When we talk about Frédérique Constant, we must have in mind “affordable luxury”. For a few years now, the brand has a strong focus on offering quality Swiss watches (with mechanical movements) for reasonable prices, with a classical touch. Something that grew our interest even more was the introduction of an in-house movement. But at Baselworld 2016, Frédérique Constant went where we didn’t expect them: complications, and with one of the most traditional and difficult one, a perpetual calendar. Not only they did it with a manufacture movement and with a self-developed QP module, but they managed to set a price that has no equal on the market. You know us here at Monochrome-Watches, we wanted to know more – and Peter Stas, the CEO of Frédérique Constant, answers to us about the brand and this new Perpetual Calendar.
Until a few years ago, Frédérique Constant was a brand that we looked as an interesting alternative to other Swiss mainstream brands – as placed in the 1k to 3k range, with outsourced automatic movements. Watches were nicely designed, classical in their style, relatively elegant but not extremely exciting in terms of watchmaking content – just like every other brands with outsourced movements. Our interest in the brand began to grew when, in 2004, Frédérique Constant introduced their first in-house designed, developed and assembled movement – at the time a simple manual hours / minutes movement. Being priced in the range of 2,000 Euros, the deal was pretty interesting, you’ll admit. Working on this movement as a base, Frédérique Constant developed an entire range, including an automatic version, then a version with addition of a moon-phase, a tourbillon, a world timer and finally last year, an elegant moon and date, as seen in this watch. These developments were already impressive for a “young” brand (created in 1988) and staying true to the core value of “affordable luxury” – most watches, including the complicated ones, are priced in-between 1,000 Euros and 5,000 Euros (the latter being quite rare in the collection). But then came Baselworld 2016, and a watch that we didn’t expect, the Frédérique Constant Manufacture Perpetual Calendar, which Peter Stas, the CEO of Frédérique Constant, explains to us.
Why do we make some noise about this watch? In the end, it is a dress watch with classically displayed perpetual calendar – a nice, traditional complication, but not something that has never been done before. In fact, you have to look at 2 things. First, the fact that this movement and the perpetual calendar module are done in-house. Then, the price level of 8,000 Euros. If you look at the market, one watch should immediately knock at the door of your memory. Without naming it, the watch in question, launched in 2014, was a steel perpetual calendar priced under 10,000 Euros. This, at that time, impressed us. However, it was based on an outsourced movement (Sellita) with outsourced QP module (Dubois-Depraz). With its new Manufacture Perpetual Calendar, Frédérique Constant clearly strikes hard: a lower price, a base movement developed in-house and a self-designed perpetual calendar module.
Why that and not doing it simply with a Dubois-Depraz module? The idea, explained by Peter Stas, is simple. The brand wanted a watch with contemporary proportions – 42mm diameter. However, the external movement in question was created some decades ago, for watches with a smaller diameter (36/38mm). The result in a 42mm would have been sub-counters lost in the middle of the dial, somehow “squinting”. To have the sub-dials filling the dial and to gain in legibility, Frédérique Constant developed its own, internal perpetual calendar module.
The second stage done by Frédérique Constant was to simplify the module itself and to also simplify the work of watchmakers, by having a faster and easier assembly process – ad this had a huge effect on final price. Don’t take this as a draw. Of course, the watch can not be qualified of haute horlogerie and parts are not finished by hand. We’re talking about a nice, clever, industrially-produced movement. But in the end, this QP does everything a QP should do (indicating the leap years and being able to switch from February 28 or 29 to March 1st without adjustments). The goal was to bring this complication, usually priced over 20,000 Euros, to new and less wealthy collectors. And considering the level of sales Peter Stas describes in the end of this interview, it seems to be well received by the market. More details about the brand and this new watch on frederiqueconstant.com.
Please note that this interview has been recorded before a huge announcement for the brand, which has been acquired by Japanese Group Citizen. From the first words we heard, the goal of Citizen is to keep the production in Switzerland and to stay loyal to what Frédérique Constant. No changes should be made in the “affordable luxury” and “Swiss Made” traditions of the brand.