The Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture watch hands-on
A product variation or a new product code is, by definition, a new edition of an already existing one, and such is the 2019 green Frederique Constant Worldtimer Classic Manufacture. That timepiece means a lot to us; it is our chance to introduce to our audience one of the most successful and best value-for-money world timers you can buy. Believe it or not, I was close to taking one a few years ago for two specific reasons: I was a frequent traveler at the time, and I always admired this complicated Frederique Constant since it first came out.
Back then, I did not complete the purchase (I bought another watch from the group, instead), primarily because I stopped traveling so frequently all of a sudden, even though we often buy watches regardless of any logical approach; being a globetrotter was evidently an excuse. The Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture is one of the most attractive pieces in a market segment that includes products and brands with remarkable history and pedigree. It's among the brand's top sellers, thanks to a not-so-common successful combination of aesthetic details and functional features, paired with an unbeatable retail price, in my opinion.
The market is flooded with timepieces showcasing a world timer complication; every brand has its proposal, yet this trend suddenly stopped in 2018. The Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture was among the first to ever hit the market and among the first to adopt a mainstream architecture that combines a multi-tier visualization, including different cities, to quickly identify timezones along with a map of the globe, placed in the center of the dial.
Perceiving an object as pleasing and proportioned is no doubt subjective. Nonetheless, it comes from accurately combining proportions with the right aesthetic choices and colors. Not only does the Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture look well balanced, but it also feels premium without being too busy or over-designed.
As you move your eyes from the dial's center to the case side, you'll notice the double-stepped case appears as an extension of the two annular disks depicting day-and-night indication, and cities, respectively. This symmetrical design is interrupted by the map of the globe (and the date counter), whose displacement is placed over the two outer rotating rings. The seas are embossed and green, while the grey adopted on the continents helps them stand out. Additionally, there's a key feature that no other brand has ever adopted: Frederique Constant is the only brand to have applied raised cylindrical indexes on such a timepiece; they guarantee you can read the local time overnight or under dim light.
Most watches sporting this complication, whose retail price is five to ten times higher than a Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture's, are not as sleek as this one. In some cases, the globe looks oversized and too busy, elsewhere it is too small instead, in comparison to the outer rings. Also, Frederique Constant is the only brand, as far as I can remember, to have gone for an almost full monochrome design, a smart option considering how much information is available, and how hard it is to read the time on this kind of timepiece, at first glance. Try and use any color palette; I'm sure this watch would preserve its beauty and the unmatched ease of reading the time.
Easy reading of the time is nothing without the ease of use. That's why your first requirement while conceiving a world timer is to make it easy to set and adjust local time and matching time zones. The Frederique Constant Classic Worldtimer Manufacture's mechanical movement was initially designed to let the wearer adjust all the different functions exclusively via the winding crown: by moving the crown along three different positions, the wearer is allowed to perform all the necessary settings. Pull the crown to position 1, and you can manually wind the watch; by pulling it to position 2, you can adjust the date, if you turn it clockwise, or the disc reproducing the cities, the other way round.
Finally, the third and outmost position allows you to adjust the local time and, simultaneously, rotate the 24-hour day and night disc. How to set the watch: after changing the local time, pair it with the chosen city by aligning it with the mark at twelve. The time across the various timezones is readable at a glance.
As an example, pictured in the photo above, it is 00:08 in the city of Riyadh, our reference city, and 09:08 am in Auckland, or 15:08 am in Chicago. However there's an area of improvement that I would highlight: while the functionality is perfect, rotating the disc of the cities is not as smooth as you would expect.
This trait is common to most timepieces featuring this same architecture. I understand that equalizing the torque, via the crown, on disks sporting different ratios, is hard to achieve; yet if I had to improve something, here is where I would point the engineering's efforts. The second one is less relevant and has to do with all the timepieces sporting an alligator strap, and the same goes with the Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve that I reviewed a few weeks back: that strap is too stiff, especially during the first month or two, and doesn't let the timepiece taper the wrist as it should. Technically refined, appealing, and equipped with an in-house movement entirely designed and manufactured by Frederique Constant, the Worldtimer Classic Manufacture retails for € 3,690.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®