Hands-On: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture
This detailed review of the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture includes live images, specification, pricing and expert analysis.
Chronographs are too cheap. This may sound a bold statement but, in my opinion, it is true. A chronograph is incredibly complex and certainly more complicated than a costlier annual calendar. While most complications operate without any wearer intervention, a chronograph allows the user to start, stop and reset the central chronograph seconds hand as well as the hands on the various registers. The forces at play within a chronograph are huge and careful consideration has to be given to the possibility of bending the central chronograph seconds hand when resetting.
However, despite the complexity of chronographs and the potential pitfalls which need to be surmounted, the public has become conditioned to expect these complicated timepieces to be relatively affordable. Frederique Constant is a brand which understands value and, despite the relative complexity of chronographs, it has recently unveiled a chronograph which offers much for comparatively little. Its latest watch features a flyback and a manufacture movement, both attributes which should lead to a price premium. However, the aptly named Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is offered at £3495 in rose gold-plated stainless steel, a remarkably keen price indeed.
This modest asking price of the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture makes this timepiece stand-out from the crowd, but is it any good?
The silver toned dial has a delightful retro quality, reminiscent of chronographs from the 1930s. The hours are denoted with applied rose gold indexes, while the hour and minute hands are gold-plated and lined with luminescent fill.
Each subdial is snailed, contrasting beautifully with the sunray dial. A 30-minute chronograph register sits adjacent the crown, a pointer date display resides at 6 o’clock and a small seconds display is positioned at 9 o’clock.
The central chronograph seconds hand spans the dial radius, touching the markers on the chemin de fer. A tachymeter scale sits alongside the railway track and proves helpful when ascertaining speeds of moving objects.
The watch has an aged, vintage appearance to its dial. Personally, I find this period styling to be very attractive and suspect this timepiece will continue to retain eye appeal for many years to come.
Legibility is a prerequisite of any timepiece and yet I have frequently come across watches which fail to deliver readability. Thankfully, the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is highly legible and does not suffer this affliction. Where the watch does struggle is in terms of nocturnal legibility. The luminescence of the hands could be a little more powerful in order to help ease of read-off in limited light.
I have always been a little ‘snobby’ when it comes to gold-plated cases. The notion of a faux precious case has never sat comfortably with me. However, I have worn this watch for over a week and found I have succumbed to its warm, autumnal tones. By housing the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture in a gold-plated case, the Genevan brand has been able to deliver an aristocratic mien for middle-class money. Moreover, another key benefit of a gold-plated case is that it is much lighter than a solid gold case, aiding wearer comfort.
The case is ubiquitously polished, save for some areas of the lugs and push-pieces which are satin-brushed. The shade of the case wonderfully coalesces with the dial, making the watch look superb. Indeed, the aesthetic of the watch resembles an ultra-expensive auction-room darling which many, myself included, would be unable to afford. Clearly affordability is a notion Frederique Constant understands well.
Measuring 42mm in diameter, the case is beautifully proportioned and comfortable to wear. The scale of the watch is relatively neutral, suiting a broad array of would-be wearers.
The glassbox sapphire crystal floods the dial with light, aiding legibility and partly explaining why the watch proffers excellent readability.
An exhibition caseback grants sight of the self-winding movement within this classically styled timepiece.
The Calibre FC-760 is beautifully appointed with blued screws, perlage and Côtes de Genève much in evidence. Indeed, despite the accessible pricing there is little evidence of penny pinching with the finissage on this this timepiece.
The Swiss brand spent six years developing the Calibre FC-760. Frederique Constant manufactures the movement components in-house and assembles the calibre within the confines of its own atelier. This is a genuine ‘Manufacture’ movement despite its modest pricing.
In its literature, Frederique Constant point out that a “characteristic of high-quality chronographs is a column wheel rotating on bearings to control the three ‘start, stop and reset’ functions’”. The Calibre FC-760 eschews a conventional column-wheel in favour of a star shaped wheel. This wheel, in conjunction with an operating lever, delivers a silky action to the push-pieces. Moreover, when resetting the chronograph, the central seconds hand returns to noon without the merest tremor.
Another notable specification detail of the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is the eponymous flyback function. While the chronograph is running, the wearer can press the push-piece at 4 o’clock and in one action, stop, reset and start the chronograph function. Typically, this additional feature attracts a premium, but on the face of it nobody has informed Frederique Constant of this fact.
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture has so many virtues. The 42mm case offers universal appeal and the movement is exquisitely finished with perlage and Côtes de Genève motif. The unique star-shaped wheel confers a sweet feel to the push-pieces and the flyback feature grants additional functionality not usually found on chronographs at this price point.
Ultimately, to answer my original question, the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is very good. This sublime watch cleverly combines period styling, a clear dial, the warm tones of a gold-plated case and a ‘Manufacture’ movement, at a very affordable price.
• Case: Rose gold-plated stainless steel; diameter 42mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and case-back.
• Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph.
• Movement: Calibre FC-760; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 32 jewels; power reserve = 38 hours.
• Strap: Brown alligator strap with deployant buckle
• Price: £3495 (RRP as at 27.10.2017)
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.