Tantalum is not often seen in watchmaking. It’s difficult to work with, extremely so, but highly corrosion and scratch resistant with a gunmetal-blue tone that is just gorgeous. FP Journe launched the Chronomètre Bleu in 2009 and made elaborate fanfare about how innovative it was to be executed in tantalum. However, like many things, JLC had already done it. And JLC used tantalum way back in the 80s, when practically no one had experience. This tantalum Odysseus was a 500 example run mecha-quartz with a meteorite-finish dial and rose gold accents, now completely forgotten to the evolution of time. This was Switzerland’s best effort after a decade of quartz evolution, something of a pinnacle from a very specific era of watchmaking that is no longer.
Its case is 35mm, with a unique setting of rose gold inlay on its sides, also for the pushers and JL-signed crown. The dial is stone in a meteorite finish with applied rose gold accents, silver subdials, red quarters, and even a pulsations scale. Inside vibrates a chronometer-certified, rhodium-plated, and hand-finished calibre 630 mecha-quartz with 233 components, all engineered to give the accuracy of quartz with the feel of a crisp mechanical chronograph push. This was the height of JLC’s quartz efforts, an apex calibre. This ref. 165.9.30 in tantalum/meteorite was the Odysseus line halo product, a caseback-numbered limited series which only lasted 3 years of production due to slow sales.
The Odysseus, and this limited tantalum reference in particular, is emblematic of one of our deepest held watch beliefs: that incredibly interesting, relatively unknown watches still exist in the darker lit corners of our attention. Step outside the Wilsdorf and Patek echo-bubble that is Instagram, follow any rabbit hole to its depths, and something like this will be there to meet you. I can’t promise they’ll all be this great through, the tantalum Odysseus really is in a class of one in so many ways.