I have been looking forward to sharing my pictures and my impressions on the FFC.
The new FFC (Francis Ford Coppola) is so different from other Journe watches….. and it surprised me so much, even if I had already seen the FFC several times in 2021.
I have already learned many years ago to reserve my opinion on a watch until I have seen it for myself. Too many times have I seen how pictures – especially those in press material can give the wrong impression. For better or worse.
The FFC is no different. The press kit was elaborate and well done, and they even did a nice film on the watch. However with the FFC the real understanding comes once you put it on the wrist - It speaks as much to the senses as to the intellect. For me - it just went straight to my heart…. And much more than the FFC for ONLY WATCH in 2021.
Of course, this watch is very apart from what we normally see from Francois-Paul Journe. This watchmaker who normally focuses his work on chronometric precision. Drawing inspiration from the golden age of horology with names such as Antide Janvier, L.A. Breguet and Ferdinand Berthoud but attempts to go beyond to create contemporary pieces in this spirit. The FFC does not draw from this vein but is none the less, an impressive piece of mechanical engineering once you realize the complexity necessary to make the watch work. In fact, I cannot find another watch to draw parallels to in the way it is constructed. More about this later.
Although die hard Journe fans already know the FFC very well, I will just do a short recap for those who don’t know the story.
The idea for the watch comes out of the friendship with Francis Ford Coppola. In 2012, during a dinner, FFC and FPJ are discussing different ways of representing the passing of time historically. FFC asks FP if there is a way to display time by the fingers of your hand like in ancient times.
After the dinner F.P. keeps thinking about this question and cannot leave it. It turns in to an obsession to solve it and this becomes the genesis of this watch.
Later the question of showing the 12 hours with five fingers is solved by Francis Ford Coppola – the question for the watchmaker is how to solve the watch both technically and also find a stylistic way of representing a hand on a watch dial. Both challenges are extremely difficult and will take a long process of trials and attempts.
The final choice for the hand becomes a 3-dimensional representation of the first prosthetic / robotic hand with movable fingers envisioned by the renaissance inventor and physician Ambroise Paré (1509/1510 -1590).
The FFC presented for ONLY WATCH becomes the prototype (1st prototype) that is first presented to the public in late 2021. A watch that ends up with the hammer price of 4.5 Mio CHF. 2nd prototype can be seen on the wrist of Francis Ford Coppola attending the Oscars Award show in 2022.
How does the FFC work?
The FFC is constructed on the platform of Journes automatic Octa 1300.3 movement to provide the timekeeping but also supply the entire power source for the animation of the hand.
On top of this movement is constructed an entire system to animate the hand and turn the minutes display ring.
The Octa movement usually has a power reserve of 168 hours in one single barrel. This large single barrel feeds power to a 40-minute Remontoir d Égalité.
The Remontoir d Égalité is used in many of Journes timepieces and have always been implemented as a 1 second remontoir to help improve isochronism.
In this case the Remontoir d Égalité it is applied so it will build up power a reservoir of energy that will be instantly released when the hour changes to drive all the cams and levers that will change the fingers of the hand. These need to either protrude or retract instantaneously. Instead of the usual spring blade we know from Journes Remontoir d’Egalite the 40 minutes build-up of power is stored in a second barrel visible in the dial.
The hand created according to the design of Ambroise Paré is carved out of titanium by hand engraving.
Its entire height is 2 mm, but it appears much more three dimensional. I would have guessed it would be several mm higher when looking at the watch. The fingers are carved out from 0.1 mm thick titanium but also appear 3 dimensional. This is clearly the work of a top-level artisan to achieve this sculptural effect.
The owner will have to memorize the system of the hour display, of course, to be able to read the time. However – once you get the logic, I think it is not that difficult and even I could read it without too much thinking after learning.
The minutes are displayed on a ring that slowly rotates at the edge of the dial. It is turns by the large gear at 3 o clock and one can observe it slowly turning.
Why Francois Paul says the FFC is not considered an automaton.
An automaton is a very broad definition, but it basically means a mechanical animation that can be activated and driven by its autonomous power source.
In this watch the animation is not activated by the wearer and there is no separate power source like we know from a minute repeater with its power slide on the side of the watch. All the power comes from the automatic Octa and is continuously supplied to the hand.
The system for indicating the hours designed by Francis Ford Coppola in collaboration with Francois-Paul Journe
What does it look like in real and on the wrist?
I had already seen the FFC for ONLYWATCH several times before it was sold. While I was impressed with its technical merits and while I could appreciate its playful character it didn’t appeal to me personally on a deeper lever. Not for me, I would reply. However, I have to say that this changed when I finally had time to sit down with the FFC at this year’s presentation and strap it on. It just shows how the right gestalt of a watch can change everything. It went straight to my heart. I had one of those moments I wish I could buy this watch – right here and now. If I could afford it, I would have placed an order. It is so well done, super fascinating and so inspiring.
The watch is 42 mm and only an impressive 10.7 mm thick including the crystal. This means, in terms of size, we are talking perfectly wearable and well proportioned.
The dark rendering of this version with the Titalyt bridges hovering above the solid gold movement and the dark grey of the carved raw titanium gives it a dark mystical appearance. Toned down but with extremely strong presence. You can’t help but keep staring at it.
This is a crazy piece, but you can wear it and you can actually read the time easily, once you know the system. Complex and crazy – yes! But also, simple and speaking to the senses. On one level it’s easy to understand and operate. On the other it’s full of emotion and new technical innovation.
I was allowed to pull the crown and set it slowly forward. After the hour changed, I could see the barrel spring at 1 o´clock fill up and then I passed the full hour, the hand would change instantly. Like a switch blade the fingers would jump in or out.
I was allowed to go full circle for the 12 hours and set the hand in all positions and I love how the dial is animated. I actually forgot for a second that the purpose was telling the time.
The minutes are easily read off the minutes ring turning slowly by the gear at three o clock. You can easily observe how it’s turning, and this adds another charming element of animation.
There is a feeling of “deus ex machina” about this watch. It goes much beyond being a watch and enters the world of art. We have clearly left the world of historic, scientific chronometers that is the normal pursuit of Francois-Paul Journe and we have entered another world that is more theatrical and playful rendered in a drawing darkness. What better partner to do this with than an other great master Francis Ford Coppola. I think, it all comes together here.
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