The Quartz Revolution
The 1970s and early 80s saw the rise of quartz timepieces, a phenomenon that greatly threatened the Swiss mechanical watch industry. Prior to this, Swiss mechanical timepieces dominated world markets, but by 1978 quartz watches overtook their mechanical counterparts in terms of popularity. Powered by batteries, quartz watches work on electronic oscillators and regulated by quartz crystals. They brought forth numerous advantages, including more accurate timekeeping, higher resistance to temperature changes and lower cost of production. The Japanese and Americans were quick to embrace this new technology, while the Swiss saw no need for change. As a result, many players of the Swiss watch industry failed to adapt to the new playing field and eventually went insolvent. The emergence of the inexpensive quartz watch saw mechanical watchmakers shift their focus to target the market’s higher end. This renewed the appreciation for well made mechanical watches, which are now often regarded to have higher artistic value. In our current day and age, we can tell the time from a wide variety of devices in our everyday lives: smart phones, computers, microwaves, television etc. The practical need for a wristwatch is arguably at an all time low, translating to a bigger statement to still wear one.
François-Paul Journe is widely regarded to be amongst the most brilliant minds in the watchmaking industry. He founded his own brand of F.P. Journe watches in 1999 and has become one of the biggest artisanal independent brands today, with an annual production of just under a thousand pieces.
The Élégante 48
In 2014, F.P. Journe launched their Élégante line: a ladies collection of watches, powered by “the only electro-mechanical movement conceived and created for the luxury market and offering a true vision of luxury.” Essentially a high-end quartz movement developed in conjunction with a Swiss engineer and made in Switzerland according to exclusive and exacting standards. The new releases were not especially unusual considering many high-end brands use quartz movements in their ladies’ collections.
Fast forward to 2016, F.P. Journe upsized the ladies Élégante into a full fledged men’s sports watch. Originally 40mm (measured lug to lug), the new timepiece measures 48mm, hence the name. It retains the tortue (tortoise in french) case of the previous variant with the addition of 4 signature F.P. Journe screws on the bezel. The case material is lightweight titanium and features brushed and high polished finishes.
The blend of soft curves and hard edges results in a highly attractive and unique case. It is worth noting that the tortue case shape was previously only used on the highly complicated and exclusive Vagabondage series.
Being a sports watch and relatively larger than the average F.P. Journe timepiece, the Élégante 48 still wears exceptionally well, thanks to its curved case back, contouring nicely to sit on the wrist.
The Élégante features a glossy white dial that might appear to be enamel or porcelain, but you’ll be surprised. The entire dial is covered with Super-Luminova and glows exceptionally bright.
The titanium hands appear black, but reveals to be blue when the light hits at an angle. Despite the unusual case shape and movement, the watch is unmistakably F.P. Journe, its font, hands and screws sticking religiously to the brand’s DNA,
As previously mentioned, the Élégante 48 runs on a quartz movement, that is the calibre 1210. Despite lacking the mechanical credentials of F.P. Journe’s other watches, the case back view is by no means unattractive. The rose gold movement can be admired from the display case back, which is unusual for a quartz timepiece.
Probably the most interesting feature of the calibre 1210 is that it goes to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity. The watch goes into standby, only the microprocessor continues to keep time.
The watch awakens when picked up and the hands adjust to the correct time, either forwards or backwards, always taking the shorter route. Check out the video below to witness this highly entertaining effect. The ability to sleep grants the Élégante 48 exceptional battery longevity of up to 18 years, or even up to 10 years if worn daily. F.P. Journe assures clients that the calibre 1210 is perpetually serviceable.
Strap and Buckle
The Élégante 48 comes fitted with an integrated midnight blue rubber strap. The strap is highly comfortable and is probably the softest and most supple rubber strap I have personally handled. It also comes with a titanium clasp that looks and feels very luxurious.
Concluding thoughts and why I bought it
F.P. Journe clearly set out to create the most elaborate high-end quartz watch the industry has ever seen. Every detail of this timepiece oozes luxury, not unlike other watches from the esteemed manufacture. It is the new entry level men’s watch of F.P. Journe’s current collection, and presents exceptionally good value for money, if one can accept its quartz powered calibre.
The Élégante 48 retails for 16,700 Singapore Dollars or 11,700 USD.
Patented two-rotor motor
Dedicated processor, specific functions and low consumption
Quartz frequency: 32’768 Hz.
Overall dimensions: 28.5 x 28.3 mm
Casing-up: 27.9 x 27.7 mm
Overall Height: 3.13 mm
Height of winding stem: 1.10 mm
Diameter of stem thread: S0.90 mm
Standby after 30 minutes motionless
Restart and automatic time setting when the watch is put back on
Motion detector with inertia weight visible on the dial
2 position hand setting stem
Time adjustment in position 2 of the hand-setting stem
Stop second in time setting position (crown pulled)
Daily use: 8 to 10 years
Standby: 18 years
Central hours and minutes
Small second at 6h00
Dimensions (Flat Tortue): 48.0 x 40.0 mm
Total thickness: 7.35 mm
Golden movement 4N
Engraved and decorated battery bridge
Cotes de Genève
Screw heads polished and bevelled
Pegs with polished rounded ends
Inner dial in Superluminova
Outer dial with screwed indices
Blue rubber, Titanium deployant clasp
Number of components:
Number of jewels: 17
Including case and strap: 164