As a father of two, I have attended many school plays. There are always lighthearted moments when things don’t go to plan. However, the one area which tickles my funny bone the most is the unauthorised opening of stage curtains. Despite the teacher’s best efforts, an inquisitive child will always pull the curtains to one side, eager to see the seated audience. Quite simply, the miniature thespians can’t suppress their impulse to look.
This endearing innocence may disappear with the arrival of adolescence, but curiosity never wanes with the onset of years. I am reminded of this fact when I view the Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat. It features an aperture below noon, bestowing a partial glimpse of the balance wheel in flight. This is a Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat watch that indulges the whims of inquisitive souls.
While tourbillons frequently confer sight of an oscillating balance, mounted within a rotating cage, they are prohibitively expensive. Frederique Constant, a brand synonymous with value, clearly understands that some would-be wearers crave dial-side theatre, but lack the pecuniary means to purchase a tourbillon. The ‘Heart Beat’ proves an affordable option for the mechanically curious.
The Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat has been in the brand’s catalogue for three years, however, the Swiss marque recently unveiled a new blue dial option. Having never reviewed this watch beforehand, I elected to wear this latest version for seven days and evaluate the ownership experience.
The dial exhibits a restrained character, courtesy of its dark blue hue. Indeed, in some light conditions, the dial epidermis appears almost black. Silver-toned hour and minute hands articulate the time with notable style. Each hour is denoted with a silver-coloured, applied baton. Both the hands and indices are slim, imbuing the model with a becoming elegance.
The dial plane arcs downwards adjacent the minute track. Its curving edge enriches the aesthetic appearance.
The aforementioned dial aperture, positioned below noon, bestows interest. It is framed with a silver-toned circlet. The balance, pallet lever and shock protection device are freely disclosed via the opening. Initially, I wanted the aperture to be larger, eager to see more, however, after a few days wearing the watch my opinion altered. If the opening was enlarged, it would spoil the superb proportions of the dial. In my opinion, Frederique Constant has judged the scale of the aperture to perfection.
The Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat is presented in a 40mm, highly-polished stainless steel case. None of the Genevan brand’s literature states the height of the watch, however, as its name implies, it is slim. This watch does not simply sit upon the wrist, it nuzzles the skin, sitting on the arm with minimal protrusion.
While this timepiece is accessibly priced, the case features some impressive detailing. The dial sits beneath a slightly curved sapphire crystal. The caseband eschews the straight sides of most watches, instead incorporating arcing sides which taper inwards as they approach the caseback. This stylish detail not only enriches the visual appearance of the watch but heightens wearer comfort.
The onion-shaped crown is embellished with neat fluting, aiding manipulation. However, unlike some watches which incorporate this style of crown, the Slimline Auto Heart Beat is fitted with a diminutive interpretation of the component.
The lugs are slender and gently taper downwards. The marriage between the case and the wrist is a happy one, destined to deliver years of happy wedded bliss.
The self-winding FC-312 movement is visible via the exhibition caseback. As stated earlier, the dial-side aperture grants views of the balance wheel, pallet lever and shock protection device. The movement is fitted with 25 jewels and the balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz). The power reserve is capable of delivering 42 hours of autonomy.
Merit is invariably a function of price. If the Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat cost £20,000, I would point out the absence of hand-bevelled bridges, polished screw sinks, chamfered screw heads, mirror-polishing etc. However, this watch has a recommended retail price of £1820 (as at 5.2.2019). While this finish is a tad industrial, it fully meets my expectations for a watch in this price segment.
I have enjoyed my time with the Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat. The dial proves simple to read and, most notably, elegant. No elements are unduly fussy. Everything has been distilled to a pure conclusion.
While this is a keenly priced watch, it does not shortchange the wearer when it comes to style. The blue dial is exquisite and I adore the way it curves as it approaches the minute track. The sapphire crystal also adopts a gently arcing profile. ‘Gentle’ is another word which comes to the fore when describing this watch. The flank of the case tapers inwards, heightening wearer comfort and the model’s aesthetic allure.
Wearer comfort is a subjective matter. I find some watches very comfortable to wear, while others prove problematic. Over the years, I have found some oversized watches, or those fitted with a gigantic crown, can be surprisingly uncomfortable to wear. I am pleased to report that during my time with the Frederique Constant Slimline Auto Heart Beat, the watch afforded an agreeable fit.
However, I have to return to the raison d’être for selecting this particular model, namely, the dial-side aperture and the view it provides of the ‘Heart Beat’. Just in the way it is wonderful to view an orchestra play live, observing a selection of mechanical components collaborate, delivering a masterful horological performance, is something I will never tire of seeing. Everyone enjoys being inquisitive, however, only a few watches indulge this desire with such notable aplomb.