When Frederique Constant released the Frederique Constant Classic Moonphase Manufacture a few months ago, it seemed to turn a lot of heads. Staying true to the brand’s philosophy of creating accessible luxury timepieces, the watch boasted a new in-house caliber (more of a variation, to be picky) and a decidedly Patek-y look for a relatively low price point. Coming in just below $4k, the watch offered a lot of value for an in-house movement, and an aesthetic that often costs an arm and a leg to obtain. It also showed off an eye-catching flip-open case back, which gave it some unexpected panache.
The last time we reviewed an FC it was the spiritual cousin of this watch, the Slimline Moonphase, which used a similar movement, and achieved high points for style and finish. While the watch was a winner, one of the complaints a lot of people had about it was the 42mm diameter. While I found it still wore very well, the notion of a 42mm dress/formal watch with a very large dial is understandably a bit concerning. The Classic Moonphase comes in at a more palatable 40.5mm, but wears even smaller due to various design details. As such, it might just be the option for those turned off by the former’s size. Apart from that, the design itself offers a very attractive option in the under $5k market, so let’s take a closer look.
Coming in at 40.5 x 47 x 12.77mm (to top of sapphire), the Classic Moonphase is a robust dress/formal watch that wears a bit smaller than expected. The design, as the name indicates, is classic in styling with thick, near straight lugs coming out of a rounded case. The mid-case, bezel, sapphire and case back all elegantly curve, creating very attractive fluid surfaces that belie the 40mm diameter. It is, but once again, the smoothness of the sides makes it look and feel less so. More over, part of the thickness is thanks to the hunter case-back, a detail I particularly love.
he case is polished all around, which might actually make it look a bit smaller too (gloss and black tend to do that). While fitting of the style, some brushing would have been nice, particularly on the tops of the lugs. That said, the watch looks good enough as is.
The crown is onion-style, measuring about 6 x 4mm. It fits the classic style of the watch, and I was glad to see it was relatively small. Onion crowns can get a bit ornate for my taste, and also a bit uncomfortable, when they are large. My one gripe is that it’s a bit hard to pull out, so you need to dig a finger nail under it to make pop out of home position. Hand winding, conversely, is easy.
Flipping the watch over, you are met with a fairly plain piece of steel with a couple of etched markings. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that there is a hinge on one side, and a small flange on the other. Popping it open with your finger nail reveals a wide display window showing off the absolutely gorgeous movement within, as well as the perlage finishing on the inside of the cover.
The “hunter-style” back is a reference to old pocket watches, giving the watch a decidedly early 20th century feel. While a gimmick, I love it. Sure, it does protect the display window, which is nice, but clearly not a huge issue. What it does in practice that I like is really showcase the movement, which is likely a large reason one is interested in this watch. FC’s in-house caliber’s are beautifully designed and finished… a real selling point of the watch and brand. When the watch is off your wrist, you’ll be hard pressed not to open it up to admire the movement. And, if you’re the showing off type, when your non-watch friends take a look, their minds might just be blown.
Sticking with the theme, the dial of the Classic Moonphase has a tried and true design, closely resembling that of a 50’s Patek, as noted by WatchesbySJX. This is both the good and bad about the watch… it’s a great look and a design that is as handsome here on the FC as the Patek. Me, you and likely everyone we know (unless you are friends with Charlie Sheen) are not going to be getting their hands on the Patek, lest they have a few hundred grand to spare. Moreover, you’ll enjoy seeing this on your wrist, and it’s still in the end a sort-of “generic” look for the time period. Also, it might very well be the only reasons one is interested in this watch in the first place… But, a lack of originality is always unfortunate, and a bit of an issue with the brand in general.
Moving on, the dial consists of an elegant light silver sunburst surface which immediately gives the dial some depth and texture. The primary index consists of applied steel markers with a beautiful faceted shape. They glint in the light, and add some nice contrast to the fluid lines of the case. Around the outer edge of the dial is a minute/seconds index of lines and numerals, encircled by a thin black line. I quite like how this index adds something a bit sportier/more technical to the dial, keeping it from feeling too dressy. The index has numerals every 5 minutes/seconds as well as sub-seconds marks. Certainly a watch this style could have forgone this index for just the applied markers, but it works very well.
