At Baselworld 2016, Frederique Constan Swiss watch brand continued the trend of democratising the ownership of super complicated timepieces with the release of a perpetual calendar equipped with the brand’s own manufacture movement.
A perpetual calendar has the mechanical insight to display the correct date, making allowance for the differing lengths of each month, including February. Moreover, a perpetual calendar also takes into consideration the additional day in each leap year. The date display of a perpetual calendar only necessitates manual adjustment in each secular year e.g. 2100, 2200, 2300 which are not leap years.
A striking aspect of the Frederique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar is that, despite displaying numerous functions, all indications are spaced sufficiently apart to breathe, according a clean and uncluttered appearance.
The secret behind the optimal proportions of the dial display lies behind the priority given to its conception. At Baselworld, the company’s representative explained that the dial was designed before the movement. This approach is unusual in the watch industry, where typically an existing movement is used and, by default, the movement architecture dictates the topography of the dial display.
Leaf-shaped hour and minute hands gracefully collaborate with applied hour markers to eloquently articulate time. At 3 o’clock, a circular date display features, whilst opposite a day display shares the same recessed design. Below noon, a month display and leap year indicator are combined within one subdial.
Positioned in the southern portion of the dial is a moon-phase indicator, incorporating a scalloped lower edge and revealing a colour-coordinated nocturnal sky. Beneath the moon-phase, the brand’s nomen and home are proudly presented, according a sense of cohesion and equilibrium to the dial.
Measuring a seemly 42mm in diameter, the Frederique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar does not garner attention with excessive scale or garish hues. Indeed, this timepiece exudes a welcome sense of restraint and decorum.
Would-be buyers have a choice of stainless steel or rose gold plated cases. Frederique Constant offers other models in rose gold plated cases, providing the warmth of the richly-hued noble metal but avoiding the expense a solid gold case implies.
Part of the ‘unique selling proposition’ of Frederique Constant is the comparatively keen pricing of its watches, hence I can understand the rationale for offering a gold-plated option, especially on some of its lowlier models. However, the use of gold plating appears at odds with the idea of a watch that potentially requires date adjustment only once every 100 years and does not seem befitting of a perpetual calendar. Indeed, it is for this reason that I would personally favour the relative robustness and honesty of the stainless steel option.
The caseband features one push corrector on the right hand side of the case, positioned below the knurled crown, whilst three further correctors feature on the left hand side of the case. The watch is supplied with a correction tool and adjusting the day, date, month and moon-phase display proves very simple.
In the last 25 years, Frederique Constant has shown incredible ambition, creating 21 in-house movements. It has exploited modern technology, including CNC machining, to deliver impressive value for money.
The FC-775 automatic calibre features blued screws, perlage on the mainplate and circular Côtes de Genève motif. The oscillating mass is open-worked, allowing sight of the movement finishing beneath.
By releasing this new timepiece, Frederique Constant has opened the door to a new audience who may have always dreamt of perpetual calendar ownership but, up until this stage, have lacked the pecuniary means to facilitate purchase.
The dial is an exemplar of clarity with all indications proving simple to read. Irrespective of cost, the proportions of the display are perfect, vindicating the decision of the brand to design the dial before the movement.
Whilst the FC-775 automatic calibre lacks the high quotient of hand craftsmanship found on some of the most prestigious examples of haute horlogerie, it is still aesthetically attractive and by adopting this approach, a significantly lower price point has been achieved.
The Frederique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar confers greater choice to the watch buying public; it has democratised the ownership of a mechanically complex watch and may potentially signal a new era in watchmaking.