Frédérique Constant : Pioneers of affordable luxury

La Sirène

Movement : baguette type, mechanical self-winding Case : titanium set with 46 topazes on the bezel, white gold lugs Diameter : 39mm Functions :  hours, minutes, central seconds Case-back : sapphire crystal Strap : alligator leather Water resistance : 30m Limited edition : 8

While the concept of affordable luxury is currently being promoted by certain brands, millions of watch enthusiasts around the world actually owe this notion to the couple that founded Frédérique Constant in 1988. More than a mere niche, this credo has guided them ever since the beginning, and helped them avoid succumbing to the temptations of excessive pricing. It has always been accompanied by a slogan reflecting the philosophy of the brand and its creators : Live your Passion. This passion that drives them is shared with direct and indirect clients through three fundamental values that are omnipresent throughout the Manufacture that is celebrating its fifth anniversary in 2011 : design, innovation and quality.

The quintessentially classic and traditional design of Frédérique Constant watches is nonetheless enhanced by numerous details and is often also innovative. It was Frédérique Constant dials that first featured the openings serving to visualise the movement, either heart-shaped or not. The famous Heart Beat line dates back to 1994, and in the absence of a patent has inspired a number of competitors! Innovation is expressed not only at the heart of the products themselves, such as with the use of silicon, but also in the production facility and its manufacturing processes. Finally, the brand’s determination to maintain constant quality is guaranteed by manual assembly of all parts and models, and by the combination of manual and automated controls in the Plan-les-Ouates workshops, where Swiss Made criteria are taken very seriously. The remarkable success of Frédérique Constantin, which is still family owned and run, was symbolised last year by the company reaching the production milestone of 100,000 watches.


Ten year of movement development

As the flagship Frédérique Constant line since 1994, the Heart Beat collection has always been both a vehicle and a source of inspiration for the brand’s complications. Until the dawn of the 21st century, the calibres were developed in cooperation with famous suppliers. In 2001, the decision was taken to launch into developing in-house calibres perfectly tailored to the design of the Heart Beat and enhancing the visibility of the escape-wheel by positioning it closer to the dial opening. Three years of development in cooperation with the Geneva engineering school, as well as the Geneva and Zadkine watchmaking schools, resulted in the successful launch of the first Heart Beat Manufacture. This time, the original construction of its calibre was duly patented. Each year since then, the Heart Beat Manufacture collection has been enriched with a new collection. To celebrate this decade of development as well as the fifth anniversary of the Manufacture, Frédérique Constant unveiled its own tourbillon at a gala evening attended by hundreds of guests from around the world. The Heart Beat Manufacture line symbolises the brand’s philosophy and success


Introducing Maxime Silicium

First launched in 2009 in order to capitalise on the assets of its Manufacture and to establish its legitimacy in the area of in-house made calibres, the Maxime collection was initially equipped with the self-winding FC-700 calibre. Symbolically, the launch of this new Manufacture movement was accompanied by a slightly modernised approach to the case design, while maintaining the classic Frédérique Constant DNA. Based on the brand’s customary codes, a new case construction as created, combining straight lines with rounded surfaces that called for numerous hours of hand polishing. An air of serene elegance radiates from the harmonious combination of polished and satin-brushed steel on the various parts of the case and the dial which is subtly silver-toned and guilloché-worked while still very readable. Ever respectful of its fundamental values, the brand continues to bear in mind that design, innovation and quality must always go hand in hand with the principle of affordable luxury on which it has built its success. The expertise of the Manufacture is once again displayed in 2011 with the introduction of the brand-new Maxime Silicium, featuring a sapphire crystal case-back providing a chance to admire the self-winding movement with its silicon escapement, also entirely made in-house.


Ateliers deMonaco

At the peak of the watchmaking pyramid

New Horology ! The expression is entirely appropriate to describe the creations of the third brand belong to Frederique Constant. Based in the Principality after which they are named, the Ateliers deMonaco offer timepieces characterised by strong and creative designs on the fringes of established conventions, and driven by in-house developed movements – an authentic luxury that few companies can boast. The expertise developed by the Ateliers deMonaco, in partnership with some of the most talented Swiss artisans, has enabled this young brand to create timepieces featuring extreme precision combined with hand-crafted finishes testifying to extreme attention lavished on details. The Perpetual Calendar QP-EZ is a fine illustration of this expertise. Readability, precision, reliability and easy adjustments are the key assets of this limited-edition watch available in titanium, rose gold or white gold. In addition to its elegant aesthetic, this useful complication enables its user to consult the indications of the date, day, month and leap year. And above all to modify settings with disconcerting ease.

