It’s no big mystery what Osama’s watch preferences are. The watch lover made it clear on Instagram, as his account is named @thejourneguy. Osama has a passion for the artisanal watches of F.P. Journe. @thejourneguy is one of these accounts that isn’t only a pleasure to look at, but it’s also packed with knowledge and a pretty impressive amount of background details on the brand – which Osama also shares in a dedicated website. Osama knows a lot about F.P. Journe, as we recently discovered when he helped us with the historical part of this article on the Octa series of watches. In this exclusive interview for The Collector’s Series, Osama highlights one of the most special watches ever created by François-Paul Journe, a watch like no other in the collection… This watch is the stunning and rare F.P. Journe Tourbillon Historique T-30.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – When did you know it had to be F.P. Journe for you?
Osama a.k.a @thejourneguy – I came across F.P. Journe by complete chance in 2013. I was at a local retailer and I was looking through the display cases. I didn’t really bother with the brand prior, as I knew it was well out of my budget and thus overlooked them. By chance, the store manager informed me of a timepiece in tantalum, which was relatively affordable compared to the gold or platinum pieces. He offered to show it to me and I didn’t see any harm in learning something new. I had no clue what it was at the time, but I put it on my wrist and exactly three seconds afterwards, I knew I had to have it. Ever since, I have been hooked! That watch was the Chronomètre Bleu.
One of the things that attracted me to watches at the start was the craftsmanship and nostalgia; the idea that a watchmaker spends years at a bench developing and making a single watch. Today, the industry has advanced and grown well beyond that. To go through that nostalgic experience, one has to go to small independent watchmakers and, to me, F.P. Journe is at the perfect level of being a small artisanal Manufacture, yet also somewhat accessible compared to others (900 watches vs. 50 watches per year).
What makes F.P. Journe so special?
It is really quite fascinating to witness the works of one of the greatest living watchmakers of our time, without having to read about it in history books. Everything François-Paul Journe does has a story to it, a reason for it. If you want to learn about watches, if you want to discuss his works, you can simply go and ask him. You can still visit his workshop and see him working on his ideas. That is amazing! While his brand is well established, you still know exactly who designed your watch, who developed it, who gave it life. There is a certain charm and connection with that experience that sets F.P. Journe well apart from other established brands.
I respect his philosophy and his desire to not just be a fashion-trend watchmaker, but someone who really tries to carry on the great pursuit of chronometry, which spans over 600 years. He is not a watchmaker for the sake of selling watches, he still just wants to make what ‘HE’ likes.
And what made this T-30 so desirable?
The T-30 had always been on my list of watches to someday own since its release in 2013. I admired its background and importance in the history of F.P. Journe watches, but it wasn’t until a Manufacture visit in 2019 that the watch became the most desirable watch for me at the time.
While I was touring the Manufacture, I spent a considerable amount of time in the Finishing department, learning the different steps and processes the artisans go through to finish each component. Before I left, I asked the Department Head which project was the most difficult they ever went through. Without any hesitation, I was told: “The hands of the T-30.”
Due to its limited production, François-Paul Journe insisted that he wanted the hands to be finished in the Atelier where he could further keep an eye on their quality.
The hands of the T-30 are incredibly light and thin, making them an absolute nightmare to finish. They were completely finished by hand and a total of 300 hands (3×100) were completed by one artisan, with each hand taking around 2-3 hours to finish.
That same artisan told me that she once spent three hours on one hand, but as she was removing it from its holder, the hand sprung and flew off. She cried from the stress and never found the hand again. After hearing that, I wanted to show my appreciation for her efforts and decided that the watch had to be in my collection.
It is also no surprise that the T-30 is one of the most handcrafted timepieces F.P. Journe has ever produced. In a sense, François-Paul wasn’t free to design and develop something new but was restricted in trying to match the wristwatch to its pocket watch ancestor as much as possible. There was absolutely no room for error. The hands were blued by the watchmakers themselves, the case was engine-turned and made of silver; it is a true piece of art.
