Reflections on the F.P. Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical

Boldly big and ironically Breguet.

As someone who appreciates the original F.P. Journe tourbillon, I was intriguing by the vertical tourbillon that Mr Journe described in some detail last year. That, however, didn’t prepare me for how much watch the new Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is.

Unlike the original tourbillon that was conventional, the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical has a vertical tourbillon, which means the rim of the balance wheel is visible from the front. And it is also a 30-second tourbillon, making one revolution every half-minute, or double the rate of a conventional tourbillon.

The watch has been upgraded in several ways beyond the tourbillon, but first, the rationale behind the verticality.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 2-1

According to Mr Journe, an average wristwatch spends a third of its time – no pun intended – off the wrist of its owner, mostly during the time when it is removed at night. So the purpose of the vertical tourbillon is straightforward: ensuring the balance wheel is always vertical, regardless of whether the watch is on a pin buckle and lying flat on its back, or on a folding clasp and sitting on its side.

Ironically Breguet

Consequently, the vertical tourbillon actually returns to the original premise of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s invention of the tourbillon, which is to average out gravitational errors in a balance wheel that is in a constant vertical position, as it was in clocks and pocket watches. And because the vertical tourbillon makes one rotation every 30 seconds, it averages out errors at twice the rate of an ordinary tourbillon.

That irony is appealing, and also reminiscent of Mr Journe himself, who can seem dour at most times but is actually frequently funny in private settings.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 5

And big

The vertical tourbillon is necessarily thicker, since the movement height will about the diameter of the balance wheel. In numbers that means the cal. 1519 inside is 34.6mm in diameter and 10.86mm high, compared to 32.4mm and 7.15mm in the earlier tourbillon, which is an increase in thickness of about 50%.

That results in a watch case that is significantly larger at 42mm in diameter and 13.6mm high, primarily to accommodate the height of the tourbillon. The Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is actually thicker than the F.P. Journe grande sonnerie (12.25mm high), and almost as thick as an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph 42mm (14.18mm).

It doesn’t help that the classic F.P. Journe watch case has flat, vertical sides, with a narrow bezel and back profile, a look that emphasises the height of the case.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 8

For someone who appreciates the characteristic slimness of most F.P. Journe watches, the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical feels too big.

It’s also worth pointing out that the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is only available with a 42mm case; 40mm is not an option, at least for now.

But beautiful

But as a watch, or an object, there is a lot to like about the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical. To start with the watch has no dial, instead the time is indicated on a sub-dial that sits on the 18k rose gold base plate of the movement, just as Mr Journe originally intended.

His first wristwatch tourbillon of 1991 was constructed the same way, with an exposed base plate, and he subsequently preserved the look in later models with solid gold dials.

Here the base plate has been finished with Clous de Paris, or hobnail, guilloche, almost camouflaging the fact that it’s the movement.

Sitting on a slightly raised, platform, the enamel sub-dial is also an unusual, but appealing detail, giving the dial a smooth surface that is less metallic in appearance.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 3

It’s worth noting that the font for the numerals on the sub-dial is an evolution of the classic F.P. Journe typography. The new font is slightly more flamboyant, and well suited to the enamel.

What does feel a bit much is the heavyweight font for the engraving lettering on the base plate, which is done on linearly brushed segments and filled with black lacquer, making it even more prominent.

The tourbillon sits in an aperture with a wide, mirror polished rim, intended to highlight and reflect the tourbillon carriage. On the back a broad, polished half-bowl serves the same purpose. They serve the purpose well, though it does leave the tourbillon looking reduced in proportion.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 4

The flange around the edge of the dial is also wide and steep, again accentuating the height of the watch

Unlike the movement in the original tourbillon, the cal. 1519 has been enhanced on the back with cut-outs on the full plate that expose the remontoir d’egalite constant force mechanism and the underside of the tourbillon.

Compared to the unbroken expanse of movement in the original, this looks far more interesting, especially with the mirror polished bridges for the remontoir and tourbillon.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 6

Not only is the movement visually appealing from the back, it also seems slightly cleaner in terms of decoration than the earlier tourbillon.

And it is also equipped with a larger barrel, giving it a more practical 80-hour power reserve, almost double the 42 hours of the earlier tourbillon.

FP Journe Tourbillon Souverain Vertical Pt 7-1

Concluding thoughts

The Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is a winner in terms of concept, but the size is an obstacle for the traditional F.P. Journe fan.

That, however, is probably why it makes sense for the brand, because it will likely appeal to fans of complicated watches that find his originals too flat. Having made perhaps 1000 tourbillons to date, F.P. Journe likely needs a whole new clientele, especially in the United States, which along with Japan form its biggest market. But unlike Japan large watches are more popular.

Price-wise the Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is a big jump over its predecessor, costing about US$80,000 more (with a retail price of about US$250,000). That’s not exorbitant as it puts the watch on par with most of the competition, though it does remove some of the value-proposition appeal of the original.

