Frederique Constant celebrates 35 years with three new releasesKylie Lloyd-Wyatt
Established in 1988, Frederique Constant is a relatively new player on the Swiss watch scene with a mere 35 years under its belt – a blink in the eye of the likes of Vacheron Constantin. Despite its comparatively shorter history, the brand has still garnered worldwide success on the back of solid, classic design and quality in-house complication manufacturing – all at more affordable prices. In true watch brand style, Frederique Constant is celebrating its 35 years of achievements with new watches – check out the team’s first impressions on the Watches & Wonders show floor below.
Classics Tourbillon Manufacture
A watch manufacturer birthday celebration would not be complete without some gold and a complication, right? Well, the Classics Tourbillon Manufacture unveiled at Watches and Wonders 2023 has this in spades, utilising the FC-980 in-house movement in a celebration of just how far the brand has come.
The design language is classic – typical of most Frederique Constant pieces, and to me feels reminiscent of the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony or even the H. Moser & Cie Pioneer collections. The fully polished case in 18k rose gold is a wrist friendly 39mm in diameter and with its slightly convex sapphire crystal comes in at 10.99mm thick, which should slide relatively neatly under many a cuff. The onion crown is also a nice touch and makes setting the time a tactile pleasure, which is useful given this piece has a more limited power reserve of 38 hours.
The sunray grey dial plays with the light whilst creating a subtle enough backdrop for the tourbillon. The striking long hour markers are sharp and well-defined, and there is no date window to interrupt the symmetry of the dial. Hours and minutes are read off the sword-shaped, gold-plated central hands, while a hand attached to the one-minute tourbillon indicates the seconds.
But the Tourbillon is really where the party’s at – and boy does it shine. Frederique Constant has a well-established history of in-house calibre development and the tourbillon FC-980 powering this piece is probably the flagship movement of the maison. The polished and brushed components of the dial side tourbillon bridge are well-finished, as are the other components of the tourbillon itself.
The exhibition case back reveals more solid finishing including a skeletonised rotor, countersunk and heat-blued screws and plates finished with Côtes de Genève, perlage and anglage. The FC-980 also benefits from an antimagnetic silicon escapement wheel and anchor.
Despite it’s obvious appeal, and especially for tourbillon aspirants, this Classic Tourbillon Manufacture on its brown alligator strap is sadly limited to 150 pieces. It will likely be a challenge to get, but if you do manage to score one it will set you back US$27,995.
Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling
Just like gold, birthdays also benefit from a touch of sparkle, which, as the name suggests, is embodied in this 35-year anniversary offering. The Highlife Ladies Automatic collection was introduced in 2021 and has gradually expanded since its debut, with this sparkling version the latest iteration.
The Highlife case design is consistent across the wider Highlife collection with its 1970s-inspired geometry garnering popularity amongst enthusiasts. The 34mm steel case is well-proportioned, and at 9.08mm thick, sits comfortably on the wrist. The vertically brushed top and polished case flanks are nicely done and flow neatly into the integrated bracelet or strap.
The dial, which I would describe as a bluebird mid-blue, and its subtle sparkle thanks to delicate paint speckling, is designed to evoke the starry night sky. The quarters are marked with lumed batons and a date at 3 o’clock, with intervening hours indicated by a total of eight diamonds. The hour and minute hands are also lumed. The real starriness of this watch comes from the 60 diamonds (totalling 0.50 carats) adoring the bezel, and when taken together with the dial and case elements, provides a symphony of sparkling light play.
The three-link bracelet feels refined and solid, and is well finished for the price point. Polished centre links impart that extra shine to complement the case and dial. The hidden yet signed sturdy double deployant clasp brings added class, and half links offer a small amount of bracelet adjustment to aid fit.
Now don’t be mistaken, though diamonds abound on this piece, the additional easily interchangeable white rubber strap makes this watch equally at home in a myriad of settings. I would equally argue that, despite its name, this watch has unisex potential owing to its design and proportions.
The FC-303 movement is based on the Sellita SW-200, and can be viewed through an exhibition case back. It offers 38 hours of power reserve, with pleasant decorative touches like the blued screws that zhuzh up an otherwise plain movement.
The Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling is limited to 888 pieces and is priced as US$3,995.
Highlife Worldtimer Manufacture
Released in February 2023, this Highlife Worldtimer kicked off the birthday celebrations for Frederique Constant, adding to the growing Highlife collection. Though 1970s integrated bracelet design adds to the more universal appeal of this watch, in my view, there is little that could make it more ’70s inspired than a delightfully chocolate-brown dial, especially one decorated with a globe schematic.
Looking closer, at 41mm in diameter and 12.9mm thick, the case is nicely proportioned and wearable for the average wrist. It tapers seamlessly into a well-appointed alligator strap that feels supple yet sturdy and the milled steel deployant clasp is solid. The case finishing is crisp and a high polished bezel frames an elegantly executed dial.
The exterior city ring is adorned with the usual cities, CET of course marked with Geneva as the home of Frederique Constant, and the 24-hour ring further delineated with a cream and brown day/night indicator. The central disk and 6 o’clock date wheel are resplendent in a warm sunray brown and decorated with a globe schematic evoking those retro vibes. The subtle guilloche on the date indicator and along the edges is nicely executed and elevates the whole look a little further. Broad sword hands are lumed along with the prominent hour markers, rounding out the dial.
The in-house calibre FC-718 visible through the exhibition case back offers similar levels of finishing to the Tourbillon Manufacture with a skeletonised rotor, blued screws, Côtes de Genève, perlage and anglage, demonstrating Frederique Constant’s skill in movement creation.
This piece comes in a US$4,495, which is not by any means loose change, but for an in-house world time complication as nicely finished as this, in my book it represents a pretty good value proposition.