Introduced at Baselworld 2016, the Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture was one of the highlights of the convention, with enthusiasts fawning over its good looks, slim design, in-house perpetual calendar movement, and most amazingly, an estimated price of around 8,000 CHF.
aBlogtoWatch recently got hold of this watch, and with it on the wrist, the reality of what the watch represents really struck home. That a Swiss in-house perpetual calendar movement can be had for comparatively so little is quite the testament to R&D director Manuel Da Silva Matos and technical director Pim Koeslag, the creators of the movement, and it highlights all that is wonderful about modern watch making. Though still quite expensive from a general perspective, a watch that would normally be reserved for only the most wealthy is now available to a much wider audience.
The 42mm case is more modern in sizing and does take up more wrist real estate than other watches of this style. This case size is an interesting choice as, according to Frédérique Constant’s own marketing material, it “…is not only a great timepiece of haute horlogerie but is a beautiful time keeper that you can imagine your grandchildren’s children still wearing and cherishing in the future.” Who knows what the preference for case sizes in the future will be, but as current preferences are at the upper limit compared to the past, it is surprising they did not go with a case sized 38mm or 40mm, giving better odds to the the long-term desirability of the design and playing into what collectors associate with timelessness.
The Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture watch is currently available in three models. The FC-775V4S4 has a rose gold-plated case, matching hands and hour indices, a silver dial, and a brown alligator leather strap, and it is the model shown here that aBlogtoWatch was able to get a hands-on with.
The other models are the FC-775S4S6, which has a stainless steel case, matching hands and hour indices, a silver dial, and a black strap; and the FC-775N4S4 has a rose gold case, matching hands and hour indices, a navy dial, and a navy strap. Each is striking and has its own personality. I find the FC-775V4S4 the most attractive (rose gold case, brown strap) but in writing about the initial release of the Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture watch, fellow aBlogtoWatch writer Patrick Kansa took most to the FC-775S4S6 (stainless steel case, black strap).
The cases are water-resistant to 3ATM, so generally safe to wear in the rain or while washing your hands, but to protect the alligator leather strap from damage it’s probably best to avoid exposure to water if at all possible.
The in-house FC-775 automatic calibre that powers the hour and minute hands along with the perpetual calendar took three years to go from idea to production. As you may have surmised from the model name, it is relatively thin and measures just 6.7mm thick. The movement beats at a frequency of 4Hz, has 26 jewels, and a 38-hour power reserve. There are 191 parts, and from beginning to end, each movement takes two days to assemble.
The minute and hour hands can be set using the crown, but to set the calendar there are two discreet buttons built into the case. As those familiar with the perpetual calendar movement will know, once set the calendar will not require any adjustments until March 1, 2100, when a discrepancy in the Gregorian Calendar requires a manual update. The length of each month and the differing number of days in February in leap years are all accounted for using mechanical programming.
On May 26th of this year, it was announced that Citizen Watch Co. Ltd. would be acquiring Frédérique Constant Group (this includes Frédérique Constant, Alpina, and Ateliers DeMonaco) for an undisclosed sum. Though the Frédérique Constant founders are staying onboard to maintain day-to-day operations and hopes are that the new owners will do little to alter the efforts of the Swiss company, Citizen’s announcement of the acquisition did little to inspire:
“Under the mid-term business plan, ‘Citizen Global Plan 2018,’ Citizen is implementing a multi-brand strategy and seeking to complete its brand portfolio by acquiring Swiss brands. This particular acquisition will enable Citizen Watch Co., Ltd. to strengthen its brand portfolio, offering consumers a variety of products ranging from accessible timepieces to Accessible Luxury watches.”
The most troubling part of the statement to me is the highlighting of “Accessible Luxury,” suggesting that Frédérique Constant may now be more boxed in with the scale of their design and that we are unlikely to see bold experiments from the brand like its Horological Smartwatchintroduced last year.
Perhaps, then, the most significant aspect of the Frédérique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is not its in-house perpetual calendar movement, but rather the fact that this will be the last in-house movement made by the wholly independent and family-owned and -operated Frédérique Constant. Either way, it is an attractive watch that wears well on the wrist, and at a price of $8,995, it is the least expensive way to get a high-quality Swiss watch with an in-house perpetual calendar movement.