With 2019 just days away, here’s a recap of the most popular stories from the past year.


15. Why the Ref. 5235G Regulator is the Most Interesting Modern Patek Philippe

Patek Philippe 5235G regulator 2

Dark horse, sleeper hit, whatever you name it, the ref. 5235 is one. The watch is one of Patek Philippe’s most unusual and overlooked models. Not only is the only watch made by the Geneva watchmaker with a regulator-style display, more significantly, it also boasts a calibre that is unique to the reference – no other watch shares the same movement or even base movement. And it’s also the only serially produced Patek Philippe movement with both a silicon escapement and hairspring. Read the review.


14. Hands-On with the Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday “Ultraman”

Omega Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday Ultraman 8

A hotly anticipated watch that sold out in a flash online, the Speedmaster “Ultraman” takes itself less seriously than the first Speedy Tuesday. We looked at it in detail, and also compared it to the original Speedy Tuesday, as well as a vintage Speedmaster ref. 105.012. Continue reading about the Speedmaster “Ultraman”.


13. Comparing the Best of Japanese Watchmaking – Grand Seiko 8 Day and Credor Eichi II

Grand Seiko 8 Day-Credor Eichi 2

Detailing the differences between two categorically similar watches – nay, horological masterpieces – produced at Seiko Epson’s Micro Artist Studio – the Credor Eichii II and the Grand Seiko 8 Day. Here’s the full story, along with lots of photos.


12. Macro Match: Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date vs. Grand Seiko SBGA011 “Snowflake”

JLC-Master-Control-Date-vs-Grand-Seiko-Snowflake-2

A detailed comparison of two different, yet comparable watches that are crowd favourites amongst enthusiasts, with lots of solid macro photos. Here’s the story.


11. The Ad Man Who Made The Best Watch in The World

Rene H. Bittel Bozell Agency Patek

Alan Downing tells the story of René H. Bittel, a little-known Swiss ad man who helped Patek Philippe regain its footing after the Quartz Crisis by crafting the ad campaigns that would come to define the company in the 1980s and 1990s. Most notably, he put into words the notion that a mechanical watch was for a lifetime, and one’s heirs. Read about Bittel and his accomplishments.


10. Helmut Sinn, Legendary Maker of Pilot’s Watches, Dies at 102

Helmut Sinn Guinand

Helmut Sinn’s life was epic – as a fighter pilot during WWII he lost two fingers after being shot down, followed by a stint as a rally car driver, and finally a watch entrepreneur. He was successful enough that he sold the eponymous company at the age of 78 in 1994, several decades too early, as it turned out. He then continued his career with a second company, before passing away at the grand old age of 102. It was a life well lived, and worthy of remembrance.


9. Living with the G-Shock 35th Anniversary Full Metal Gold IP

G Shock Full Metal Gold 35th Anniversary 1

The all-gold, limited edition G-Shock “Full Metal” is one of the coolest watches of 2018. Find out why in our detailed review.


8. An Honest Take on the Hits and Misses of Baselworld 2018

Baselworld 2018 hall 1-1

A no-nonsense take on this year’s Baselworld, an event that has recently suffered a streak of defections and bad press. We’ll do another one in 2019, but for now you can revisit 2018’s right here.


7. How Good is Vacheron Constantin’s Entry-Level FiftySix?

Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Self-Winding steel

A surprise entry on the list, since Vacheron Constantin is neither a mass market brand, nor is the FiftySix a runaway bestseller. In fact, it was controversial at launch, being the most affordable Vacheron Constantin wristwatch by some margin. Yet the FiftySix has been a hot topic – we looked at it in detail, so see for yourself.


6. The Best Tool Watches Under US$5,000 From Baselworld 2018

Best beater watches Baselworld 2018

We chose the best “beater” watches from Baselworld 2018, a fair that does much better at affordable timepieces than SIHH. No matter how large your budget, value for money is always reassuring and comforting, so the popularity of this story is no surprise. See the selection of winners under US$5000.


5. Up Close with the Rolex GMT-Master II “Pepsi” on Jubilee Bracelet

Rolex GMT-Master Pepsi Jubilee 6

Possibly the hottest watch of the year was the GMT-Master II “Pepsi” with a Jubilee bracelet. Rolex also upgraded the case alloy, which is now Oystersteel, as well as the movement, giving it the latest generation automatic with 70-hour power reserve. But none of that matters as much as the blue and red bezel. Read the review, which has few surprises but is worth a read in any case.


4. An Open Letter to the Swiss Watch Industry, From a Frustrated Millennial

SIHH 2018 fair 2

A tech exec in his early 30s, Brandon Moore tackles the topic of how to sell luxury watches to everyone’s favourite demographic – millennials. This story was not doubt as well read by the industry itself as enthusiasts and aficionados. Read it in full.


3. The True Story of the Mythical Rolex “Zenith” Daytona in Platinum

Rolex Daytona Zenith platinum 16516 5

We detailed the intriguing backstory of the unique Rolex Daytona “Zenith” in platinum, one of just five made at the request of former Rolex chief Patrick Heiniger. We got the scoop thanks to Sotheby’s watches, which proceeded to sell the watch for over US$871,000, making it the most expensive modern Rolex watch ever sold at auction. Read the one of a kind “Francesca-Romain” Daytona.


2. Up Close with the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight – Smaller, Slimmer and Better

Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 79030N-7

One of the most affordable watches of the year, the Black Bay Fifty-Eight was also one of the best. In a market rich with bargains, the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight still manages to be a poster child of value. It boasts much of the same goodness that makes all other Tudors such compelling buys, but hews closer to the vintage originals that inspired it, being smaller, thinner, and just better on the wrist. Read the review.


1. Breaking News: Swatch Group to Leave Baselworld Fair in 2019

Baselworld

We were the first amongst the watch blogs to break this news on a sleepy Sunday, thanks to a friend in Switzerland who picked up weekend paper NZZ am Sonntag and got a shock.

You can read about the Swatch Group’s surprise departure, as well as the consequences – the resignation of the MCH chief executive, and then the forecast of a US$100m loss.


 

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Patek Philippe Nautilus Travel Time Ref. 5990/1A

Baselworld 2018: Patek Philippe Introduces the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968A

A new entry-level sports chronograph - with an orange rubber strap. (With pricing inside.)

Patek Philippe Introduces Chronograph Annual Calendar Ref. 5960/1A in Black

Cosmetic tweaks to the chronograph with annual calendar in stainless steel.

Welcome to the new Watches By SJX.

Subscribe to get the latest articles and reviews delivered to your inbox.