Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, Planetarium Copernicus, Tellurium Johannes Kepler. These are names that will strike a chord with any admirer of astronomical watches. All three are signed Ludwig Oechslin for Ulysse Nardin, and together they form the Trilogy of Time. They revealed to the world a man who would rapidly earn a reputation as a visionary and inspired watch creator.
As well-versed in the humanities - history and philosophy - as in the hard sciences - astronomy and physics - Ludwig Oechslin looked set to lead a distinguished academic career, and yet instead he was drawn to watchmaking, and specifically restoration. This led him to an apprenticeship with a master watchmaker in Lucerne, where he learned his trade, and from there to the Vatican to restore the Farnese Clock, a seventeenth-century astronomical clock assembling some one thousand components. And ultimately to Ulysse Nardin.
Great things would come from his friendship with Rolf Schnyder. Having taken over stewardship of Ulysse Nardin in the early 1980s, he gave Ludwig Oechslin carte blanche to help reposition the brand at the pinnacle of watchmaking. A mission he would accomplish in full, with uniquely remarkable astronomical watches alongside major innovations such as the use of silicon.
Ludwig Oechslin's career took a new turn in 2001 when he was appointed curator of the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a role he would perform with brio during fourteen years. At the same time, he established his own brand, Ochs & Junior, in Lucerne, proposing timepieces that resolve complex problems with apparent simplicity. Watches that resemble their creator, one could say; a man whose passion has brought us that much closer to the sky.
Drop-shaped hands, gently rounded font, a gold movement and a beautifully balanced dial architecture. No doubt about it, this is a watch signed FP Journe Invenit et Fecit. A watch that is recognisable at a glance.
Personally, I've always liked to see Latin being used. Julius Caesar knew all about a well-turned phrase and so does François-Paul Journe, a man who has "invented and made" some of the most memorable creations in contemporary watchmaking.
Given the success this Marseilles-born watchmaker enjoys – and his countless prizes and awards testify to this – one might imagine that François-Paul Journe just happened to appear at the right moment. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As a young watchmaker and restorer whose talent was in constant demand, he set up his Manufacture in Geneva at a time when mechanical watches were for dreamers and collectors. Success was by no means a foregone conclusion, and yet from the very first watches unveiled some twenty years ago, François-Paul Journe made his mark.
Technically accomplished watches that reference such great names of the past as Jean-Antoine Lépine or Antide Janvier, for whom he has great admiration; watches that keep time with absolute precision, as befits the watchmaker's highest vocation; complication watches because time is about more than just seconds. François-Paul Journe's timepieces are a bridge to the twenty-first century. Acknowledged as one of the pioneers of watchmaking's "new guard", it remains for us to thank him for his talent.
Photos © Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie