There is no stopping the steady flow of models emerging from Frederique Constant, all steeled for battle in the mid-price arena. The latest Classic Automatic 24H, equipped with a 24-hour function, joins the well-populated Classics collection and will retail for under EUR 1,000. My first take on the newcomer was that this was a practical GMT watch, designed for men on the move. But where was the additional hand to read the second time zone? FC’s new watch is a bit of a mind teaser and presents a different way of reading the hours based on a 24-hour format. Instead of the standard hour hand advancing in 12 increments of one hour twice a day, the hand is slowed down to half its regular speed to read the 24-hour disc on the dial. Once you have got your mind around the fact that the hour hand makes one rotation a day and not two, things start to make sense.
Categorically night or day
The advent of the 24-hour system of dividing time stretches far back in history and was purportedly devised by the Egyptians. The 24-hour clock was not, however, adopted until the late 19th century, and in many cases reserved for military purpose (military time). Being able to establish whether it is night or day was and is still a vital task. Imagine being on board a submarine for months or floating in space for days on end and messing up your circadian rhythm. Although FC’s Classic Automatic 24H is not designed for such life-altering missions, it has taken the 24-hour timekeeping convention and incorporated it on a classic dress watch.
An unconventional way to read time
Both versions of the Classics Automatic 24H come in 43mm polished stainless steel cases with water-resistance to 100m and bear the classic, unassuming styling associated with this collection. Things get a lot more interesting on the dial, which is offered in a handsome silver or dark grey colour. Adding a touch of old-school charm is the Clous de Paris (hobnail) decoration on the dial. Obviously not done by hand, given the price of this model, but nevertheless an effective and elegant touch. A minutes track on the periphery and four applied indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock separated by thin baton markers are featured on the dial along with the central 24-hour ring. The 24-hour ring has a matte finish and contrasts with the background decoration.
I think the fact that the hour markers are maintained on the dial is somewhat confusing and your brain might take time to adapt to the fact that the hour hand is not pointing to the exterior markers but to the interior 24-hour ring. Imagine it is just after 10:00 am. Instead of the traditional position our eye would go to on the dial, the hour hand on the Classics Automatic 24H would, in fact, be pointing to the number 10 on the 24-hour ring, which in turn is located at 5 o’clock on the dial.
Both the hour and minute hands finish in precise very sharp points and are treated with a band of luminescent material, a vital consideration given the small numbers on the 24-hour indicator. The minutes hand is ostensibly longer than the hour hand and the central seconds hand reaches all the way out to the peripheral track.
Once again, affordability is the name of the game and FC has equipped the watch with a third-party automatic calibre with the 24h function. Known as calibre FC-332, the movement beats at 28,800vph and has a 38-hour power reserve for the 24-hours, minutes and seconds. This movement is basically a reliable, Swiss made Sellita SW-200 (an ETA clone) which has been slightly modified – a different gear ratio for the hour wheel, so it revolves in 24 hours and not 12 hours.
Despite its classic personality, the Classics Automatic 24H is unusual and will no doubt become a conversation piece. It will take some time for the brain to override its instincts, but all in all a quirky and perhaps even useful function for people who work in places with no natural light. Having said that, the 24-hour track might benefit from luminescence because consulting this in the dark could be tricky.
Both watches come with a smart dark grey calf leather strap with embossed crocodile scales. The price of the new Classics Automatic 24H is the same for both models, which retail for EUR 995. For more information, please visit www.frederiqueconstant.com.