High time for haute horology

NOV 26, 2015
Ask anyone to name their most precious resource and there’s a very good chance that they will say “time”. And what greater expression of love can there be than to make time for someone you care about – or, failing that, to give them time in the form of a truly exquisite wristwatch?

A timepiece given out of love, you see, is one that carries extra-special meaning. When our first child was born, it was without hesitation that I decided to mark the occasion by gifting my wife a watch.

On the basis that I expect her to keep it always (or perhaps hand it down to our son) I chose a true classic in the form of a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, which, with its celebrated swivelling case, provides the perfect blank canvas for the engraving of a few heartfelt words – to which I added the exact date and time that our child came into the world.

Many watches, of course, are expressions of love in their own right. Chopard’s Happy Diamonds and Happy Sport women’s timepieces can come with heart-shaped precious stones that appear to slither about the dial as the wearer moves. While a piece such as Cartier’s filigree panthers watch – which depicts a pair of exquisitely crafted panthers on the dial – could be read as a symbol of longstanding loyalty between partners.

Watches have a role to play too as an alternative to the traditional wedding ring. Men, in particular, often feel disinclined to wear rings – but the idea of a “wedding watch” can be decidedly appealing. Bulgari’s new Diagono Magnesium could be worn on the wedding day and throughout the marriage to serve as a gently mellowing symbol of a long and happy life together.

In broader terms, the gift of a certain type of watch can serve as an acknowledgment that the giver is appreciative of their partner’s passion for a particular sport or pastime. You might think, for example, of presenting an enthusiastic pilot with a legendary aviator’s watch, such as Breitling’s limited-edition Transocean Chronograph 1915, or one of IWC’s Big Pilot models. A diver, meanwhile, would doubtless rejoice in a Panerai Luminor and its historic connections with the sea (these timepieces were originally designed for Second World War British Navy divers), while a Ralph Lauren Automotive – inspired by a 1938 Bugatti coupe – serves as a stylish and practical instrument to wear while at the wheel of any sports car.

Aside from being an indicator of one person’s love and appreciation for another, a watch is nothing if not an expression of the maker’s love for his (or her) craft – and few can have put as much love into their art as contemporary horologist François-Paul Journe, whose bad behaviour at school led his parents to enrol him in watchmaking classes in Marseille.

He was expelled after a couple of years, but then headed to Paris, and it was there that he was taken on as an apprentice by an uncle who repaired clocks and watches for a living. By the age of 20 he had made his own pocket watch and, during the mid-1990s, he began to conceive his own range of wristwatches, which resulted in the founding of the eponymous brand, F.P. Journe, in 1999.

In 2013, Journe marked 30 years as a fully-fledged watchmaker by releasing the 99-piece Tourbillon Historique wristwatch, a piece that replicates the first tourbillon pocket watch he created in 1983, at the age of 26.

It could fairly be described as a labour of love . .

Words by Simon de Burton