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Inside F.P. Journe’s New State of the Art Case and Dial Facilities in Geneva

F.P. Journe has made in-house expertise a priority since its founding nearly 25 years ago in 1999. Its spirit of independence has informed every aspect of the brand’s approach to watchmaking from manufacturing movement components to hand-decoration and finishing. But as the brand continues to experience an astronomical boom in demand, it has had to expand some of its operations, namely its case and dial manufacture, Cadraniers de Genève and Boîtiers de Genève, which began as a modest facility in Meyrin, Switzerland in 2012.

Three years ago, the brand began working on the construction of a totally new outpost to better match the high standards of F.P. Journe watch production and to expand the facilities with the addition of two new departments for luminescent numerals and enamel. Last month, I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the all new Cadraniers de Genève and Boîtiers de Genève and experience first-hand the attention to detail that goes into the creation of each and every F.P. Journe timepiece.

Decal application to the dial

Decal application to the dial F.P. Journe

For François-Paul Journe, the impetus for each watch starts with the dial. This essential element of every watch is what makes the first impression. It’s not only the showpiece of a watch but also the vessel through which the watch’s functions are communicated, whether it’s basic timekeeping or more complex complications.

Enameling the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu

Enameling the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu F.P. Journe

In the new Cadraniers de Genève facilities, you’ll find 13 different workshops filled with brand new, state-of-the-art machinery and seasoned artisans completing each of the hand-finished components. The harmony of these two elements is central to F.P. Journe with the role of technology being expressly used to enhance tradition and never at the expense of work done by craftsmen. Between each and every step of creating a single dial, there’s a control check, and because the work is housed within a single facility, any flaws can be traced back to the exact department of the workshop where the component needs to be refined. The beauty, of course, of the craftsmanship likes in the imperfect nature of human touch. This emphasis on hand crafting is paramount here.

Polishing the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu

Polishing the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu F.P. Journe

Of all the processes entailed to create a single watch dial, the most important and challenging step is ensuring the dial is flat. This impressive feat is performed entirely by hand, as using a machine creates more room for error. The average watch dial is a mere 0.20-0.40 mm thick. Elements like lacquer, varnish and paint alone can add 0.10mm, so it’s imperative the application of every component of the dial is executed perfectly to maintain its slim profile.

Varnishing the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu

Varnishing the dial of the Chronomètre Bleu F.P. Journe

The most demanding dial to execute is that of the Chronomètre Bleu. This model is instantly recognizable for its chrome blue dial, which is achieved through a process of applying multiple layers of blue lacquer, each of which is polished to a mirror finish before the next is applied. During each polishing phase, heat is generated by the polishing lathes, creating an opportunity for error with each layer to potentially warp and compromise the flatness of the dial. All of this is managed by the skilled hands of a master craftsman to ensure each Chronomètre Bleu dial perfectly complements the tantalum case.

Soldering the case

Soldering the case F.P. Journe

The harmony between the dial and its case is essential. Just as the dial is the visual entry point to any given watch, the case is the entry point for our sense of touch. Imagine yourself picking up a watch to check it out for the first time, and you’ll notice the tactile experience of exploring the case’s shape, texture and weight. While the craft of dial making operates largely on a micro level, with extreme attention to detail regarding color and texture, the work of case making is considered to be a “rawer” handcraft by comparison.

Polishing the case

Polishing the case F.P. Journe

In Boîtiers de Genève, you’ll find seven different workshops specialized in producing the brand’s cases. A single watch case is produced through a series of processes that require demanding organization and cooperation between each of these workshops. It starts with blocks of precious and rare metals, like the tantalum of the Chronomètre Bleu. Then, the metals go through various tooling, stamping, assembly, and polishing to transform the material into the vessel that displays the dial and houses the movement.

State of the art CNC equipment in the new Boîtiers de Genève

State of the art CNC equipment in the new Boîtiers de Genève F.P. Journe

F.P. Journe’s redesign and expansion of its case and dial facilities is largely practical, allowing the brand to accommodate new state of the art equipment, greater control of temperature and humidity regulation, and two new workshops for lume and enameling. However, despite the evident need to grow, the company says it has every intention of maintaining its small production numbers—the focus rather, is a deeper focus on quality, not quantity.

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