Frederique Constant’s Vintage Rally collection is a family of sporty retro-style watches inspired by the world of classic cars. To be precise, by the world of the Austin-Healey, a British sports car built from 1959-1967. Since 2004 Frederique Constant and the Austin-Healey car brand have been partners and the Vintage Rally collection is designed to capture the spirit of these racing cars. For 2020, two new three-hand with date models, one in steel with a green dial and the other with a rose gold-plated case and cappuccino colour scheme, park alongside the pre-existing chronographs in the collection (there is a 3-hand day/date model in the collection but it is quartz). Limited editions of 2,888 units, the models can be ordered online.
The mythical Healey 100S NOJ 393
Nine years ago, the NOJ 393 ex-Works 1953-55 Austin-Healey Special Test Car/100S set a world record. Not a speed record, but a record price at auction for an Austin-Healey when it was sold by Bonhams for GBP 843,000 (close to US 1 million). Untouched since the 1960s, according to Bonhams’ press release, the car was in a barn find state. Fans of classic cars will be familiar with the story behind the NOJ 393. As one of Austin-Healey’s Test Cars, the NOJ 393 competed in the 1953 Le Mans 24 Hours, went on to become the 100S prototype racing at Sebring, the Carrera Panamericana and Nassau.
The car, however, gained its (sad) popularity in 1955. As it was participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the car, driven by Lance Macklin, was involved in one of the worst accidents in the history of motor-racing. As Mike Hawthorn’s Jaguar D-Type was brutally stopping for a refuel, Macklin and his Healey had to change direction. Arriving at high speed (over 120mph) just behind, French driver Pierre Levegh onboard a Mercedes 300 SLR couldn’t avoid the Austin Healey 100S and crashed into the back of the car, which acted as a ramp and launched Levegh’s car into the air, flying over spectators and rolling end over end for 80 metres. As a result, over 80 spectators died – an event that would change the face of motorsport for the decades to come.
Following this race, the 100S NOJ 393 was rebuilt at the factory and participated in several races in 1956. It disappeared for the following 42 years, before being fully restored and sold by Bonhams.
British Racing Green
Exactly the same colour as the model sold by Bonhams and lovingly restored by its new owner, the dial of the steel model is a classic British racing green. A silver-coloured chapter ring for the minutes on the periphery is complemented by a second track on the green dial marking 1/5th of a second. Oversized Arabic numerals at 12, 6 and 9 and applied silver-coloured indices, all treated with white luminescent material, stand out well against the dark green background. The hands of the hours, minutes (treated with lume) and central seconds are also silver. Conceived as a sporty daily beater, there is a date window at 3 o’clock with a white background.
The polished 2-part steel case measures 40mm and is water-resistant to 50m. The caseback is sealed and engraved with a Healey and some pine trees. A racy perforated brown calfskin strap completes the package.
Dressier rose gold-plated version
Although there are no individual pictures of the second Vintage Rally Healey Automatic in the press kit (it is one the webpage though), this model is dressier and comes in a 40mm rose gold-plated case with a ‘cappuccino’ colour scheme on the dial. Starting with a dark brown colour on the periphery, the 1/5th of a seconds track is a lighter shade of brown and the centre is a silvery/white. The applied elements on the dial and hands are rose gold-plated to match the case material and the watch comes with a dark brown perforated leather strap.
Both models are fitted with the FC-303 calibre, an automatic movement (base Sellita SW 200-1) with a power reserve of 38 hours.
Availability and Price
Both iterations of the Vintage Rally Healey Automatic are limited to 2,888 pieces and are presented in a collector’s gift set with a miniature replica of the NOJ 393. The steel model retails for EUR 1,490, the rose gold-plated model for EUR 1,790. More information at frederiqueconstant.com.