Forget about the level of difficulty concerning perpetual calendar or even tourbillon movements. A chronograph movement is the toughest to design and produce. Perhaps the reason why Audemars Piguet is able to come up with the craziest complications, but not (yet) with their own in-house chronograph. Peter Stas, CEO of Frederique Constant stressed it once more last Tuesday during a diner in Amsterdam, that a chronograph movement is a very difficult complication to produce. A flyback chronograph even more so.
Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture
Although the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture was already introduced and shown to us in Basel this year, Peter and Aletta Stas were in Amsterdam this week to show it once more, and to introduce a lovely ladies watch with a moonphase complication. But let’s focus on the Flyback Chronograph for now.
With an annual production of 150.000 watches per year (which will be expanded to even higher numbers in the future) and operating in an interesting price segment, Frederique Constant is an important player in the market. Prices for mechanical watches start below 1000 Euro, and for the Frederique Constant watches with in-house movements, prices start already at roughly 2100 Euro. Quite the value proposition right there, compared to other watch manufacturers. Not too long ago, Frederique Constant became part of the Citizen Group, enabling even more reach when it comes to certain regions in the world (including the Americas). Where Europe is their most important market right now, this could easily shift towards North-America as the Citizen Group has solid feet on the ground there. Besides Frederique Constant, there’s Alpina Watches and Ateliers deMonaco as well. Alpina focusing on more sporty watch models (with an annual production of approx. 15.000 watches) and Ateliers deMonaco is simply haute horlogerie (with an annual production of just 150 pieces).
Already in the early 2000s Frederique Constant started to develop and produce their own movements. In 2016 they amazed everyone by introducing a perpetual calendar movement that is available for approximately 8.000 Euro. They did that, right after Montblanc stole the show with theirs (and priced just above 10.000 Euro). Interesting fact is that it took Frederique Constant only 1 year to develop this movement. The Frederique Constant Slimline Perpetual Calendar is much praised and offers a very interesting complication for a relatively low price. Now behold, in 2017 they are even able to develop (and manufacture) an in-house chronograph movement. It would have been much easier to use a Sellita SW500, the equivalent of the famous ETA/Valjoux 7750, but Frederique Constant insisted on having their own (flyback) chronograph movement. And the price? The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture retails for 3695 Euro.
Meet caliber FC-760. It consists of 233 components and instead of having a column-wheel, it comes with this star-shaped wheel for operating its chronograph functions. The challenge in designing a chronograph is to deal with the enormous powers on some of the components. It took Frederique Constant 6 years to develop this flyback chronograph movement. This also shows the efforts in designing such a movement compared to the perpetual calendar. Out of the 233 components, 96 are necessary for the flyback mechanism. By pushing the button at 4 o’clock, the chronograph will reset and restarts without having to use a stop & reset procedure. To reset the chronograph, use the stop button first and then push the reset button at 4 o’clock. The chronograph records seconds (central hand) and minutes (sub dial at 3 o’clock). The other sub dials are for the running seconds (at 9 o’clock) and the date (at 6 o’clock). The pointer date in a sub dial might confuse you at first for the chronograph being able to record hours as well. I like the design of a three register watch very much, and probably better than a bi-compax with a date aperture. However, it remains a matter of taste.
The caliber FC-760 movement has a 38 hour power reserve and ticks at 28.800vph. The automatic movement winds in both directions (so no ‘Valjoux’ wobble).
For now, the FC-760 flyback chronograph is only available in the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture watch, but you can perhaps imagine that it will be used in future models as well. Perhaps even in the more sporty Alpina watches at some point, who knows. The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture respects the classic design that is so recognizable for this Geneva company. That said, this model comes with two different designs. There’s a smooth dial (in silver and dark-grey) for a bit more sportier look and there’s a white classic looking dial with ‘Clous de Paris’ motif. Besides that, this 42mm flyback chronograph is available in a stainless steel and rose plated gold case. I am not really a fan of gold plated (as it can / will wear out over time), but for those who love the look of rose gold, it might be a very nice option. Note that the different variations is not only in dial and case material, also the hands are different on some of the models. Leaf shaped hands and Breguet style hands are the ones to choose from.
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture comes on an alligator strap and a folding buckle. The buckle has a neat design and very classy looking with that Frederique Constant coat of arms. It reminds us a bit of the Patek Philippe clasps to be honest, I am sure they took that as influence for their own design.
If classic looking chronographs are your ‘thing’, the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is definitely worth taking a look at. The price of 3695 Euro is a steal for an in-house developed flyback chronograph movement. You can have a look at all Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture models here. All their watches come with a two years warranty.