Introducing: The Frederique Constant Classic Tourbillon Manufacture
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, Frederique Constant remains among the youngest Swiss Manufactures. In its short history, however, the brand has become known for innovation. Offering in-house calibers and complications, Frederique Constant is constantly on our lips as a brand that offers considerable value and compelling packages. In celebration of 35 years, the folks behind FC have really outdone themselves, launching the Classic Tourbillon Manufacture!
Frederique Constant has much to celebrate in 2023. Not only is the brand in its 35th year, but 2023 also marks the first year it has exhibited at Watches and Wonders. During its relatively short history, Frederique Constant has developed more than 30 in-house calibers. This is a testament to the focus on its founding ethos — to provide the best in traditional Swiss mechanical watchmaking. This tribute to the legacy of the craft has led to the development of an integrated manufacture, able to combine new techniques with traditional craftsmanship.
While movement innovation and technical improvements are one thing, leaning into complications typically reserved for high horology is an entirely different animal. We have already seen Frederique Constant develop an in-house perpetual calendar, available in both the Classics and Highlife collections. To truly celebrate, the manufacture needed to push itself even further. What better way to mark the occasion than to develop an in-house tourbillon and keep the retail price well below €30,000? This embodies what makes Frederique Constant so unique among Swiss Manufactures.
The Classics collection has been a part of the Frederique Constant lineup since the beginning. The proportions of this dress-watch case offer an excellent canvas on which to paint a celebratory piece. Its 39mm case is rendered in rose gold, a material reserved for Manufacture limited editions. This case is less than 11mm thick and 44mm long, and it offers a predictable 3ATM water resistance rating. The watch features a see-through case back to allow for the viewing of the movement from the front and the back. Topping the watch off, quite literally, is a convex sapphire crystal with an antireflective coating. The watch is affixed to a brown leather strap with a buckle that features the Frederique Constant coat of arms.
The Classic Tourbillon Manufacture takes a slightly different approach to the dress watch. Most have either a white or black dial. However, the sunray-finished dark gray that Frederique Constant chose for this piece pairs nicely with the rose gold case, handset, and dial furniture. The indices are diamond cut, and the rose gold-plated hour and minute hands are polished by hand. The dial is complementary to the complication, allowing the tourbillon to take center stage at 6 o’clock. While less is clearly more, including a running seconds hand over the top of the tourbillon cage was probably not necessary. Despite the tourbillon’s historical significance for improving accuracy in a mechanical (albeit stationary) timepiece, setting any dress watch to the second is beside the point.
Not only is Frederique Constant celebrating 35 years, but the movement powering the Classic Tourbillon Manufacture is also marking a milestone. The FC-980 movement first debuted 15 years ago, becoming a highlight of the watchmaking prowess of the young brand. By choosing this movement to showcase the tourbillon, the watch benefits from a silicon escapement wheel and anchor. These nonmagnetic parts ensure accuracy, staying in line with the original intent of the tourbillon. The movement offers 38 hours of power reserve. While not the most, it is certainly adequate for a watch that many of us would struggle to take off the wrist.
Visible through the transparent case back, the movement finishing is worthy of highlighting. Côtes de Genève decoration is applied to the base of the movement, while circular graining and beading can be found on various surfaces. Other surfaces are mirror-polished, and most angles have either been beveled or straight-grained to define edges. This attention to detail highlights the elements of watchmaking that are not strictly mechanical.
It is important to note what Frederique Constant has achieved here. The inclusion of a tourbillon in a dress watch rendered in precious metal at this price point (€25,995) is quite the achievement. This timepiece is a way of leaning into what has been Frederique Constant’s hallmark in its 35-year history. The complications the brand has added to watches in its lineup have made it one of the increasingly rare value propositions in the Swiss watchmaking industry.
No doubt, taking an existing caliber and adding a tourbillon to it helps keep this watch in the “affordable” realm, at least when considering the price points for other watches with tourbillons. That said, this isn’t a “parts bin” watch. Far from that. The Classic Tourbillon Manufacture’s execution highlights the tourbillon but also ties together a design that fulfills what it set out to be. This is a dress watch. The gray dial, rose gold handset, and rose gold case communicate that clearly. The whole watch is greater than the sum of its parts.
Frederique Constant set out to celebrate a milestone for the brand while communicating that for all it has achieved, it is still 35 years young. Looking in the stable and seeing a tourbillon joining a perpetual calendar is an exciting proposition. In a way, Frederique Constant has put us all on notice with the Classic Tourbillon Manufacture. The brand may be relatively young by comparison, but we should be more excited about where the brand is going than where it has been.
For more information on the Classic Tourbillon Manufacture, visit the Frederique Constant website.