Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is a limited edition timepiece, harnessing much technical know-how. Indeed, this watch represents the culmination of the brand’s accumulated knowledge gained over the last 30 years.
This detailed review of the Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture includes live images, specification details and pricing.
When it comes to celebrating an anniversary, I usually favour a card, a bunch of flowers or a romantic meal for two. Frederique Constant evidently does things differently. The Swiss Manufacture, located on the outskirts of Geneva, has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary by releasing a high complication timepiece. The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is the brand’s most complex watch to date.
From the beginning
Frederique Constant was founded in 1988 by the Dutch couple, Peter and Aletta Stas. The name of the company is an amalgam of Peter’s great-grandfather’s name, Constant Stas, and Aletta’s great-grandmother’s name, Frederique Schreiner. From the outset the couple’s objective was clear, namely to deliver ‘affordable luxury timepieces’. This in itself was not unique, however, over the years, the brand evolved. Indeed, just six years after the brand was founded, it made a huge leap forward by becoming a Manufacture. Suddenly, this Swiss firm stood out from the crowd.
While other companies produce Manufacture movements, it is extremely rare for accessible watches to contain an in-house movement. The brand’s inaugural movement was the Heart Beat Manufacture Calibre. This movement took three years of research and development, however, the period of gestation for subsequent movements has proved shorter. Since 2004, Frederique Constant has been prolific, releasing a total of 24 different calibres.
Producing in-house movements has conferred greater design freedom. Often the layout of a dial is determined by the architecture of the movement, causing the registers on some chronographs to appear too close together or, conversely, too far apart. Frederique Constant has been able to design dials with optimum proportions and, thereafter, construct a movement to suit. It is for this reason that the brand’s models frequently exhibit handsome aesthetics.
Frederique Constant was an early adopter of silicon technology. Silicon exhibits low frictional properties, requires no lubrication and can be produced to infinitesimally small tolerances. It is also very light, not susceptible to corrosion and is non-magnetic. Given the benefits of silicon, it is now becoming increasingly popular with competing brands. However, it must be remembered that Frederique Constant was at the vanguard of this cutting-edge horology employing the glass-like material several years ago.
Another facet of the Frederique Constant paradigm is its unwavering desire to democratise hitherto expensive complications, thereby providing incredible value for money. First, the Swiss company astounded the watchmaking establishment by producing an ‘affordable’ tourbillon. Thereafter, the brand unveiled a perpetual calendar in stainless steel for less than £10,000.
Now in its 30th year, Frederique Constant has pushed the boundaries once again, combining the two aforementioned complications to create the Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture. With a combination of limited availability and keen pricing, I knew the watch would not be around for long and, therefore, I grasped the opportunity to get ‘hands-on’ and appraise its highly-specified form at close quarters.
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is offered in solid or skeletonised dial designs. Both variants are available in steel or 18-carat gold. Personally, I find the skeleton dials the most interesting.
The skeleton dial
The slender leaf-shaped hour and minute hands are hand-polished and articulate the time wonderfully. The skeleton dial eschews conventional indices, relying solely on a chapter ring that encircles the openworked dial area.
Three conjoined registers float above a sea of freely disclosed parts. Each register is snailed and features black, hand-polished hands and crisp markings. The subdial at 3 o’clock displays the date while the day is displayed at 9 o’clock. Finally, the subdial below noon displays the month and incorporates a leap-year indicator.
A 60-minute tourbillon sits at the base of the dial. The hand sat atop of the rotating cage indicates the seconds. Each cage is ‘sequentially numbered on the top plate, matching the limited edition number of the case’.
The aperture revealing the tourbillon is very large, affording superb views of the rotating cage and the hairspring breathing seductively. Blued screws abound, a characteristic which is repeated throughout the watch.
Frederique Constant has always demonstrated ingenuity. The Swiss firm has fitted small weights to the tourbillon cage to achieve the optimal balance. As the brand explains, ‘when the tourbillon is constructed, the balance in the cage is slightly unequal, as the escapement wheel and anchor are decentered. Frederique Constant added a “smart screw” system on the outer edge of the Tourbillon to equalise the weight and deliver a perfect balance in the cage. This results in a more stable amplitude and rate.’
