Hands-On: Two Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic Skeleton Limited Edition Watches
It’s been almost three weeks since Geneva Watch days, but that does not mean that there isn’t anything left to cover from the event’s releases. Amongst the novelties revealed, the Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic Skeleton was one that certainly caused quite an impression. Skeleton dials and movements have been around for many a moon, and can sometimes come across as gimmicky. Especially when found in more affordable brands, where these gaps in the dial and movement reveal nothing more than a humble undecorated movement. However, this is not the case in these two new additions to Frederique Constant’s collection. Here, the stylized world pattern on the dial of the Highlife models is reinvented as a window to the watch’s heart and beautifully integrated into the instantly recognizable design.
The key to successful skeletonizing
A somewhat unexpected addition to the brand’s sportiest line, these two new watches integrate the skeleton dial beautifully. For me, the key to successfully pulling off something that can sometimes come across as a gimmick is simple. You have to do so in a way that complements the existing design, rather than have it become an overpowering and defining centerpiece. What Frederique Constant has done here, is to reinvent the existing dial pattern from the original Highlife models, and beautifully transform it into the skeleton area of the dial. In this lies the key that makes this novelty such an ambitious and charismatic piece. If that were not enough, two versions are available: a dark titanium PDV-coated steel model with a deep grey dial and a brushed and polished stainless steel piece with a navy blue dial.
Integrated bracelet madness
Clearly integrated bracelet sports watches are a hot ticket item these days. We have seen a number of brands join the bandwagon, but the Highlife model has now been around for a minute, and it’s about time it got some well-deserved recognition. It’s not easy to successfully pull off an integrated bracelet design. You can’t make it look too forced, and the bracelet has to be absolutely on point, as it will typically be the only option for the wearer. Unless fitting OEM or custom-made straps are available (as is also the case here). This is not always the case, so if the feel and quality of the bracelet weren’t important enough already, in the case of integrated models the pressure is on.
I’m pleased to say that Frederique Constant has delivered on that front. The slim h-link bracelet is extremely comfortable on the wrist. A dual-pusher deployant clasp nicely signed with the brand’s logo secures the watch to your wrist. These butterfly clasps can sometimes make it hard to get the right fit due to the lack of micro-adjustment. However, the relatively small links allow you to adjust the bracelet as needed. Should the bracelet not be for you, you’re in luck! The Highlife Automatic Skeleton comes with a matching rubber strap. Blue in the case of the steel model, and dark grey for the titanium PVD-coated reference. Both the bracelet and strap feature a quick-release system, for stress-free strap swaps.
Case on point
Not allowing the bracelet’s sleekness to go to waste, the 10.84mm thick case makes this sports watch as thick as a lot of dress watches today. Coming in at a perfectly proportioned 41mm, the steel case features a domed sapphire crystal on the front, and an exhibition case back. This combo gives the watch a somewhat underwhelming water resistance rating of 5 ATM. Personally, I would have loved for the watch to go the extra step and provide 100m of water resistance, but maybe the skeleton model was conceived as more of a sporty dress piece.
What you will see through both the front and back of the watch is the caliber FC-310 operating at 28,800 VpH and with a power reserve of 38 hours. The movement features blackened elements and a wonderful gold rotor. The case on the steel model has a polished bezel and brushed finish to match the bracelet, where the titanium PVD-coated model has a uniform matt look.
Dial side up
On the front of the watch, the mainplate of the movement has been carved away, leaving the familiar Earth pattern through which various elements of the movement can be appreciated. These include the mainspring barrel. The balance wheel, and the winding mechanism. The dynamism of the watch is undeniable. The highlight of the Highlife for me is the fact that Frederic Constant decided to not go all-in with the skeletonizing. A generous portion of the dial surrounds the openwork section in the middle. Allowing for the practical timekeeping elements to be extremely legible, as well as providing some color. Lume-filled hour markers highlight the minute track, with a double marker at 12 o’clock. This part of the dial is also where the subtly incorporated brand name resides.
In addition, the sunburst texture found on the colorful dial “halo” complements the texture applied to the skeleton elements of the movement. A set of three hand-polished hands sweep over the dial. The slightly matt silver elements of the openwork dial provide a darker backdrop for these high-polished hands to shine over. This makes the time extremely legible even in low-light conditions. The hands also contain lume, which will take over in pitch-black conditions. All things considered, Frederique Constant has created a very charming alternative to the standard production models from their Highlife lineup.
In conclusion, the new Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic Skeleton brings something new to the already rich Highlife lineup. These two watches are both well-executed and nicely designed. They offer a perfect entry point to those looking for a high-quality steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet. If you find yourself eyeing up one of these two very special pieces, you may have to be quick. The brand will only be producing 888 pieces of each model. Prices start at €2,295 for the steel model, and €2,395 for the titanium PVD-coated version. For more information, check the Frederique Constant website here.
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