At 6 is the star of the show; the combined small-date index and moonphase. This area is actually virtually identical as to what was found on the Slimline Moonphase. As I liked it there, I like it here too. The center of the dial is indented a drop, then cutout to create the classic moonphase aperture. Around the window are numerals for the date in black. The moon disk is a dark metallic blue with brassy cutouts for the moon and stars. The occasional shock of blue light that reflects off of it adds to subtle, but luxurious feel of the watch.
Keeping with the Patek-esque origins, the hour and minute hands are broad dauphine style, with a slight bend for dimensionality. They are well proportioned and look good against the silver surface. The seconds hand is then a thin polished stick with a counterweight. The small hand that points to the date is actually more of a leaf shape, and is the same that was found on the Slimline, where the hour and minutes are also leafs. While I don’t think it looks bad, another dauphine hand might have matched better…also, knowing it’s on both makes me feel like they chose an existing hand to save cost.
Powering the Classic Moonphase is the “new” FC-715 caliber. The difference between the 715 and 705 found in the Slimline is the central seconds. So, variation on a caliber, new caliber…you choose. Either way, it’s a gorgeous movement, as previously noted, and an uncommon value for an in-house movement. The FC-715 is a 26-jewel automatic with manual wind, hacking seconds, small pointer date, moonphase and a frequency of 28,800 bph. One of the great features of these movements is that the moonphase is set via the crown. In first position, one direction changes the date, the other progresses the moonphase disk. While it’s likely not going to be set to exacting astronomical standards, eyeballing the moon via the Watchville app’s handy clock is easy enough to do.
Features aside, looking at these movements is a genuine pleasure. The design of the movement is simple and elegant, with a large, central balance with bridge and a central winding plate. While the gear train is mostly hidden, the large surfaces of circular Cote de Geneve and perlage that are studded with blue screws give you more than enough to enjoy. The skeletonized gold-tone rotor finishes the movement nicely. Trust me, if you have one of their watches in your possession, you’ll spend a lot of time looking at the movement. It’s honestly one of my favorite looking movements, certainly in the price range we discuss.
The Classic Moonphase comes on a black Gator strap with matching black stitch for a fairly sleek and conservative look. The strap is nicely made, tapering a couple of millimeters towards the fairly generic buckle. I think I might have liked an off-white contrast stitch more than just black as this is just a bit too formal for my tastes. That said, I’m glad the watch comes with genuine Gator.
The watch wears very well. The second I strapped it on, it just clicked right into place. Yes, it a bit bulkier than you might expect, but it works. The movement inside is large, so the diameter is limited by that, and the added cover adds some millimeters in height, but the stout design looks and feels good. And, as I said in the case section, it does look and feel smaller than the numbers suggest. As a slightly larger dress watch, it has a nice masculine heft, and is a great watch for everyday formality, like a dressier office job, than just a watch to break out for special occasions. Certainly, if you have a larger wrist, say 8″ and up, this might seem plenty small on your wrist regardless.
Aesthetically, it’s hard to complain about a watch with such clean, classic looks. As someone who veers more towards sport and military watches, this type of design isn’t what I typically gravitate towards, but once on my wrist, I get it and I like it. It’s simply a sophisticated look. One that has gravitas and modesty. The moonphase then adds some complexity to the design, rounding it out to be a great looking piece. If I wore suits on the regular, I’d definitely want a watch like this in my collection. As a jeans and boots type of guy, it’s a bit less of a fit, but I’d still wear it an awful lot.
The Frederique Constant Classic Moonphase Manufacture is a gorgeous watch with a gorgeous movement that people with Patek tastes, but not wallets, will definitely find interesting. It’s a damn handsome watch, in steel or rose gold, that has two great features in the in-house moon phase movement and the hunter caseback. Essentially both aren’t needed elements, but both do add to the look and feel of the watch. While I still wish that Frederique Constant would develop a more unique design vocabulary, as their movements deserve to be showcased by original designs, the Classic is so enjoyable to wear and look at, that you kind of don’t care when it’s on. Sure, purists might have a gripe, but for those of us who aren’t aspiring to own six-figure timepieces, and just want to wear something nice, this will fit the bill.
With that said at $3,995 MSRP, the Frederique Constant Classic Moonphase Manufacture is far from inexpensive. While the price you actually pay would likely be lower than that through an AD, it’s still a watch you’re going to really want to love to buy. If you’re looking for something this style, want an in-house movement and like moon phases, their really isn’t any competition. And for an in-house automatic moonphase, the price is still very good compared to the competition.