In the world of watch making, specifically high complications the grande sonnerie lives on its own pedestal. Both the grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie hold an elevated place, far above even split-second chronographs, perpetual calendars and above even the once considered untouchable tourbillion. While the first complications emerged in the 1940s the first grand sonnerie wasn’t born until1992 at the capable hands of no one other than Philippe Dufour. Only recently did Patek Philippe unveil their first grande sonnerie timepiece. In the world of watchmaking it is a very small fraternity who is capable of producing such a piece. They are in fact that special, and François-Paul Journe unveiled his Sonnerie Souveraine in 2006, on his own.

Defined a sonnerie is a watch which features an active striking mechanism that chimes the quarters and hours without activation from the user. A grande sonnerie strikes the hours and the quarters each quarter. For example, at 2:15, with a grande sonnerie, the watch would create two chimes (dongs) for the hours, and then one strike (ding dong) for the first quarter. At 2:30, the watch would emit two chimes for the hours, followed by two strikes for the two quarters. A petite sonnerie watch would strike only the quarters, at 2:14 you would hear just one chime for the first quarter. In comparison, a minute repeater, strikes the hours, quarters, and minutes, but it is activated by the wearer.

The trick behind the grand sonnerie is the power consumption, whereby a minute repeater is not faced with this issue making it an easier to construct. In a repeater, the chime mechanism is recharged by a slide prior to sounding. On the other hand, a sonnerie, siphons away power from the timekeeping mechanism throughout the day. The Sonnerie Souveraine by F.P. Journe is a grande and petite sonnerie as well as a minute repeater.

Take into account that F.P. Journe’s first wristwatch, wasn’t a simple watch, it was a tourbillion – the very first wrist-bound tourbillion with remontour d’egalite, ever. This watch was revealed in 1999, and just one year later, Mr Jorne would begin work on his sonnerie. It took six years before the Sonnerie Souveraine would be revealed to the public. Keep in mind F.P. Journe watches are developed by one man, François-Paul Journe. This project took six years to develop, however it should also be taken into consideration Journe released a number of other pieces during this time.


You might expect the Sonnerie Souveraine to be highly complicated to wear by the user but this is perhaps its most impressive characteristic, it is in fact, extraordinarily straight forward. Technically speaking however, the watch itself is highly complicated, requiring six years of development and during the creation of the watch F.P. Journe received ten patents for the new design required for its construction. During this build process the Sonnerie Souveraine was actually the first timepiece to be made in its entirety within the Journe downtown Geneva manufacture.

The idea however behind this watch isn’t to be a halo piece that lives inside a safe, rather it was designed to be a functional real world wristwatch. Even the case was designed with functionality in mind, made with steel construction, which as it turns out has the best resonance traits. The Sonnerie Souveraine is however sensationally complicated to produce and takes a single watchmaker over three months to assemble all 582 pieces. Despite the complexity in building the watch, the use couldn’t be more straightforward. The button at two o-clock activates the minute repeater. The button residing at four o’clock alters the watch from grande to petite mode, or switches the watch into silent mode. The time is read on the right hand side of the face while a power reserve dial can been seen at 11:30. That is all there is to it.

After taking the first prize in the 2006 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, it received ten patents during its development and only four are built per year and it is the prized watch of one of todays greatest watchmakers, few would argue over the watches value.

Upon purchase the Sonnerie Souveraine is not labeled with a series number, but the owner’s name on the case and the movement. According to Journe this gives the watch its own soul and own identity. To ensure your watch may be serviced for years to come each timepieces comes delivered with extra internal components.