Has the T-30 any other significance?
The T-30 marks an important milestone for François-Paul Journe; it being 30 years since he created his very first timepiece. It doesn’t resemble any of his current creations but dates back to a time when he dreamed of owning a tourbillon pocket watch. He was still in his 20s and didn’t develop his own style. The watch looks more like a Breguet pocket watch, since A-L Breguet is François-Paul’s idol. That, along with the craftsmanship of the watch puts it in a league of its own, in my opinion. My form of collecting is always to try and collect stories and pieces with meaning, and the T-30 ticks many of those boxes.
Ah, stories, tell us more!
The T-30 is undoubtedly one of François-Paul’s most crafted and beloved creations, and it goes on to have a tremendous respect from the people who finished, and assembled them at the Manufacture. I told you the story of the lady who worked on the hands, but there is a part II.
After the hands are finished, the watchmakers would blue them by hand, in the traditional flame method. This particular step was only ever done with the T-30 and here you have watchmakers (who are not used to this process) sweating their nerves off because there is a very fine line between getting the perfect blued hand and missing it completely (we are talking a very fine line).
When I wore the watch to another Manufacture tour, I remember the watchmakers themselves telling me of how stressful the hands were, in addition to working with silver, but that they all developed experience and profound respect for the timepiece because of it. For them, it was a joy to assemble, which makes me appreciate the watch even more.
Doesn’t its delicacy make it hard for you to just go out and wear it?
Absolutely not! In fact, it was my lockdown watch for 2020, so I wore it daily for several months. It is a time-only watch, with a hidden tourbillon, but the fine details of the case, movement, and dial make it interesting and attractive every single day. A watch always has to keep you entertained and the T-30 never fails in that aspect.
You know, a stranger at a pedestrian crossing once stopped me to talk about my watch. He had no idea what it was, but as with all the compliments I get regarding it, they always say, “It’s beautiful!”
I think the two-tone silver and rose gold contrast emits a tone of elegance that people find attractive. If only they knew it had a tourbillon inside it!
Do you know or want to know the current market value of the watch?
Personally, I try to not put a value on any of my watches. The fun part is in the watch itself and once it becomes an asset, it is no longer the same thing that attracted me to it in the first place. That said, I am unsure of the market value these days, since the T-30 is rare and the Journe market is still somewhat unsettled and surprising. I acquired it in 2019 so the price has definitely changed since then. I hope I never have to sell the watch because I truly love it and I hope it will bring me joy for many years to come, or at least until the case develops a beautiful silver patina!
How would you describe your watch collection so far?
Mostly F.P. Journe, since that is really my calling card. I enjoy studying the brand, the man, the watches, and the tiniest of useless, but interesting details. Being able to gather and collect these stories and sharing them with others is a real joy to me. As for other watches… I think for the most part, I am quite content with what I own… for now!
What is your number one tip for people who would want a T-30?
Be patient. There are 99 of them out there so it will be hard(er) to find one, but patience always pays off. Keep in mind, the case is made of silver which nobody really uses anymore. You might think it will be as durable as some other white metal but in reality, silver is very soft, and it oxidizes. The metal will develop a patina that makes it even more prone to scratches. If you are someone who gets bothered by the smallest hairline scratch, this is not a watch for you.
And any other collecting tips?
Buy what you like and don’t overthink it. I don’t believe one should buy a watch as an investment because that sucks the fun out of the hobby. A watch should be something that makes you happy to wear or collect, not a burden that scares you because it is your retirement fund.
Is there added value in knowing other collectors?
Absolutely! I am privileged to have developed some of the most cherished friendships I have through this hobby. What began as a watch discussion with some, has now turned into a broader, stronger friendship with them. Watches come and go, but the people are where the joy comes from.
All photos are the property of @thejourneguy and can’t be used without authorization.