Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture

Angus Davies reviews the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture, a fascinating timepiece featuring an automatic movement combined with the functionality of a smart watch.

This detailed review of the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture includes live images, specification and pricing.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

When it comes to technology, I am a bit of a laggard. My phone was supplied with a multitude of ‘apps’ but I only want it for making phone calls. The idea of a smart watch is abhorrent to me. I am an analogue soul in a digital world. It is for this reason that I don’t usually write about smart watches on ESCAPEMENT.

Smart watches remind me of electric cars. They employ cutting-edge know-how, but somehow lack the character of their petrol-powered siblings. When I stop at a motorway service station, I notice various electric cars being charged. The idea of making frequent stops to recharge my car’s batteries does not sound like progress to me.

When visiting London I often book a taxi. Surprisingly, many of the cars sent by Uber, which I concede I booked via an app, are hybrid vehicles. Vehicles fuelled by electric and petrol have become increasingly popular. Whenever I clamber into a Toyota Prius, I always invite the driver to provide their opinion on the hybrid vehicle. The answer is always favourable. Quite simply, I have never met a Prius driver who doesn’t like their car. Perhaps hybrid cars are the way forward.

Now, Frederique Constant has unveiled a hybrid watch, the Hybrid Manufacture. The watch brings together a conventional automatic movement and an electronic module. Traditional watchmaking sits alongside 21st century technology.

The dial

The dial of the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture appears quite conventional. At its centre is an expanse of guilloché decoration, evincing a traditional appearance. The hour track is adorned with printed Roman numerals and Breguet hands pronounce the hours and minutes.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

A pointer-type date display is positioned at 6 o’clock. The lithesome central sweep seconds hand stretches to the chapter ring and interfaces with short white strokes. The running seconds are proclaimed clearly.

Everything at this point is typical of a conventional wristwatch. However, there is a further subdial positioned at noon, the ‘connected counter’. It allows the wearer to display a second time zone or the local time expressed in a 24 hour format. In the centre of the subdial, a second scale displays a percentage linked to one of the many functions set via the brand’s phone app.

Phone App

The push-piece on the left flank of the case connects the watch to the Hybrid App. There are a multitude of different functions available via the phone app. These functions include sleep monitoring, activity tracking and a ‘dynamic coach’.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

Pressing the aforementioned push-piece can show other readouts on the connected counter, including activity/sleep, workouts, chronograph, ‘nap’ and battery indicator.

An additional feature on the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is the ‘Caliber Analytics’ function. Once per day, the watch automatically checks the health of the mechanical movement by analysing the oscillations of the movement. Three figures are obtained, the rate, the amplitude and the beat error. The results are available via the Hybrid App. If the movement is out of spec, the wearer can take it to an authorised repairer and have it checked. This type of measurement is performed in watch factories using comparatively bulky equipment. Therefore, it is amazing that the know-how has been miniaturised and fitted within a wristwatch.

The case

The two-part stainless steel case measures 42mm in diameter, a modest size given the watch contains both mechanical and electronic components.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

All surfaces gleam, but the watch proves discreet and unassuming. An onion-shaped crown sits proud of the case-band, aiding adjustment without impinging on the skin.

Despite its cutting-edge specification, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture exhibits a traditional mien. The convex sapphire crystal augments the allure of the dial.

Part of the charm of this watch relates to its mechanical movement. Therefore, I am pleased to see that Frederique Constant has equipped this watch with a sapphire case-back.

The movement

This state of the art watch features the FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid caliber. Its balance oscillates with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

The movement upholds traditional watchmaking practise. Blued screws, perlage and circular Côtes de Genève confer a sumptuous feel. The power reserve is sufficient to deliver 42 hours of autonomy.

Beneath the dial sits an electronic module. It consists of various parts, including a rechargeable battery, a printed circuit board, a gearbox featuring an anti-magnetic shield, a step motor, bluetooth antenna and an analytics module. It is amazing that all of these parts fit within such a small space.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

The electronic part of the FC-750 will generate magnetic fields which could have negative implications for the mechanical elements of the movement. However, the brand has overcome this potential problem by developing a ‘unique anti-magnetic shield case’. Whether you are a technophile or a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist, you have to applaud the Genevan watch brand for its ingenuity.

Similar to the aforementioned electric cars, the battery life of some smart watches is poor. However, the battery life of the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is over 7 days which is very impressive.

Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture - automatic movement with electronics module and Hybrid App

Interestingly, the Hybrid Manufacture is supplied with a ‘Rotator Charger Box’. This device includes a watch winder for energising the mainspring of the mechanical watch movement. In addition, the box includes a removable charger to recharge the electronic element of the watch.

Closing remarks

Too many smart watches resemble space-age gadgets which have little in common with horology. Frederique Constant has been very clever, conceiving a hybrid watch which resembles a conventional mechanical watch. I suspect this trait will fulfil the desires of many traditionalists. In addition, the dial proves simple to read, sidestepping the cluttered readouts of some smart watches.

In terms of functionality, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture offers the wearer many functions. I have always been reticent to wear a smart watch, but have worn a mechanical watch and a separate Fitbit. Perhaps Frederique Constant’s approach makes more sense.

A key strength of the Hybrid Manufacture is the modest case proportions. Despite featuring both a mechanical movement and an electronic module, it isn’t unduly large. The Caliber Analytics function is superb, especially considering the associated electronic parts also fit neatly within the watch case.

The mechanical movement is beautifully appointed, featuring traditional finishing and the movement can be admired via an exhibition case-back.

One reason I have always dismissed smart watches is that they possess an intrinsic obsolescence.  However, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is not a smart watch. It is a hybrid. If the electronic components become obsolete, the watch will still proffer the same appeal as a mechanical watch.

While I don’t yearn for a smart-watch, I can see the merit in a hybrid timepiece. Similar to the Toyota Prius, the Hybrid Manufacture blends two means of power in order to deliver an impressive user experience. Indeed, on this occasion I don’t need to ask an Uber driver his opinion, I can appreciate the merits of this watch all by myself.

Further information

Technical specification

  • Model: Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture 
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistant to 5 atm (50 metres)
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds; pointer-type date; connected counter
  • Movement: FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid caliber; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve 42 hours; 7+ days battery life
  • Strap: Blue alligator strap
  • Price: €3250.00 (RRP as at 22.4.2018)

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