In 2004 Antiquorum, a once leading auctioneer of Haute horology celebrated their 30th anniversary. In order to commemorate the milestone, they approached F. P. Journe to make them an entirely new watch. Given the rather short notice, François-Paul had to literally pull something out of his drawers, hence the used movements. Shortly after F. P. Journe unveiled a radically new flat Tortue shaped case paired with an entirely new calibre. In the eyes of purists, the newly introduced Vagabondage could be compared to an adopted child. By definition vagabondage (vagrancy) means wandering from place to place without any settled home, a play on the wandering hours and minutes found on the Vagabondage 1. The proceeds of the sale would be donated to the ICM Foundation (Institute of Brain and Spinal cord in Paris), a charity that F. P. Journe is still associated with today. In total three Vagabondages of different metals (rose, yellow and white) were donated, with each piece representing an individual lot.
The three lots totalled a sum of CHF 210’450. These three pieces essentially serve as ‘pre’ vagabondages V1, with the use of brass making them entirely unique movements. In 2004-2005, F. P. Journe announced that they would be phasing out the brass movement in favour of 18-carat gold movements, in doing so, F. P. Journe was one of the only manufactures to produce all their movements out of 18-carat gold. In addition, the use of yellow and white gold is believed to be rather rare within the realm of F. P. Journe, most of F. P. Journe’s cases are either rose gold and platinum. The example in white Gold marks the only known F.P. Journe timepiece in that metal. Interestingly, the three unique pieces are the only Vagabondages to feature the brand’s name on the dial, more specifically, F. P. Journe Invenit et Fecit 30 Years of Antiquorum.
A year later, considering the successful sale of the three unique pieces, F. P. Journe revealed the Vagabondage 1 which would be produced in a limited edition of just 69 pieces. The Vagabondage 1 represented the first ‘serially’ produced F. P. Journe to not feature a distinctive round case, but rather a flat-shaped tortue case. The case measures 41 mm x 34 mm and just 6.70 mm in height and houses the venerable 18-carat rose gold Calibre 1504. The Calibre 1504 is equipped with 19 jewels and a 48-hour power reserve, the calibre was entirely discontinued and has never resurfaced since. The source of inspiration behind Vagabondage 1 can be traced back to the Carpediem Watch which was completed in 1997, prior to the existence of the brand F. P. Journe. It is believed that the Carpediem watch was made at the request of a prominent collector, after which, a certain brand, Cartier (hint: the crown of the Carpediem Watch) expressed an interest in purchasing the movement, fortunately for the Vagabondage Series, this never came to fruition.
The architecture of the movement found on the V1 is similar to the Chronometre a Resonance, the double barrels are solely found on the V1, whereas its predecessors the V2 and V3 feature single barrels. The movement is signed F. P. Journe – Invenit et Fecit – 19 Jewels – 18K Gold Movement, the calibre number is not mentioned nor is the Geneva made. Interestingly, the exposed balance wheel appears to be regulated with a Trivois regulator as spotted by our friend SJX. From a legibility perspective, the V1 remains the most friendly, the current hour is housed in a white squarish frame and the pointer found above the square indicates the minutes. In short, the hour makes a full 360-degree rotation before the hour jumps and changes as it nears 12 o’clock and then starts all over again.
Within the set of 69 examples, 8 examples feature possibly the only double signed F. P. Journe’s made for then retailer Sincere in Singapore.
Several years later, the Vagabondage II was introduced, building upon the legacy of the V1. The addition of the digital jumping minutes resulted in a fully digital time display. The use of three independent discs, one dedicated to the hours and two for the minutes is powered by the Calibre 1509. Following the tradition of the V1, the calibre was solely used for this reference and discontinued thereafter. The energy required for the instantaneous jump for both the minutes and hours results in the use of the remontoir d’egalite albeit the power reserve is still a mere 28 hours. The VII also features a first-time power reserve indicator found at 12 o’clock, the brushed steel gold oddly shaped frame is reminiscent of Gaudí’s windows found on the Casa Mila, the aperture at the top is used for the hours and the two found below are used for the minutes. The traditional classic sweeping seconds is found at 6 o’clock. The smoked sapphire dial would appear to be the first time the brand F. P. Journe used this method, it is thought it was done to improve legibility. The overall case proportions are slightly larger than the V1 measuring 45 mm x 37.5 mm and 8mm in height. The overall finishing found on the Calibre 1509 VII indicates that the manufacture made quantum leaps since the VI, the movement is signed F. P. Journe – Invenit et Fecit, Geneva Made, Calibre 1509, Vagabondage II, 30 Jewels and 18K gold movement. In addition to the movement’s finer finishing, the movement now featured the in-house free-sprung balance wheel.
In 2018 the trilogy came to a fitting end with the introduction of the VIII which featured a world premiere digital jumping seconds, according to us this remarkable achievement has not been attempted by another brand. The Harry Winston OPUS 3 did feature digital countdown seconds although this watch was delayed by a considerable period and the digital countdown was only attributed to the last four seconds of the 60 seconds. Suppose a VIII is worn every day of the year that would result in approximately 31’536’000 ‘jumps’. The Calibre 1514 still achieves a respectable 40-hour power reserve, the use of two wheels trains allows for the digital seconds to be serrated from the hours and minutes. Building upon 1509, the use of a one-second remontoir d’egalite is solely dedicated to the seconds, charging and disparaging in one-second increments.
The single common trait that the entire series features is the unsigned dials, there have been conflicting theories as to why the dials aren’t signed. According to @TheJourneGuy, François-Paul could not find the reasonable space to sign his name onto the dials, it is however interesting to note that the Pre Series Vagabondage 1’s are signed on the dial and remain the only ones to feature this. Others argue that the series was not worthy of being signed by F. P. Journe … it would be hard to fathom that the iconic Vagabondage Series was not worthy of being signed ‘F. P. Journe’. On the contrary, the collection essentially showcases François-Paul’s flamboyant artisanal craftsmanship paired with mechanical prowess.
Most limited F. P. Journe’s feature an even number, whereas the platinum Vagabondage 1, 2 and 3 are all limited to 69 pieces. According to late partner, Gino, when François-Paul Journe initially showed him the project the series was supposed to be limited to 68 pieces, to which he responded, “What a stupid number!”. To everyone’s amusement, the series was then confirmed to be limited to 69 examples. In addition to the original series, an Haute Joaillerie Baguette Set Series composed of the Vagabondage 1, 2 and 3 was released in Platinum and is limited to 10 examples.
In light of the recently announced FFC – Blue (Francois Ford Coppola) for Only Watch 2021 we had the opportunity to ask François-Paul Journe if he used any of his existing calibres from the Vagabondage Series to create the one-off prototype “no not at all, it’s completely different …” The trilogy remains to be one of François-Paul’s most unique and distinctive collections made to date.