Typical of the brand’s timepieces, the F.P. Journe Souveraine minute repeater replica is a slim, elegant wristreplica watch with an ingenious movement featuring Journe’s signature flat hammers and gongs for the striking mechanism that also characterise the top of the line Sonnerie Souveraine.
In fact, when the Souveraine minute repeater was first unveiled in 2008, it was the thinnest minute repeating wristreplica watch on the market, though that title has since passed on, first to Vacheron Constantin and most recently, Bulgari. But with a movement that’s just a hair over 4mm high – the replica watch measures just 8.65mm case and all – the Souveraine repeater remains exceptionally thin.
Like many of his other complications the repeater mechanism devised by Journe is compact and novel. Compared to the calibre 1304 of the time-only Chronometre Souverain, the minute repeating calibre 1408 is just 0.29mm higher and 1.8mm wider, despite having nearly double the number of parts.
To start with the Souveraine repeater sounds different: typical repeaters sound a low tone for the hours and high tone for the minutes, but on the Journe repeater both the hours and minutes are struck on the same gong, giving them the exact same tone. The hours and minutes are separated by the usual double chimes for the quarters, and in the absence of quarters a pause distinguishes them.
But the key innovation in the repeater are a pair of flat hammers and gongs, something Journe first invented for the handful of grand sonnerie wristreplica watches he built for Piaget in 1995 (the last one to surface publicly sold at Christie’s in 2011). Conventional repeaters have gongs, which are essentially hardened steel wire, that circle the case, plus located hammers on the edge of the movement, giving the movement a larger footprint or necessitating a smaller movement.
The flatness of the hammers and gongs means they can be mounted on the main plate of the movement, explaining the aperture in the dial that reveals the hammer of the repeater. This maximises the space inside the case for the calibre 1408, which shares a similar construction to that of the Chronometre Souverain, with twin barrels sitting side by side and the balance wheel just opposite.
While F.P. Journe Mens Replica says rightly that the flat hammers and gongs are louder than typical repeater, they lack the lightness and resonance of repeaters with traditional hammers and gongs. This is likely a natural limitation of the flat gongs, since they have less material to generate sound.
Pulling the thin slide on the case located at 10 o’clock winds up the small spring, which is located just under the governor, and sets the repeater in motion. While most of the repeater mechanism is hidden under the dial, with only the hammers visible when the repeater is striking, the repeater governor is on the back. Positioned just beside the balance wheel, the governor regulates the speed of the repeater strikes with a pair of wings that extend as the spring that powers the repeater unwinds. The wings encounter friction from the surrounding air as they spin, slowing the unwinding of the spring.