The Frederique Constant Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve watch hands-on
When Peter and Aletta Stas founded Frederique Constant over thirty years ago, they never imagined they would have changed the Swiss luxury watchmaking industry so profoundly. Their original value proposition was about selling a quintessentially Swiss-made timepiece in terms of build quality and precision, at a fair price. If we take a look at historic luxury Swiss brands, their price has skyrocketed in the last ten years or so, while the product specifications have not, instead. That strategy paved the way for a crisis that is still affecting the industry, as I explained in a dedicated article.
Thirty-one years and 28 in-house conceived mechanical movements later, Frederique Constant is a successful and industrially robust company (they just opened their new manufacture) that has joined the Citizen Group's brand portfolio but is still under the Stas' leadership. The truth is that they are the right persons to keep leading the brand while helping growing it further. Those 28 calibers, among which are a tourbillon and perpetual calendar, include a new one that is pretty attractive and equips the Frederique Constant Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve: it is the FC-723 caliber, that is FC-703 based, with the addition of a power reserve module.
The engineers did not just add a mechanical complication and a new function; the power reserve (that I reckon makes more sense when coupled to a hand-wound mechanical movements) is not an addition, preferably a re-engineering of the FC-703 caliber, whose 42-hour maximum power reserve has grown to 50. From afar, the Frederique Constant Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve couldn't be more classic: the case (crown excluded) is 40mm across. It is more interesting to discuss other details instead.
Let's start with the dial's layout: at first glance, it might look like a chronometer, considering the big register placed at six. That counter is a "pointer date" register that is adjustable via the crown, thus leaving the polished case free of any corrector. You, readers, are aware of what are my thoughts regarding the date window; I never liked and never will, the only exception being the Big date complication, as crafted by the Saxons. Scrolling through the whole Manufacture collection, I found out all the models sport a "pointer type" date display, where existing. It is a design choice that helps make a Frederique Constant look cleaner, proportioned, and sleek.
This variant features a navy blue tone dial that sharply tapers on the outside, while the glass, that is cambered as well, has a small gap to hours, minutes, date, and power reserve's hands; the power reserve indicator is gracefully placed at ten o'clock. That blue tone offers an enamel dial's feel, and the adoption of Roman numerals enhances that perception. A slightly curved dial has a letdown from a photographer's perspective: it is somehow hard to capture all the beauty of a sunray finished blue dial.
The Frederique Constant Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve is the kind of timepiece you have to wear daily and expose to different sources of light to fully appreciate it. Its ever-changing tones are impossible to reproduce, even with the best photography. Designers and engineers use to work closely today to successfully combine aesthetics and function, and so did they when mating case and movement.
The FC-723 caliber seamlessly fills the case, because the case tapers towards the back; by doing so, the external screwed-in ring's diameter is not 40mm wide but matches the caliber's overall width instead. Regarding build quality and refinement, I think our photos speak for themselves; the work carried out by the Frederique Constant's watchmakers is brilliant (my only guessing is: "are they using an in-house conceived hair-spring, or not?") and has not affected the selling price too much, in line with the brand's mission.
The Frederique Constant Manufacture Slimline Power Reserve retails for €3,290. The journey that Frederique Constant has embarked since Peter Stas decided to change the game has been long and marked by risk-taking investments, but great achievements too, ever since. He was as brave as were the Independent Watchmakers when they decided to set-up their brands, although we are comparing kind of businesses that couldn't be more different from each other. The Stas proved it is possible to wrap the best manufactured Swiss Made timepiece around our wrist, without paying for a premium price that is often the result of a smart marketing and communication strategy, associated to rather ordinary products.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®