F.P. Journe Vagabondage: The Dream Trilogy11 April 2023
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony that once existed between man and the universe” (Anatole France, 1921 Literature Nobel Prize).
Surely this is the primordial emotion one feels when holding in one’s hands or wearing, for the first time, a Vagabondage, the contemporary essence of the genius and madness of Master François-Paul Journe. Vagabondage is as unique as it is complex and intricate – with a difficult and uncertain beginning, like almost all fairy tales worth telling. To proceed in order, we need to take a step back in time, it was 1997…
1997-2003: THE BIRTH OF VAGABONDAGE
The Year 1997
Perhaps not everyone knows that the “first” Vagabondage, diametrically different in form from those known today, but which certainly shares its essence, was made, back in 1997, by a young F.P Journe directly for a friend.
Under the name Carpediem, the ancestor of the Vagabondage wasthus born: the watch housed an automatic movement inside a round yellow gold case. Characterising the dial was the presence of the jumping hour around an exposed central balance.
Afterwards, F.P. Journe decided to develop a wristwatch with a hand-wound movement on this basis, inspired by the Carpediem but completely redesigned and focusing on the wandering hours: the new movement would be housed in the new Tortue Plate case, which would make it iconic and recognisable in the eyes of all Collectors.
This project however, destined to characterise the future iconic line, will remain for some time only a prototype because the Master was focused on other achievements.
The Year 2003
In 2003, six years after the birth of the Vagabondage and on the occasion of a charity sale in favour of the ICM Foundation (the Research Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord Diseases, www.icm-institute.org), for its 30th anniversary Antiquorum personally contacted F.P. Journe and asked him to create a unique piece in a time frame of only six months. Since this was an undertaking bordering on the impossible, F.P. Journe decided to take up the embryo of this project again, which, as mentioned, had been temporarily shelved.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Vagabondage was made in three unique pieces in three colours: pink, yellow and white gold (the latter being the first and only one of its kind). A brass movement puts the timepieces in motion.
The entire lot, hammered out at three times its value (for a total of CHF 210,450 including buyer’s commissions), will be sold entirely to the same Collector.
An aesthetic feature common to all subsequent editions is the absence of a “signature” on the dial: this is because, in F.P. Journe’s opinion, the particularity and uniqueness characterising the case and the complication would have made it immediately recognisable among Haute Horlogerie enthusiasts.
What might have seemed an excess of vanity twenty years ago today can only confirm the certainty and confidence of its Creator, destined to enter the Olympus of Haute Horlogerie with his works of art.
The auction was a huge success and had a great resonance, the watch immediately appealed to enthusiasts who literally went mad: thus, a lot of Collectors began clamouring for F.P. Journe to start a real production of the Vagabondage by including it in the catalogue.
2004: VAGABONDAGE I IS BORN
The Master welcomed the request by producing a limited edition, as it was a completely unconventional watch compared to the production standards of the time.
During the year 2004, F.P. Journe decided to present the Vagabondage I in an exclusive limited edition of only 69 pieces in platinum (to which a further 10 were added with a case, also in platinum, set with 46 diamond baguettes).
All watches were sold in a flash without any promotion, photos or official communication from the Geneva manufactory.
A platinum case now houses the new manual Calibre 1504 made, like its successors, in pink gold. The innovative time reading is done by means of digital jumping hours in a “wandering” window (the essence of the clock) whose position indicates the minutes.
With this timepiece, more than ever before, one perceives the constant movement of the hour in the incessant, yet fascinating, wandering of time in eternity.
2010: VAGABONDAGE II IS PRESENTED
Six more years passed and F.P. Journe decided to bring out a new chapter of the saga: as for the precedent release, the iconic Tortue Plate case was preserved, becoming slightly larger (45.2×37.5 mm) and the movement was hand-wound.
With the introduction of Calibre 1509, the real novelty lies in the dial featuring an instantaneous digital display of both hours and minutes set by a one-minute remontoir d’égalité, while the small seconds remain “classic”. Completing the dial is the power reserve display at twelve o’clock.
Vagabondage is gaining more and more space in the enthusiasts community, and among Collectors. F.P. Journe hasonce again decided to maintain the limited edition but presents a new declination of the case: 69 pieces in platinum and 68 pieces in 6N red gold (as well as 10 in platinum with a case set, this time, with 56 diamond baguettes).
The limited number of pieces makes it a timepiece dedicated, first and foremost, to serial Collectors: owners of the Vagabondage I are given pre-emption to purchase the same serial number. This choice will also be maintained for the next model.
2017: THE TRILOGY IS “ALMOST” COMPLETE
In 2017, during a world premiere, F.P.Journe released the Vagabondage III, the watch destined to complete the trilogy.
The real novelty, destined to raise the bar once again, is a function that, given its technical complexity, had never before been developed: we are talking about the presence of a displaywith instantaneous digital hours, and seconds placed respectively at ten o’clock and six o‘clock: the click is regulated by a one-second remontoir d’égalité.
The minute display, this time, remains traditional using a central sphere, while the power reserve indicator is moved to one o’clock.
Once again, the Master set a new level in mechanical watchmaking, proving that he is always one step ahead through technical solutions which are often not even conceivable to most: same number of pieces (68 in 6N red gold, 69 in platinum and, once again, 10 in platinum complemented by a set of 56 diamondbaguettes) and same method of allocation by pre-emption reserved for owners of the previous series.
2022: VAGABONDAGE I OR, THE NOVELTY NOBODY EXPECTS
Just when the trilogy might have seemed complete, F.P. Journe surprises us once again. The more observant will have noticed that the Vagabondage I was made in only 69 pieces in platinum while the 6N Red Gold variant was never produced.
Almost eighteen years later, F.P. Journe has decided to complete the Or trilogy, the one with the gold case.
The Vagabondage I Or, however, is not a faithful copy of the Vagabondage I presented back in 2004: a case with new dimensions (45.2×37.5 mm, as opposed to the 41×34 mm of its ancestor), in fact, is intended to house an updated movement, Calibre 1504.2.
F.P. Journe himself states that the Vagabondage I can be considered a prototype of the time: thanks to the experience gained over almost two decades, it was possible to create an updated and more reliable movement.
Clearly, as with previous models, the Vagabondage I Or is given priority to collectors who already own gold Vagabondage II and Vagabondage III, with the same number.
In conclusion, we can only observe how different the story of Vagabondage is, steeped in the passion and skill of a man who, each time, was and is able to amaze. A story born from a creation initially conceived privately for a friend, developed for a charity auction and, in the end, proposed in three limited series (plus one) loved by Collectors and Haute Horlogerie enthusiasts, by those who are constantly searching for new technical horizons and are fascinated by the possibility of “discovering” new ways of telling time, loving to lose themselves, wandering, in the infinity of time.
By Alberto Moroso