The Grande Tourbillon Minute Repeater TB-RMI watch is also a fine example of the innovative developments being made by the Ateliers deMonaco, which also benefit from the technical platform of the Plan-les-Ouates group headquarters. This square-shaped titanium timepiece houses a hand-wound movement combining two stellar complications. The manually engraved movement visible through the hand-skeletonised dial displays the splendid workmanship exercised on this 8-piece limited edition.

And finally, as well as delighting devotees of fine watchmaking, the Ateliers deMonaco are now also appealing to women with La Sirène, a limited-edition watch inspired by Charlene Wittstock and launched in honour of her upcoming wedding to Prince Albert II of Monaco.



A strong personality

The origins of the Alpina brand date back to 1883. Like many others, the quartz crisis had caused it to lapse into a period of relative dormancy, from which it was awakened by the Stas family in 2002. The strong design and sporty positioning of Alpina watches means they are intended for an active and daring clientele. By offering original associations of functions traditionally reserved for classic watches, such as the regulator, with the inherently sporting character of its timepieces, the Alpina brand management has managed to create a charismatic identity. Past masters in the art of segmentation, the creators of the tri-partite Manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates have signed emblematic partnerships in order to position their Alpina lines in four fields : adventure, aviation, clubbing and racing. Whether for pilot’s watches, divers or sailors, the leitmotif is based on an explosive cocktail of readability, accuracy and shock resistance. With this in mind, the vertical integration of production has also been beneficial for Alpina, since all its models are now developed in-house and assembled and tested within the Manufacture. Some lines are also equipped with exclusive Alpina movements.


Alpina sailing

At first glance, the brand-new Alpina Sailing is strongly reminiscent of the original shapes of Alpina cases. Nonetheless, the function and the movement are unprecedented for the company, since the Alpina watchmakers have developed a dedicated self-winding AL-880 Yacht Timer calibre with regatta countdown, on a Sellita SW500 base chronograph movement. Water-resistant to 300 metres, this model designed for sailing enthusiasts has found the ideal ambassadors, since it is being worn throughout the Extreme Sailing Series season by the crew members of Niceforyou, the Extreme 40 Italian boat of the only global catamaran competition circuit. The Extreme Sailing Series criss-crosses the world with 300 races in nine months, from Oman to Singapore as well as Almeria, Boston, Cowes, Istanbul, Nice, Qingdao and Trapani. The twelve crews vying with each other on these incredible racing boats are all seasoned America’s Cup or Olympic competitors, such as the Extreme 40 Alinghi or the Luna Rossa. In addition to the regatta countdown model available with a white or black dial and a steel bracelet or rubber strap, a more affordable self-winding three-hand and date Sailing version is also available. One can safely bet that the Niceforyou team will attract a lot of admiration and that their watch will win plenty of fans !


The stuff of heroes

Alpina is returning to its roots by reviving the spirit of the early 20th century, when it was official purveyor of watches for air force pilots. Almost a century later, after revisiting its rich aeronautical past, the brand is unveiling the new Startimer Pilot, composed of four models inspired by the design of the 1920s and 30s and offered in a limited 8,888-piece edition. Exactly as one would expect from timepieces designed for aviation pioneers, precision, readability and shock resistance are the keynotes of these steel watches featuring a generous 44 mm diameter. The first model is an automatic version with a sweep seconds hand and date window. The second model displays the minutes and hours on a dial with an off-centred date display. The third model is an elegant self-winding chronograph, while the collection is rounded off by a regulator model. The take-off of this top-flight squadron is cleverly accompanied by a carefully targeted and prestigious sporting association, since Alpina has signed a three-year partnership contract with Cessna Aviation and PrivatAir.

Guests at the gala evening held in Plan-les-Ouates on June 16th enjoyed an exclusive preview of the new gold 888-piece limited-edition Startimer Pilot watch.


Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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