These limited-edition Frédérique Constant Runabout Automatic watches are inspired by “gentlemen’s sport boats of the roaring twenties.” It’s important to explain this and emphasize their nautical, Italian nature as well as the wood and chrome runabout boats (“most commonly seen on the canals of Venice”) they are meant to reference – because otherwise they might be mistaken for just basic but handsome, three-hand automatic Swiss watches. So, with that imagery in mind, let’s consider how these Frédérique Constant Runabout watches fit into the brand that is so well-known for entry-level value.
The entry-level Swiss luxury watch market must be an incredibly intense space to operate in. Frédérique Constant has proven itself agile and dynamic, however, recently offering in-house movements, a “horological smartwatch,” a perpetual calendar watch for around 8,000 Swiss francs… all among their standard fare of good value for classic and mostly uncontroversially designed watches. The Frédérique Constant Group also has Alpina for sport watches and Ateliers DeMonaco for more haute horology stuff. And now, they have been acquired by Citizen Watches, which also puts them under the same expanding umbrella as Bulova, Arnold & Son, Angelus, and movement maker La Joux-Perret. So, there is a lot going on at Frédérique Constant, and looking at the brand, I think: “They are in it to win this game.” They are, at the very least, certainly worth keeping tabs on.
The Riva Historical Society provides the context for this batch of limited edition Frédérique Constant watches. Frédérique Constant partnered in 2009 with the Italian non-profit organization that helps preserve these cool old boats, and the brand puts out limited-edition watches to honor the relationship each year. Past models included chronographs and moon phases, and these Frédérique Constant Runabout Automatic watches offer just three-hand time-telling, and the date at 6 o’clock. This picture should give you a basic idea of the kind of boats we are talking about and the lifestyle association they are going for:
What may help these Frédérique Constant Runabout watches stand out a bit, and what may not be immediately clear from these images, is that the somewhat conservative designs come in a 43mm polished case. That should give some wrist presence and machismo to their otherwise restrained personality. They appear designed to be elegant and not overly flashy – which I can appreciate – and legibility promises to be pretty good on both models, but especially the white-dial one.
All the basic stats and details you should be looking for in this segment check out, of course: sapphire crystal, some texture and dimensionality to the dial, lumed hands and indices, and a see-through sapphire (that’s a bonus) caseback to display the Swiss automatic movement. The case is water-resistant to 100m, which seems appropriate for a watch with an aquatic theme – and we’d actually like to see pretty much all modern watches with that rating.
The Frédérique Constant Runabout Automatic is powered by the automatic (obviously) FC-303 movement (4Hz, 42-hour power reserve) which is a base Sellita SW200-1 “assembled in the Frederique Constant manufacture.” It’s sure to have a custom-decorated rotor of some sort, but we unfortunately don’t have any images of that for the moment. The flag of the Riva Historical Society is also apparently etched into the case back window.