The F.P. Journe Vagabondage III is the third in Journe’s series of tortue-case shaped jumping time Vagabondage watches, and it’s the most exposed, with much of the mechanism for advancing the time disks open to view. Not only that, it’s the very first wristwatch with a jumping digital seconds indication, which I would have bet real money was impossible, thanks to the energy needed to jump the disks. It’s also going to be the very last Vagabondage watch, according to Journe.
The very first Vagabondage watch was a jumping hour watch with an unusual display: the numerals for the hours are represented by a disk on the dial, and the window surrounding the current hour carries the hour numeral around the dial once per hour, acting as the minute hand. Vagabondage I started as a limited edition for the auction house Antiquorum, and was subsequently released as a limited series in platinum and diamond-set platinum.
Vagabondage II was a different take on the digital display of the time. Instead of the wandering hours complication used in Vagabondage I, Vagabondage II uses a digital jumping hours and minutes display. Due to the varying energy requirements Journe installed a remontoire d’égalité (a constant force mechanism intended to isolate the energy going to the balance from the power variations in the going train caused by jumping the disks).
Vagabondage III is not only the most exposed mechanically, but probably also the most difficult of the three to get working, as jumping the seconds produces a significantly increased energy load. Once again, Journe’s using a one minute remontoire d’égalité, and it’s certainly the most visually dynamic jumping digital display wristwatch we’ve ever seen.
It’s pretty extraordinary; I don’t know that anyone else other than Journe would have bothered to think the problem through at all. It’s been a truism in mechanical horology, as far as I know, that a jumping seconds display in a wristwatch is off the table as something in principle impossible to do, but lo and behold, Journe’s managed to pull it off. The minutes, by the way, are (as I’m sure is obvious) read off a conventional hand on a pivot at the center of the dial, but not trying to implement a jumping minutes display as well is almost certainly what made the Vagabondage III possible and moreover, it lets you focus visually on the jumping seconds fireworks.
The watch certainly raises the question as to whether or not a full digital display of the hours, minutes, and seconds is possible in a mechanical watch – to my recollection the closest anyone ever came to trying was Vianney Halter, with the Opus 3, which had a jumping countdown of the last four seconds before the change of the hour and which ended up taking ten years to get working (though it did finally work, and was finally delivered). That particular Holy Grail of watchmaking is still waiting for its Parsifal.
The Vagabondage III is a fairly large wristwatch, outsizing most of Journe’s other timepieces – however, the nature of the complication dictates a more substantial movement and therefore, a larger case. Vagabondage III’s movement, caliber 1514, is 29.3 x 28.2 x 5.58mm and the case overall, 45.2 x 37.6 x 7.84mm. (For comparison, the jumping digital hours and minutes Lange Zeitwerk, which also has a remontoire, is 41.9 x 12.6mm.)
I think the size is more than a reasonable tradeoff, however, for a world-first in watchmaking (these come along a lot less often than you’d think). It’s also the most aesthetically successful of the Vagabondage watches, to me – this is a matter of personal taste of course, but i think the white outlines around the display windows, and the use of a smoked sapphire dial, delivers the message of complexity without adding unnecessary clutter. According to F.P. Journe, owners of Vagabondage I and II will have preference for ordering (which is reasonable given their prior financial, and probably emotional, investment in the Vagabondage series) and there will be 69 pieces in platinum, and 68 in red gold. Serious Journe collectors, and those for whom horological firsts are irresistible, take note.
See more about the Vagabondage series at fpjourne.com. The Vagabondage III: movement, hand-wound rose gold caliber 1514, 29.3 x 28.2 x 5.88 mm, with digital jumping hours and seconds and remontoire d’égalité. Case, platinum or red gold, 45.2 mm x 37.6 mm x 7.84 mm. Price not yet announced; we’ll update as soon as we have it.