Hands-on review – Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase, a qualitative but affordable dress watch (live photos & price)

A few months ago, we introduced to you the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase. Usually, this brand isn’t matching with our “standards” (because, you know us, we love high-end watches). We’ve nothing against the brand but our editorial choice is to have a focus on more complex and lavishly finished timepieces. However, with this one, the offer was a bit different: a dress watch, with a very nice design, a moon-phase and a date, powered by an in-house movement (and that changed it all…). Our first impressions were highly positive and thus, we wanted to feel the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase in the flesh, just to be sure…
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What’s the deal with this Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase, on paper? A 40.5mm dress watch, with a refined dial, a moon-phase indication, a date, beautifully finished hands and dial, a case with officer caseback, which hides a movement produced in-house (which didn’t look that bad on the press photos). The description feels like “expensive”… However, this watch is priced lower than you can expect, just above 3,500 Euros. Well, you know the story: if it’s too good to be true, there must be something wrong. You can’t have the look, performance and pleasure of a Porsche for the price of a Toyota. So, with the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase, we thought the story to be a bit too nice. Thus, what a better idea to strap the watch for a little while, just to see where it goes wrong (or not).

We’re not going to turn around the subject for hours. It has to be said, the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase isn’t perfect… but it’s not far from that. It is a bit too thick and too large to our tastes. With a 40.5mm diameter and a 12.4mm height, this watch feels a bit too big, a bit too present considering its vocation. As very dressy looking watch, we would have prefer a diameter under 39mm and a thickness under 10mm, just to make sure that you can hide it under your cuff – even if this thickness is partially explains by the officer caseback, which adds a minimum of 1mm to the case. Anyway, with its rounded design and the fully polished finish, the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase looks dressy and refined. The smooth shape makes it discreet, with a few nice details. The officer caseback first (“officer caseback” refers to a watch with a plain caseback that opens to reveal the movement, here protected by a second, transparent sapphire protective case).

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Another interesting detail is the notched onion crown, which looks and feels qualitative. Overall, the case is well executed, with serious adjustments and a polishing that has no real defaults. Then comes the dial – and here starts the real pleasure. Indeed, the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase has a very nice dial. Of course, most will spot the resemblance with certain high-end watches, like some vintage Patek Philippe – for example, the Ref. 2438… same layout (without the perpetual calendar), same rail-road track, same indexes, same hands… Even the case is close in its design. However, let’s be frank. Except for a few independent watchmakers with bold designs, the entire watchmaking industry use the same inspirations (how many dive watches are inspired by the Submariner…). This subject apart, the result is a very pleasant face, with faceted applied indexes and hands, a sub-ray pattern on the silvery-white plate and a moon-phase / date sub-dial placed just where it should be, at 6 o’clock. There’s not too many inscriptions, it’s balanced and it feels very high-end.

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After our positive thoughts about the visual aspects of the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase, you’d probably think that the bad side might come from the mechanics…  And you would also be wrong. It indeed features an in-house movement, developed and manufactured entirely by Frederique Constant, which considering the price, is impressive. However, don’t be fooled. An in-house movement is not always synonym of a better movement. There are dozens of watches powered by ETA calibres… and they are working perfectly like this. In the case of the Classics Moonphase, we’re not going to debate the questions of the reliability or of the precision. On the other hand, the concept of having an in-house movement is interesting in terms of exclusivity and pleasure. Fitted with such a movement, the watch differentiates from the rest of the crowd and thus, shows that the brand pushed the button further than just a design.

In fact, the brand have been producing (since 2004, in their manufacture located near Geneva) more calibres than you could expect. In this Frederique Constant Classic Manufacture Moonphase is in reality encased the 19th in-house movement of the brand, which makes it quite a credible watchmaker. The calibre FC-715 is a nice looking (blued screws, circular Geneva Stripes, gilded and widely opened rotor) movement. One regret concerns the shape of the main bridge, which hides more or less all the technical elements except the balance wheel. The look is clean and pleasant and so are the specifications: a modern 4hz frequency, a 42h power reserve and a 30.5mm diameter, which doesn’t feel like if the movement was floating in the case.

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Concluding words… First of all, do keep in mind the 3,600 Euros price tag. Then, imagine what you can have for this price. In fact, there’s no bad feelings to have toward the Frederique Constant Manufacture Classics Moonphase. The quality is here, the dial and the hands are very well executed and you’ll enjoy the exclusivity of an in-house movement. To make it short, there are not real faults and the only thing we would have prefer is a smaller and thinner case. For the rest, you’ll get an elegant and discreet watch, with slightly vintage-inspired design… and that’s maybe what we could regret here: a bit of Frederique Constant’s own DNA and a look less inspired by a watch from Patek. The result remains however pleasant and very well priced. frederiqueconstant.com.

4 responses

  1. This brand make excellent watches at mid range prices. What’s not to like? I have 1 of their watches with a manufacture caliber, date, in rose gold case. Of my 50+ watches it’s the most accurate, beating even chronometer certified movements for consistent accuracy, and it’s a pleasure to wear. I’m not into paying watch companies massive premiums/profits for vanities sake when FC and others do such an excellent job. I’d like more such manufacturers to be reviewed by your site, please.

  2. I’ts a great watch, this comany deserve more feedback, nothing “Swiss Made” can be better at this price tag. Really great value for money.

  3. I purchased a F.C. Manufacture two years ago and still think it is a beautiful watch, I get please just from looking at the exquisite build quality and movement. In the high end luxury Swiss watch world, this brand truly represents all that is best is craftsmanship but with reasonable price tags. Not cheap but aspirational for many to purchase as a quality timepiece to last you a lifetime literally.

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