Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant
Angus Davies interviews Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant
Angus Davies talks to Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant and gains an insight into the company she runs with her husband. This feature reveals much about the ethos of the company and the brand’s approach to design.
Frederique Constant was founded in 1988 by husband and wife team, Peter and Aletta Stas. The company has continuously pursued a strategy of making classically designed timepieces, delivered at affordable prices.
In 2002, Mr & Mrs Stas purchased the Alpina brand, a brand dedicated to sports watches. Thereafter, recognising the impressive talent within its own organisation and the desire some of its watchmakers had to create complicated watches, Peter in association with Pim Koeslag and Robert van Pappelendam established Ateliers deMonaco in 2008.
Initially, Frederique Constant used third party movements, but in 2004 the brand unveiled its own manufacture movement. It has subsequently developed many more in-house movements, providing a high degree of autonomy and creative freedom.
Last year, I interviewed Peter Stas and asked many questions about the company he co-founded. On this occasion, I was granted the opportunity to speak with Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant and obtain her views about this dynamic firm.
Interview with Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant (AS) by Angus Davies (AD)
AD: What makes Frederique Constant special?
AS: Our mission is to help more people enjoy luxury. We offer beautiful timepieces, often with mechanical movements. We have an eye for detail and we offer watches at an affordable price.
We have entry level quartz, entry level automatic watches and we also have, within the top segment of Frederique Constant, our own manufacture movements, which are still attractively priced.
AD: I always associate you with Frederique Constant. Do you have any day to day involvement with Alpina and Ateliers deMonaco?
AS: Alpina was founded in 1883 and we acquired it in 2002. We wanted to make sports watches but didn’t want to market these under the Frederique Constant brand, as this is known for classical designs.
Ateliers deMonaco came about because we have some incredible watchmakers who had certain ideas. We thought it was a pity not to launch the movements they had developed. However, they did not fit with Frederique Constant or Alpina, for example the watchmakers produced a minute repeater. Therefore, we decided to create Ateliers deMonaco.
Ateliers deMonaco is managed by Pim Koeslag. He creates the designs, hence I am not too much involved with the company on a day to day basis.
With regards to Alpina, I am involved with the design of its watches.
AD: I previously interviewed your husband. I am aware you started the company together. What benefits do you think working with your spouse confers?
AS: A lot of people ask how I can work with my husband. I always say it if doesn’t work you will find out very soon. We started the company 30 years ago and we are still working together. We found a marvellous way to work together.
It is very important when you are building up a company that you have a sparring partner and, in particular, an honest sparring partner. That is not always the case. If you are a family, it is different than if you have two business partners.
If your working relationship with your spouse works, that is a real benefit. In addition, if you have certain skills which are complementary, that is also a benefit.
AD: Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the Slimline Moonphase Stars Manufacture. Did you have any involvement in the design of this watch? Is your focus purely on ladies’ models or do you also have creative input into the design of men’s watches?
AS: I designed the watch in its entirety. I have never studied design and did not attend art college, in fact I studied law at university. However, I collaborate with graphic designers, advising them they way I want the watch to look. When I look at a technical drawing of a bezel or a case, I will sometimes think it needs enlarging or changing in some way and we will alter the design.
I design both the men’s and ladies’ models. For Frederique Constant, all our designs are in-house. With regards to Alpina, we sometimes use external designers.
Sometimes the layout of the movement dictates the design of the dial. For example, the movement will determine where we position the registers on a chronograph.
However, when we designed the perpetual calendar we wanted the indications in the optimum positions. In the past, perpetual calendars were often 38mm which was the trend at the time. We said we wanted to create a layout with the indications in the right positions, in order to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Because we are a manufacture we were able to space the counters wide apart. Indeed, making our own movements allows us more flexibility.
AD: An attribute of Frederique Constant is your technical ability, illustrated by the number of manufacture movements you make. Moving forward, do you envisage offering a fully integrated chronograph? Or minute repeater?
AS: We are working on some other movements and ideas. We can go in different directions because we have the capability. The thing is, it is not possible to do everything at the same time. Also, it can be that the market is asking for something which necessitates putting some projects forward.
The novelties for Baselworld 2019 are virtually finished and now we are working on Baselworld 2020.
AD: Frederique Constant was acquired by Citizen some time ago. How has this acquisition helped Frederique Constant?
AS: The distribution of products has improved with subsidiaries now in the UK, Italy, Japan, US etc. This has proved very helpful.
Citizen allow us to run our business.
AD: What are your aspirations for the Frederique Constant brand?
AS: To let it grow, to have more people enjoy our products and to keep innovating.
Chatting to Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant, I am struck by her clear vision for the company. Aletta shares her husband’s vision of making affordable luxury watches. The design language of each timepiece is classical and timeless. Sporty watches are made by sister company, Alpina, while the cognoscenti’s needs are fulfilled courtesy of Ateliers deMonaco.
Since its foundation in 1988, Frederique Constant has enjoyed exponential growth. Evidently, its product strategy has worked. The Swiss brand has also mastered distribution. However, since the acquisition by Citizen, the company reports additional improvements in the distribution of its products.
It is clear that Frederique Constant has an impressive technical capability, evident from the many manufacture movements it has produced. It is this capability which has allowed the company to design dials with optimally placed indications. In contrast, many other watch companies, utilising third party movements, design dials based merely on the architecture of the movement. It is clear that the approach taken by Frederique Constant confers a competitive advantage and beauteous aesthetics.
When I interviewed Peter Stas in 2017, I enquired about his plans post acquisition by Citizen. He voiced no desire to leave the company he’d established. It became obvious while chatting to Aletta Stas, Frederique Constant that she continues to be passionate about the company she co-founded. Indeed, it is evident this husband and wife team clearly share the same passion for Frederique Constant and I don’t envisage this changing any time soon.