Which Brands Might Be The Next F.P. Journe? - 2023 Edition
Top independent brands ranked based on watchmaking prowess and brand appeal
The most popular articles of this newsletter are the rankings of independent brands. The idea was to look at factors contributing to F.P. Journe's success and compare the other makers (here and here). The ad hoc list reached a much wider audience with a guest post at Rescapement (thanks again, Tony!). A few folks told me that they had discovered new brands through these articles. I could not be happier to hear that!
Earlier this year, I attended a collector's event at the F.P. Journe Boutique in Los Angeles. The boutique hosts the get-together on the first Tuesday of every month with free food and drinks. I was expecting that everyone would rock a Journe piece. That was not the case, as many folks were still waiting for their first Journe!
The F.P. Journe teams are still working very hard to build community and reach out to new collectors. They are not resting on their laurels, despite the tremendous popularity. The Journe way remains a benchmark and reference for other independent brands. The basis of our ranking approach is still valid!
I'm excited to share with you the 2023 edition of the "Who would be the next F.P. Journe" list. The timing is excellent, as we may make use of the latest auction results in November and the GPHG awards. Note the ranking is just for fun and please don't take it too seriously. The real goal is to learn more about these wonderful brands and the brilliant creative minds behind them.
The Ranking Criteria
I have modified the scoring criteria to make them more objective. There are four main categories: product offerings, GPHG awards, auctions and brand appeal. Even today, FP Journe presents the widest range of product offerings among the independent brands. No one brand, indie or not, has matched the record of 3 GPHG “Aiguille d’Or” held by Journe. The same go for auction performance and brand appeal. Our criteria here are defined such that other brands may be compared objectively with FP Journe.
Product Offerings: 10 points
Complications (up to 5 points)
1 point for each complication, as listed below:
Perpetual calendar or annual calendar
Dual-time or world time
Additional complications or mechanisms like remontoire
Movements (up to 4 points)
Fully in-house: 4 points
Add-on module: 2 points
Unique model by an external vendor: 1 point
Finishing and decorations (up to 1 point)
Outstanding skills: 1 point
GPHG Awards: 5 points
Score = (winners x 2 + nominations) / 4
Note that I looked at the results from 2012 to 2022 only. The score will be 5 points if the calculation is over 5.
Auctions: 10 points
The independent brands are showing up more and more in the top watch auctions. These watches were carefully selected and curated by the experts in the field based on projected collectivity. The inclusions in the prestigious auctions drive further the collector interests. We will consider the top 3 auction houses only, the Phillips, the Christie’s and the Sotheby’s. Furthermore, we look at the "Only Watch", a prestigious biennial auction as well.
Auction inclusion score:
1 points for every 10 pieces selected by top 3 auction houses
Included in Only Watch: 2 points
Selected by all three auction houses: 3 points
Total is capped at 10 points
Brand Appeal: 10 points
The appeal of independent watchmaking comes from the innovative designs and the rarity. Knowing the makers who produced the watches is an incredible treat for many collectors. But how do some brands stand out more and capture the hearts of watch lovers? We may seek answers by following FP Journe's path to stardom - what they have done right over the years.
Brand Appeal Score - 1 point for each of the following:
Expertise and excellence in timekeeping accuracy
Unique design language and aesthetic
Strong global AD network
Strong social media presence, CEO media exposure
Founder is a watchmaker, still with the brand and interacts with media and fans
Solid financial backing (e.g., investment from a major brand)
Holding or participating in collector outreach events
Collaboration pieces by working with ADs, artists, or others
Special models for watch clubs
Low production volume
The total of this "Be Like Journe" score is 35. FP Journe would get a perfect score. Let's see how other independent brand fare with the above scoring criteria!
Three Brands Joining F.P. Journe
As I looked at the scoring results, some brands have reached near the perfect score. It just occurred to me that some brands have indeed achieved the same status of F.P. Journe! These brands have become "household names" among the watch communities. Their watches, like Journe's creations, are impossible to obtain now, except for the very top watch collectors. First, the prices have risen so much that they are outside the reach of most watch lovers. Secondly, the allocation is just impossible due to the strong demands. The latest auction results showed that they have defied the current economic uncertainty.
Here are the independent brands who have joined F.P. Journe at the pinnacle of modern watchmaking.
The short list here should not be a big surprise to you. Just early this month, MB&F won the Grand Prix at GPHG, while Voutilainen took home the Artistic Crafts Prize. Last year, De Bethune won the Tourbillon Prize with their breathtaking two-dials-in-one masterpiece. All three brands had scored very high at last 2 years' rankings. Browsing through their Instagram pages, as I took the screenshots shown above, we can see that the brands are no doubt at the top of their game. The four watch brands here will rule the independent watch scene for the foreseeable future.
2023 Edition Who Might Be the Next F.P. Journe?
Now, excluding these four brands, who might be the next F.P. Journe? Without further ado, let's look at the list based on the “Be Like Journe” criteria.
The top four brands, Greubel Forsey, H Moser, Urwerk and Parmigiani, received similar scores in the range of 31.5 to 33. Parmigiani represented an impressive turn-around story. Under the new CEO, the brand has been executing on all cylinders. It has five GPHG nominations just this year.
The next 5 brands form another strong group with scores from 23 to 26.5. Moritz Grossmann has done exceptionally well as a German watchmaker.
Akrivia was often cited as a brand to be the next Journe among collectors. The founder had worked at F.P. Journe before and understands well the path to greatness. The founder is young and Akrivia is definitely a brand to keep our eyes on.
Up and Coming Independent Brands
You might be looking for some brands and didn't find them in the table above. Here, I will provide another list of Up and Coming Independent Brands. Some of them have won impressive GPHG awards and started to show up in auctions. But it still takes time to build up the brands and bridge the gaps with the leading watchmakers. There are gems here and I personally own a few of them. We will be rooting for their future success for sure. In 5-10 years, the most sought-after brands may be among this list.
Up and coming brands (alphabetically)
Please do let me know if you have any comments on the ranking criteria and scores. If your favorite brands are missing, please accept my apology. Please tell me and I will remember to include them next time. For your reference, the rankings from previous two years are listed below: