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Hands on review of the FP. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance 2020

foversta
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I sometimes wonder what is the most emblematic model of the F.P. Journe brand. The Tourbillon Souverain most often comes to my mind because it is in line with the first wristwatch created by François-Paul Journe in 1991. But on reflection, I could consider the Chronomètre à Résonance as the most representative piece of his approach. I think I forged this conviction during my visits to the manufacture in Geneva. Antide Janvier's double pendulum regulator, which is installed in one of the rooms, recalls the link between the work of the great watchmakers of the 18th century and the achievements of François-Paul Journe and beyond his fascination with the phenomenon of resonance. One thing is certain: by presenting this new model in spring 2020, François-Paul Journe has found the ideal symbol for the trajectory of his brand over the past twenty years. Indeed, the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 offers a real concentrate of the best of the French watchmaker. And by comparing it with the original watch, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year, I was able to perceive the whole evolution of its thinking around the theme of acoustic resonance and how to interpret it. If I had to sum up this watch in one sentence, it would be: everything changes so that nothing changes.

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Nothing changes because visually, the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 differs little from its predecessors: I find again the two display sub-dials, their respective sectors dedicated to second hand, the power reserve display at the top. By turning the watch over, the architecture of the 1520 movement seems very close to the 1499 movement one. In short, the dominant feeling is to be in front of an evolution of the existing watch. And then very quickly the differences appear clearly: the main crown is no longer located at 12 o'clock but at 2 o'clock, the sub-dials are linked together, a small opening  is located in the center of the dial and the movement seems more complex than the one it replaces. François-Paul Journe's approach then takes on its full meaning. We could be sure that he was not just going to release another version of a watch after all the different versions which have been unveiled for twenty years. The Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 is a brand new watch because the differences I have described above testify to fundamental changes.

The 2020 Resonance Chronometer actually goes much further than the original Chronomètre à Résonance. I could say that with the initial Chronomètre à Résonance, only the acoustic resonance linked the two mechanisms together (and this, without any mechanical transmission). Because each mechanism had its own independence, animated by the energy of its own barrel/mainspring. This construction also explained the position of the main crown at noon to allow an architecture of symmetrical movement, such as the mirror effect of what was happening on the dial side.

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The 1520 caliber doesn't have this characteristic since a single barrel powers the two mechanisms. However, such a solution leads to other constraints, in particular that of energy management. The phenomenon of resonance allows the two balance wheels to return to sympathy, starting to fight in opposition, one being an exciter and the other a resonator. The two balance wheels support each other thus giving more inertia to their movements. For this phenomenon to manifest itself, the two balance wheels must have the closest behavior: the difference in frequency from one to the other must be less than 5 seconds per day of cumulative difference in six positions. And in this case, the two balance wheels can enter into sympathy. The interest of the resonance phenomenon is to obtain a more stable behavior, thus favoring a better precision. If an external element disrupts the functioning of the watch, one of the two balance wheels will accelerate while the other will slow down. And thanks to the phenomenon of resonance, the two balance wheels will gradually find their point of agreement thus making it possible to eliminate the disturbance, beating in perfect synchronization. The disturbance is somehow absorbed.
The challenge through the caliber 1520 with a single barrel therefore consisted in ensuring an independent distribution of energy (in order to end up in a configuration similar to that of the original Chronomètre à Résonance) while obtaining balance behaviors in terms of frequency as close as possible and this, over a very large part of the power reserve. This is the reason why François-Paul Journe has integrated in the caliber 1520 a differential which meets the first objective and two Remontoirs d'Egalités which respond to the second.

I must admit that I was amazed by the design intelligence of this watch. The differential and the Remontoirs d'Egalités, each at their own level, aim to create the favorable context for the occurrence of the resonance phenomenon while ensuring optimal and lasting chronometry. The watch then enters a virtuous circle. The optimal chronometry allows the occurrence of the resonance phenomenon and the latter makes it possible to maintain this optimal chronometry. There is therefore a real interaction between the different technical solutions and this is what makes the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 so successful.

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It is also easier to live with on a daily basis. Positioning the main crown at 2 o'clock significantly improves ergonomics. Manual winding and handling of the crown were not easy when it was positioned at 12 o'clock. The secondary crown (actually a pull tab) which allows the second hand to be reset simultaneously remains at 4 o'clock. The other detail that I really appreciate from a practical point of view is the 24-hour display of the left sub-dial. I also remind you that the Chronométre à Résonance, whatever its version, remains a great travel watch thanks to the independent setting of the two mechanisms: any difference can exist between the two displays. The watch thus manages the most complicated time zones without any problem like the Nepal one for example and could almost be used as an hour - minute time counter which can be activated by setting the left sub-dial at noon.


The Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 is available in platinum or in pink gold, with two different diameters: 40 and 42mm. The 40mm diameter is what I would describe as historic because it is faithful to the original watch. However, the 42mm diameter remains very interesting: the thickness being in both cases 11mm, it gives a more slender style to the watch. In addition, it allows the latter to be more clearly differentiated from previous versions of the Chronomètre à Résonance. Finally, the dial seems to breathe better.

