F.P.Journe Chronomètre à Resonance: The Only Wristwatch in the World That Functions with the Physical Resonance Phenomenon

The year 2018 marks the 35th anniversary of a project started by renowned master watchmaker François-Paul Journe in 1983 in order to manufacture worlds’ first mechanical wristwatch that incorporates the phenomena of Physical Resonance in its working principle.

Resonance is a natural acoustic phenomenon. Any animate body transmits a vibration to its environment. When another body picks up this vibration at the same frequency, it absorbs its energy. In watchmaking it means two independent movements set side by side which get in synchronization.

Christian Huygens (1629-1692), the great Dutch physicist, mathematician, astronomer, horologist and inventor, was the first to observe and make note that two pendulum clocks placed on the same wall synchronized their movements. By the coupling the system has two of its own modes that correspond to the phase movements and the opposed phase movements of the two pendulums. The synchronisation takes place on the first mode. Another great horologer who succeeded to use the principle in the art of watch making was Antide Janvier (1751-1835), the legendary French clock maker renowned for his “double pendulum clocks”, also called “Resonance clocks”, which he was the first to make.

The Resonance Regulator made around 1780 by Antide Janvier

At the entrance of the F.P.Journe manufacture’s ateliers, a fascinating clock occupies the place of honour, the second of three double regulators constructed by Antide Janvier. The first is kept at the Paul Dupuis museum in Toulouse and the 3rd at the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva.

Antide Janvier built his first moving sphere in wood at the age of 15, a feat that two years later received recognition from the Science Academy of Besançon. Young François-Paul started making his first tourbillon watch at the age of 20 and when he was 22 years old he designed a first planetarium.

Amongst the numerous masterpieces made by Antide Janvier, complicated astronomic clocks, planetarium and other remarkable spheres with equations, we are here reminded of his mastery of the physical resonance phenomenon in a regulator, a natural phenomenon that only F.P.Journe today perpetuates using this difficult and delicate technique with a modern conception, that of a mechanical wristwatch that was made to provide the greatest precision.

So far, no one had ever tried to accommodate a working double pendulum mechanism in the small space available in a wristwatch. François-Paul Journe took several years to meet this impossible challenge. During the early stages of research he made a prototype movement however that did not yet perform according to his expectations.

Prototype Resonance movement by François-Paul Journe, circa 1983

He then abandoned the project for a few years but he did not stop thinking about Antide Janvier’s pendulum. Hands, brain, calculations, sketches and prototypes all resonate in François-Paul Journe’s mind as he worked non-stop at his designer’s desk. This should function, and finally “this” does function.

The first wrist-watch with “resonance” ® (protected trademark), was commercialized as a world premiere in the year 2000.

F.P.Journe Chronomètre à Resonance 38mm

This emblematic timekeeper is a clear demonstration of François-Paul Journe’s research for precision in watchmaking. He devised, developed and built this movement to meet the demands of actual wear on the wrist and thereby provide chronometric performance driven to extremes, this watch represents one of the wildest challenges in the field of mechanical watches.

Each of the two balances alternately serves as exciter and resonator. When the two balances are in movement, they enter into harmony thanks to the resonance phenomenon and begin to beat naturally in opposition. The two balances then support each other, giving more inertia to their movement.

F.P.Journe Chronomètre à Resonance with New York Dial 

This result is possible only if the difference of the frequency from one to the other does not exceed 5 seconds per day cumulated on six positions. Their setting is an extremely delicate task. Whereas an external disturbing movement affects the running of a traditional mechanical watch, the same disturbance, for the Chronomètre à Resonance, produces an effect that accelerates one of the balances as much as it slows the other down. Little by little, the two balances come back towards each other to find their point of harmony, thus eliminating the disturbance.

This mechanism revolutionizes established standards and offers an amount of precision that had never been equaled in a mechanical wristwatch.

In 2004, F.P.Journe presented new edition of the Chronomètre à Résonance that features for the first time an 18K rose Gold movement.

In 2010, to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the emblematic Chronomètre à Resonance, F.P.Journe, presented a new version indicating 24 hours with a dial at 9 o’clock, precisely showing the hours of day and night.

The dial in Silver guilloche at 3 o’clock provides a second time zone indicating local time. The Chronomètre à Resonance was awarded the Grand Complication Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie in Geneva in 2010.

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