Beyond its technical virtue, the Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is a handsome watch. Adjacent the subdials and tourbillon, the mainplate is embellished with perlage, wheels and levers. This is a dial suited to mechanically curious minds.
The solid dial
As stated earlier, I personally favour the skeleton dial, however, Frederique Constant has recognised that some prospective purchasers have a tendency to be more conservative. The solid dial option fulfils the requirements of these buyers.
The scale of the subdials and the tourbillon aperture are the same. However, most of the parts which are disclosed on the skeleton dial version are hidden from view. The only components which remain visible are the tourbillon cage, balance wheel and escapement. Observant wearers may also gain a glimpse of the hour wheel.
A smooth hour track, adorned with Roman numerals, upholds tradition. The central area of the dial is embellished with Clous de Paris.
Despite the accessible pricing of its watches, this Genevan firm has always been known for elegantly styled watches. Indeed, it would seem that the altruistic Stas couple have always obsessed about the aesthetic appearance of their watches just as much as the affordability of their creations.
The 42mm case of the Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture brims with notable grace and poise. The proportions do not overwhelm the wrist, but at the same time there is sufficient room for the indications to be easily read. Furthermore, the scale of the watch occupies the central area of the distribution curve, ensuring most would-be wearers will find this watch incredibly comfortable.
While this watch is endowed with a tourbillon, it tastefully sidesteps unseemly flamboyance. There is a ubiquitous sense of restraint. It is somewhat surprising that despite its unassuming character, Frederique Constant has chosen to present the product with highly polished surfaces throughout. However, rest assured the watch remains an exemplar of good taste and the gleam of its case works wonderfully.
The caseback features a pane of sapphire crystal affording views of the movement.
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is supplied on a quality alligator strap paired with a deployant.
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is equipped with the FC-975 Manufacture calibre. This automatic movement features an openworked golden-hued oscillating weight, affording views of the bridges below.
The bridges are embellished with Côtes de Genève motif and feature engraved golden text. Adjacent the bridges, gleaming perlage enlivens the horological vista.
By using silicon for the escapement wheel and anchor, Frederique Constant has mitigated both friction and mass. The benefits of these characteristics translate into lower energy consumption. The power reserve of the FC-975 Manufacture calibre is 38 hours, which is impressive given tourbillons have a tendency to quaff energy.
The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 33 jewels.
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is a beautiful watch that provides a fitting tribute to this Swiss company celebrating its 30 year anniversary. While some Maisons have been in operation for over two hundred years, this young brand has come a long way in a comparatively short time. It has embraced cutting-edge technology, such as silicon (silicium in French), and state-of-the art CNC machines, however, it has always imbued its watches with classical design. Moreover, despite the impressive quality of its products, Frederique Constant remains synonymous with value.
The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is a very technical watch endowed with two of the most desirable complications, a perpetual calendar and a tourbillon. Some watches which are equipped with the coveted whirlwind complication are selected as a means of flaunting the wearer’s wealth. Watches sporting excessive proportions and garish colours are the preserve of the nouveau riche. Thankfully, Frederique Constant has sidestepped such outré and tasteless exhibitionism.
This watch displays decorum at all times. It does not crave attention or conspicuously flaunt the wearer’s wealth. The Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture is a seemly creation for those of discerning taste.
Typically, complicated watches of this type attract six-figure pricing. While this watch is not the last word in haute horologerie, it does incorporate two complications normally beyond the reach of most watch buyers. Furthermore, Frederique Constant has once again paired handsome aesthetics and agreeable finishing, two traits which have regularly featured on the brand’s impressive timepieces for the last 30 years.
- Model: Frederique Constant Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Manufacture
- References: FC-975S4H6 (steel – skeleton dial), FC-975S4H9 (gold – skeleton dial), FC-975MC4H6 (steel – solid dial), FC-975MC4H4 (gold – solid dial).
- Case: Stainless steel or 18-carat rose gold; diameter 42mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
- Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds on tourbillon, perpetual calendar (day, date, month, leap year) and tourbillon.
- Movement: FC-975 Manufacture calibre; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 33 jewels; power reserve = approx. 38 hours
- Strap: Alligator leather paired with deployant
- Price: £19,995 (steel), £27,995 (gold) – (RRP as at 5.11.2018)
- Limited Edition: 88 pieces (both steel versions); 30 pieces (both gold versions)