With the profusion of openworked, skeletonised and tourbillon movements on the market today, Frederique Constant’s Heart Beat model with its exposed balance wheel might come across as somewhat tame. However, when it was released in 1994, mechanical watches were surfacing from the thick lava deposited by the quartz eruption. Showing the world that the movement was mechanical by exposing the balance wheel was considered intrepid, at the very least, unusual. Ten years later, Frederique Constant proudly unveiled its first in-house movement (FC-910), which debuted inside the Heart Beat model. Revisited over the years, the latest models were unveiled during Geneva Watch Days and come with a more compact diameter, a circular aperture for the escapement and an overtly classical spirit. Available in limited editions of 93 pieces in pink gold and 930 pieces in stainless steel, the Classics Heart Beat Manufacture can be viewed as a pricey trip down memory lane for the more nostalgic fans of the watch.
Open Heart Surgery
The Heart Beat holds a special place in the hearts of Frederique Constant’s founders, Aletta and Peter Stas. Firstly, because it was a novel idea and secondly, a decade later, because it bore the brand’s first in-house calibre. With a round aperture at noon to reveal the palpitating heart or balance wheel, Frederique Constant’s Heart Beat model of 1994 was designed to showcase the presence of an automatic movement, albeit outsourced at this stage. As the brand admits, the design was never registered, and many other brands copied the idea of exposing the balance wheel. In 2004, the Heart Beat succumbed to open heart surgery and was reanimated with the brand’s first in-house movement, known as the FC-910 automatic.
To display the beating heart even more prominently on the dial, the balance was shifted to 6 o’clock, and a large, comma-shaped aperture (like a cartoon dialogue bubble) was created to house the escapement. Reinterpreted over the years, including a 2014 edition with a silicon escapement, the overall character of the Heart Beat Manufacture is markedly traditional. Be it the guilloché areas of the dial and the Breguet-style hands on some models or the Roman numerals and onion-style crowns; the Heart Beat is classical to the core.
The latest variants of the Classics Heart Beat Manufacture have a more compact 39mm diameter with a height of 10.39mm. The smaller case size references the first Heart Beat Manufacture model and endows the watch with more classical dimensions than the standard 42mm models. Fully polished cases and the trademark onion-shaped crown underscore the heritage appeal of the new models, available in stainless steel and 18k pink gold.
Although rose gold-plated models look good, and Frederique Constant has plenty on offer, they cannot compare to the weight and luxurious appeal that this solid 18k pink gold model transmits. In our photographs, you can get a real feel for how the watch wears on two different wrist sizes. The ones taken of the steel watch with a white shirt were shot on Brice’s 16-16.5cm wrist size, while the other images belong to Robin’s larger 19-19.5cm wrist.
Treading the classical path, the white lacquered dial features redesigned Roman numerals. Compared to the ‘regular’ Roman numerals found in former editions, these are thinner and more subtle, and the Vs and Xs are closed at the top and bottom to look like hourglasses. Railway tracks, on the periphery for the minutes and surrounding the centre of the dial, contribute to the overall symmetry and consolidate the traditional style. Another nod to the 2004 model can be seen in the black leaf-shaped minute hands and the heart-shaped hour hand. Occupying a large swathe of the lower dial is the aperture revealing the balance wheel on the front side of the movement. Having the bridge for the balance wheel on the front made it possible to have the spiral and fine regulation on this side as well.
Fitted with the calibre FC-930-3, a direct descendant of the first FC-910 calibre of 2004, this automatic movement beats at 4Hz and delivers a power reserve of 38 hours. A gold-coloured rotor, blued screws and Côtes de Genève decoration can be seen through the sapphire caseback.
Before I reach my concluding remarks, I wanted to revisit a couple of milestones in the complications department. Since the launch of the FC-910, Frederique Constant has developed around 30 in-house calibres. Watches fitted with in-house movements are housed in the brand’s Manufacture collection, which is home to complications like the Slimline Perpetual Calendar and Moonphase, the Classics Worldtimer, a Flyback Chronograph, a Perpetual Calendar and Tourbillon combo and the exciting Slimline Monolithic with its unprecedented oscillator.
Till now, the brand’s philosophy of accessible luxury has been overarching and extends from watches with outsourced movements to its ever-expanding range of in-house calibres. Nobody can forget the shock and delight that the brand’s aggressive prices inspired with its QP model retailing for under EUR 8,000 or a Flyback Chronograph for EUR 3,999. In short, the one unifying theme across all the in-house complications was incredible value for money.
I have highlighted some of the prices because these two limited editions of the Heart Beat, a time-only model, come with price tags that might raise an eyebrow or two. Retailing for EUR 3,695 in stainless steel and a whopping EUR 15,995 in solid pink gold, they are currently the most expensive models – in terms of the functions they offer – in the Manufacture collection. Compare the Heart Beat, for example, to the straightforward Classic Manufacture model with hours, minutes, seconds and date in steel, which currently retails for EUR 2,290. Fair enough, the rose gold is solid rose gold and not rose gold-plated, but its price is on a par, or just EUR 1,000 less, than a solid rose gold version of the Classics Worldtimer Manufacture (EUR 16,995).
However, there’s always nostalgia to count on, and for some, the more compact dimensions of the watch and the even more pronounced classical spirit of the Heart Beat will continue to seduce.
Availability & Price
Both Heart Beat Manufacture models come with a brown alligator leather strap with brown stitching. The stainless steel model is limited to 930 pieces and retails for CHF 3,695; the rose gold is limited to 93 pieces and retails for CHF 15,995.
For more information, please visit Frederiqueconstant.com.