Price and availability 

The Tourbillon Souverain Vertical is priced at SFr244,800 in rose gold and platinum SFr248,400 in platinum. Prices include 7.7% Swiss tax.


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SIHH 2019: Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule”

The glow-in-the-dark Santos.

Introduced last year, the revamped Cartier Santos has been a success, combining a signature design with practical features and a relatively affordable price tag. But the variants introduced so far are relatively ordinary, at least for the more experienced eye.

Changing all of that is the new Santos de Cartier Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” has just been unveiled at SIHH 2019. Noctambule translates as “night owl”, so the watch naturally glows in the dark.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule 3

But because it has no dial, with the base plate of the movement having been skeletonised to form Roman numerals, the plate is painted with Super-Luminova, a photoluminescence substance that glows green in the dark.

The idea is actually an old one, having been tested on the Tank Louis Cartier Noctambule of 2006. But that watch only made it to prototype stage (around three were made).

The Santos “Noctambule” has a stainless steel case that’s coated with amorphous diamond-like carbon (ADLC), giving it a slightly glossy black finish, although the metal below has a brushed surface. It measures 39.8mm in diameter and stands 9.08mm high, exactly the same as the standard steel version of the watch.

Cartier Santos Skeleton ADLC Noctambule 2

Inside is the cal. 9612 MC movement, which is hand-wound and has double barrels for a 72-hour power reserve.

Like the other Santos watches, the “Noctambule” has the “QuickSwitch” strap removal mechanism that relies on a button on the back of the lugs to release the strap for easy swapping. But unlike the other models it is delivered with two crocodile straps, in black and grey, instead of a metal bracelet.

Price and availability 

The Santos de Cartier Skeleton ADLC “Noctambule” (ref. WHSA0009) will be available from the second half of 2019 onwards. It’ll cost SFr26,500, or S$36,900.


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SIHH 2019: Greubel Forsey Art Piece Edition Historique

Double tourbillon, lavishly engraved.

While regular Greubel Forsey timepieces are already esoteric in their own right, the Art Pieces lineup takes the aesthetical designs yet a step further.

The flagship of the brand’s SIHH 2019 line-up, the Art Piece Edition Historique is avant-garde in style, emphasising two signature elements of the brand – the double, inclined 30° tourbillon and relief micro-engraving of the Greubel Forsey philosophy.


The double axis inclined tourbillon is not new but nevertheless still impressive; it features the same tourbillon carriages found in other Greubel Forsey double tourbillon movements.

It rotates the balance wheel in multiple planes which, in theory, averages out positional errors more uniformly as compared to a regular movement. While the outer carriage rotates gradually at one revolution every four minutes, the inner carriage completes rotating in 60 seconds.

The tourbillon is prominent atop the frosted, blue coated titanium main plate, which is deeply recessed in contrast to the raised half of the dial, giving a strong sense of depth. This is further emphasized by the massive domed sapphire crystal and large case size of 44mm by 15.95mm, which gives an excellent all-round view of the geometric dial surfaces.

The raised half of the dial is of strong interest – being intricately engraved in relief with the brand’s values, done so small as to resemble hieroglyphics. The engraving extends to the wide flanks of the raised dial, further utilising the architectural depth as a visual advantage.

The minutes visible in an aperture that opens and closes

Interestingly, the only apparent time indication on the dial is a red marker for the hours and a small sub-dial for seconds. The minutes are in fact, displayed in a window covered with a shutter that’s opened on-demand via a pusher on the crown. The lower half of the dial is simpler, with a blued steel pointer to indicate the 72-hour power reserve.



Pencil sketches of the Art Piece Edition Historique, highlighting key design elements

In stark contrast to the dial, the caseback is minimalistic – being dominated by a large, frosted three-quarter plate. Breaking the monotony of the expansive plate are gold chatons holding the jewelled bearings, and also relief-engraving of the signatures of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey.

Nevertheless, the unadorned appearance belie what’s underneath as the movement consists of a staggering 475 parts, with 130 for the tourbillon alone. This is plenty for what is essentially a time-only wristwatch with a power-reserve indicator and a jumping complication for the minutes aperture shutter.

The movement is also equipped with two mainspring barrels coupled in series, with one having a slipping clutch as found in automatic movements to prevent overwinding.


Either way, the view still remains interesting with the underside of the intricate tourbillon carriages visibly held by a slender, black-polished steel bridge that mirrors the bridge on the front. Not to mention the elaborate and meticulous finishing abundantly present throughout the entire movement that Greubel Forsey is revered for.

Price and availability

The Greubel Forsey Art Piece Edition Historique is limited to 33 pieces, with the first 11 pieces in platinum and subsequent models in other materials. Priced at CHF555,000 before taxes.


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