Angus Davies spent a few enjoyable days wearing the Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture. In this feature he shares his thoughts about this competitively priced timepiece, imbued with classical styling and a Manufacture movement.
In 1998, the husband and wife duo, Aletta and Peter Stas, founded the watchmaking firm, Frederique Constant. The couple shared the same desire, namely to make classically styled, luxury watches that were comparatively affordable.
Initially, the Genevan company sourced Swiss movements from third parties such as ETA, however, just six years after being established, Frederique Constant unveiled its first Manufacture movement.
From the outset the brand’s approach was to employ modern technologies, such as Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machines and silicium components, etc. The brand’s willingness to employ the latest know-how allowed it to fulfil the original aim of making affordable watches with a high quotient of quality. Indeed, while the company’s models were never going to rival the finest examples of haute horlogerie, they did proffer an impressive blend of value and virtue.
At Baselworld 2019, the Swiss Maison unveiled the Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture, a slender timepiece endowed with the company’s 28th in-house calibre. Having viewed several versions of the model, all of which are blessed with prepossessing looks, I fell under the spell of the model sporting a silver dial and golden case.
After an exchange of emails, a press loan arrived and a few days of ‘hands-on’ appraisal soon ensued.
The Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture is offered in a choice of dark grey, navy blue and silver dials, each housed in a polished 40mm stainless steel case. For a modest premium, the Genevan company also offers the silver dial with a rose-gold plated stainless steel case. This latter variant is exquisite.
The silver dial is pure and elegant. Moreover, it possesses a neutral quality, providing a perfect foil for the various dial indications presented. The black feuille-type hour and minute hands possess a classical appearance and Roman numerals also emphasise the model’s traditional character.
At the base of the dial, a lone hand points to the prevailing date. The indication eschews snailing and sits on the same plane as the rest of the dial. I have no doubt this simplicity probably mitigates manufacturing costs, however, in my opinion, it augments the pure, uncluttered appearance of the dial.
A power-reserve indicator is positioned between 9 and 11 o’clock and follows a curving trajectory. A black, slender hand sweeps from ’50’, indicating the mainspring is fully tensioned, to a series of graduated red dots, denoting the barrel is virtually devoid of energy. It proves eminently simple to read. Personally, I like the asymmetric positioning of the display as it provides a playful, yet tasteful alternative to symmetrical styling.
The rose-gold plated stainless steel case measures 40mm in diameter. While the nomenclature incorporates the word, ‘slimline’, the brand does not seem to specify the height of the case anywhere. The watch certainly sits unobtrusively on the arm and it readily resides beneath the cuff of a shirt. Moreover, the Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture evinces a notable degree of grace, a quality that is partly attributable to its paunch-free profile. The bezel is also comparatively slender, affording greater space for the dial epidermis. Furthermore, the lugs gently taper downwards, exhibiting a relaxed arcing outline. Frederique Constant has repeatedly and skilfully played with proportions and angles to pleasing effect. The caseband tapers inwards as it approaches the caseback, creating sloping sides. This detail is not only attractive but also allows the wearer to readily flex their wrist without any restriction. Likewise, the prominent onion-shaped crown does not chafe the wrist or inhibit free movement of the hand. Its well-defined grip proves highly practical when winding the watch or adjusting the time.
The FC-723 Manufacture automatic caliber is visible via an exhibition caseback. The movement is comprised of the Maison’s existing FC-703 base coupled with a module for the power-reserve indication. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the rate is altered with a curb adjuster, increasing / decreasing the effective length of the hairspring. The movement incorporates 28 jewels and, as stated earlier, the power reserve is 50 hours.
One aspect of the watch I particularly like is that the pointer date display is adjusted solely with the crown, obviating the need to use stylus-type correctors.
While the Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture is accessibly priced, the brand has still enriched the movement with some attractive touches. The mainplate is adorned with perlage and the scale of the overlapping circles is smaller beneath the balance as horological etiquette dictates.
A large bridge sits beneath the openworked oscillating weight. It is adorned with circular Côtes de Genève motif and gold engraved text. Blued screws abound.
The design of the Frederique Constant Slimline Power Reserve Manufacture is wonderfully refined. The asymmetric positioning of the power reserve indicator might be slightly idiosyncratic, but imbues the watch with a charming, individual appearance. Furthermore, while this watch does not follow the well-trodden path taken by other brands, the feuille-type hands and Roman numerals should confer lasting aesthetic appeal.
Beyond its notable beauty, the dial is highly legible with each indication proving simple to read. Interestingly, the appearance of each model is the result of Aletta Stas’s design prowess. She skilfully wields a pencil, understanding the importance of proportions and obsessing over the minutiae.
Frederique Constant only charge a £200 premium for a rose gold-plated case. While some may bemoan plated cases, preferring a housing made solely of noble metal, the Genevan brand understand that this would push many of its watches beyond the reach of its target audience. Certainly, the plating confers a rich appearance and looks superior to some gold PVD options I have seen elsewhere. Beyond the obvious cost saving, the case is much lighter than a solid gold equivalent. While some may view this as a disadvantage, some wearers may appreciate the reduced mass.
The movement is beautifully appointed, especially considering the watch is offered for the modest sum of £3,195 (RRP as at 2.8.2019). Indeed, I cannot think of another automatic watch equipped with a power-reserve indicator, pointer date and enriched with this impressive level of finishing. Quite simply, this watch represents incredible value for money.
At this point, I am sure some readers will wrongly assume that every aspect of this watch is perfect, well, not quite. The watch is supplied on a dark brown alligator leather strap, paired with a folding clasp. Again, it is impressive that the watch at this price point comes with a folding clasp and not the ubiquitous pin buckle. However, in my opinion, the strap itself is disappointing as it feels inferior to the rest of the watch. Nevertheless, this is a minor gripe and does little to diminish my genuine affection for this watch.
Today, Frederique Constant is a subsidiary of Citizen Watch. However, despite the change of ownership a few years ago, Aletta Stas and, her husband, Peter, continue to play an active role in the business they started. More pertinently, the couple’s wish to create luxury watches for a broader audience continues unabated for the benefit of watch lovers around the globe.