The color of the dial is in harmony with the case material one. The dial is in white gold for the platinum version and in pink gold for the pink gold version. But in each case, the two time display sub-dials are made in silver. It is important to note that these two sub-dials, unlike previous Chronomètres à Résonance, are made of a single piece. I see behind this choice a symbol: that of the fact that the energy comes from a single barrel and that the link between the two mechanisms is closer. The other advantage of the unique silver piece is that it will age uniformly and if it needs to be replaced, the result will also be uniform. Finally, the unique bridge is part of an aesthetic trend of the brand that I have observed with the Astronomic Souveraine and previously with the Centigraphe or the Chronograph à Rattrapante.

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The central opening is more surprising. The choice is assumed: the differential, which is one of the major characteristics of the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020, is made visible. Personally, I find this decision relevant and consistent. The differential plays a key role in the functioning of the watch and as such, it must be visible like the Remontoirs d'Egalités and the two balance wheels.

The dial of the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 doesn't offer a real aesthetic change compared to the previous models ones. But it remains nonetheless always as successful and the opening on the differential brings a touch of originality. I find that the more discreet power reserve indicator is better integrated (the change of location of the crown allows it to be housed at noon) and the two sub-dials offer great legibility despite their small sizes. Be careful however to remain vigilant with the left sub-dial which is graduated over 24 hours. It's practical ... provided you don't forget it! My only downside on this dial is the inscription of the name of the brand which I find a little too large but apart from this point, the whole presents a very great rigor and an irreproachable execution. I still love as much the contrast between the silver sub-dials and the base of the gold dial.

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The show offered by the 1520 movement is sumptuous. First of all, I am pleased to find an architecture of caliber similar to the 1499 movement one. This architecture is particular in the whole watchmaking production and the proximity of the two balance wheels makes the whole fascinating. However, the 1520 movement appears to be more open than the 1499 movement due to the presence of the Remontoirs d'Egalités. It generously occupies the case, whatever its size, because of its own diameter of 34.6mm. The finishes are obviously excellent, respecting the standards of the manufacture. I appreciate the contrast between the pink gold of the plate and the bridges and the color of the moving elements, as well as the subtle difference between the beaded plate which is visible in the lower zone of the movement and the Geneva stripes on the bridges ( and especially on the upper bridge). But in the end, that is not what I remember. The 1520 movement is distinguished by the animations it offers: the ballet of the two balance wheels in opposition, in search of their point of agreement or in sympathy and the characteristic behavior of the two Remontoirs d'Egalités. Every second, they release the energy to the escapement to ensure linear force transmission and isochronism over 28 hours. I really like the disparity between the behavior of the balance wheels, which oscillate permanently and Remontoirs d'Egalités which act in a jerky way. The 1520 movement is therefore not a caliber that can only be assessed statically: it is a living, animated movement, with a captivating visual rendering. From the performance point of view, it has a power reserve of 42 hours for a frequency of 3hz. As previously stated, the watch will offer optimal behavior over 28 hours and that is why it is very important to wind it well every day in the same time slot. The power reserve indicator is actually very useful. As such, I find that it would have been relevant for the Chronometer à Résonance to be delivered with a documentary report (which displays the results of the accuracy tests) given its name and vocation.

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In any case, the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful novelties of the year. François-Paul Journe has managed to reinvent this iconic watch while retaining an aesthetic and functional consistency with previous models. More practical and above all going much further from a technical point of view, the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 not only demonstrates François-Paul Journe's talent but also his ability to evolve and to challenge previously defined solutions. All energy management has been reviewed, by its way of being distributed (by the differential) and of being released (by the Remontoirs d'Egalités). And through this redesign, François-Paul Journe aims to create the optimal conditions for the phenomenon of resonance to appear. Once again, he creates a watch that not only seduces with its creation but also challenges us with the concepts it implements. This is the reason why the Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 is not only a beautiful watch. It is an exciting and stimulating watch.

The Chronomètre à Résonance 2020 is available in pink gold at a price of 108,700 euros and in platinum at a price of 112,500 euros in France.

Pros:
+ the integration of technical solutions that make sense
+ the quality of the execution of the whole
+ a more practical watch thanks to the crown at two o'clock
+ the independent setting of the two displays
+ the visual animations offered by the caliber 1520

Cons:
- the optimal operating time is a bit too short
- I would have appreciated a documentary report issued with the watch

Comments:
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mahesh June 1st, 2020-02:30
great review Fx - merci ! Over the first version (albeit i like them move) there are few things that are great improvements... 1) position of both the crowns 2) the minute track on the 24h dial improves the 'mirror effect' with '12h' dial...esp. comparing to the 'outgoing 24h dial... 
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foversta June 3rd, 2020-12:53
Thanks a lot Mahesh for your words!  
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TheMadDruid June 1st, 2020-05:38
Thanks for your insights, Fx. Terrific work.
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foversta June 3rd, 2020-12:53
Thanks a lot!  
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holdemchamp1225 June 1st, 2020-06:16
Wonderful review. Many thanks for taking the time to write this piece. This new version of the Resonance is simply amazing 👏  
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foversta June 3rd, 2020-12:53
I was very fortunate to meet François-Paul totally by chance! Thanks!  
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holdemchamp1225 June 3rd, 2020-13:20
Wow, did not know that. Even cooler 😎  
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jack johnson June 1st, 2020-07:07
I do not know if I like the watch or the review better as both are just fantastic. Thank you so much, FX!
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foversta June 3rd, 2020-12:52
wow, thanks a lot Jack!  
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sham1 June 1st, 2020-08:11
Your review makes me want this watch more! Thank you for the superb review and as usual, world class photos!
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