F.P Journe is one of the finest watch brands out there today. They combine the highest form of watch making with tradition, innovation and complication to produce some of the most stunning timpieces I have ever seen! Holland & Holland is a British gun-maker based in London, England which offers handmade sporting rifles and shotguns. The company holds two Royal Warrants.
After both companies met, they decided to work together on an an original idea that would best exemplify their respective know-how. For their part, Holland & Holland was attracted by the idea of allowing two of their museum barrels of over hundred years old to be used to make magnificent Haute Horology F.P. Journe timepieces. François-Paul Journe is always in search of the exceptional, the unique and the innovative. He immediately saw the possibility of including Damascus steel in a unique watch series with a powerful story with deep references to ancient tradition.
The two barrels were registered by hand in the company’s books. Barrel No. 1382, dating to 1868, yielded 38 dials, while barrel No. 7183, dating to 1882, produced 28 dials.
The idea was to use bars of two or more different types of steel, or iron steel, one having less carbon content, and forge them together into a single bar. This was done by heating, twisting and hammering as needed, and then folding the bar, hammering and forging it again. The process was repeated a few more times. The result was a bar with layers of steel of different types producing the wavy lines and patterns visible due to the difference in chemical composition between the different bars used.
The technique was first called ‘pattern welding’ and was known to several cultures. The Japanese had been using it to manufacture their swords since 1100 AD, and the Vikings and Celts around 600 AD. By 1570, it was used to manufacture gun barrels in India. The Damascus techniques had spread to the Ottoman Empire and later to Hungary and Spain by the 1650s. The defeat of the Turks at the siege of Vienna in 1683 yielded thousands of captured pattern welded barrels for examination. This accelerated the manufacturing of pattern welded barrels in Europe. By 1700, the Belgians were producing pattern welded barrels in Liège, and in the early 1800s, the technique was used in England to produce high quality sporting barrels.
The challenge in producing the dial of this limited series was the process of cutting the dials out of the round barrels. This involved several operations that took place in London and in Geneva, at F.P. Journe’s own dial makers, “Les Cadraniers de Genève”.
The calibre 1304 from the Chronomètre Bleu was used, but with the small second mechanism removed. This allowed to further enhance the texture and pattern of the dial. François-Paul Journe decided to use a 39-millimeter steel case, a reference to the steel used for the gun barrels. The choice of this diameter was made to underline the uniqueness of the timepiece, since this size had never been used before. Only 38- and 40-millimeter cases were used at the manufacture. The choice of calibre 1304 is also meaningful. This caliber is a precision chronometer powered by two parallel spring barrels. The technology was used in marine chronometers at about the time these guns were being manufactured.
The Chronomètre Holland & Holland is accessible to F.P. Journe and Holland & Holland collectors through an application process. This Limited Series is exclusively available from F.P.Journe Boutiques and Holland & Holland Boutiques (London – Dallas). The F.P. Journe Chronomètre Holland & Holland retail price is 45,000 CHF (roughly $45,000 give or take )