Frederique Constant Manufacture Open Heart Dual Time ¶
As we have said before many times on the Baily Blog, Frederique Constant is one of the best value-for-money brands in the entry-level luxury Swiss watch category (or as FC defines it, the "accessible luxury" market). They make finely finished watches with clean styling that look far more expensive than they actually are. Their Manufacture models are particularly noteworthy, offering a unique in-house movement produced in their own facility at an unbeatable price. Starting at just under 3000$, FC makes one of the most affordable in-house alternatives to the usual ETA/Sellita/Dubois Depraz offerings.
The Manufacture Heartbeat has become a signature for the brand, and showcases their finely crafted movements through a large aperture on the dial over the balance wheel. The Dual Time we have here takes things to another level by offering a completely open dial showing off the Geneva-bridged plates and some of the mechanism. It’s not a true skeleton but rather a dial-less watch. The result is quite impressive.
The Manufacture calibre is shared by Frederique Constant and sister brand Alpina. Introduced in 2004 after 3 years of development, the new movement had a date complication and automatic winding. The movement was designed from the beginning to showcase an open-heart design – going as far as reversing the balance wheel assembly so that the installation and regulation is done from the front (traditional designs are adjusted from the back). Recently the selection has been expanded to include additional complications including the dual time module we have in this example. Each version is limited; this Dual Time is produced in a run of 1888 examples.
Housed in a rounded 42mm stainless steel case, the Dual Time is a gorgeous watch. The case has soft curves polished to a mirror finish and a substantial size that is large for a dress watch but not oversized. 42mm is par for the course in today’s men’s watch market, and the Manufactures have a fairly thick profile (around 12mm) to accommodate the height of the automatic movement. A slightly domed sapphire crystal tops off the design. An exhibition caseback shows off the FC 938 calibre.
The dial, or the lack thereof, is the highlight of the watch. The base plate of the movement is decorated with fine bevels and a vertical cotes de Geneve pattern that gives the watch a stunning three-dimensional look. The movement looks better from the front than it does through the caseback. The way it glints and shimmers in the light is mesmerizing and hard to convey in photos. Being mechanically minded I love metalwork details, and the fine finishing really makes the watch stand out in a way that is elegant but clearly very masculine. To use a car or motorcycle analogy, it’s the difference between hiding an engine beneath a plastic cover and showcasing the functional parts as beautiful in their own right. The recessed aperture for the open heart is beautiful, and looks very similar to the Manufacture Tourbillon models (but at 1/10th of the price). It has a distinctive appearance that sets it apart from typical open-heart designs; credit to FC for designing it to be unique so it doesn’t look like a typical off-the-shelf openworked movement.
Which would you prefer to look at? Also a good example of the difference between German and Italian design.
The dial, what little there is, is finished in a circular grained silver pattern and the chapter ring is framed with a coin-edge pattern. It’s minimalist and doesn’t distract from the beauty of the movement.
As the name would suggest, the watch is a dual-timezone design with an AM/PM (or night/day) indicator. The subdial at 12 displays the secondary time and the small disk that sits underneath it indicates day or night by showing blue or gold through the small round aperture. It is infinitely adjustable, meaning you can show any time you want in the second dial (rather than displaying only one-hour increments). So you can accommodate odd timezones like the half-hour difference in Newfoundland, ala Franck Muller Master Banker. To set the secondary time, you pull out the crown and rotate counterclockwise to advance both times together. Rotating clockwise will move the second time backwards while leaving the main time alone. Two timezones, one crown, one adjustment. Easy.
The strap is stunning as well. Made of butter-smooth navy-blue alligator with contrasting stitching (hand sewn, no less) it suits the watch to a tee. It’s elegant but not too dressy. It also matches the colour of the blued steel hands. I want one of those straps for my own watch. Badly. It’s a big step up from the usual FC straps, which are often crocodile print over calfskin rather than real exotic leather. It is in fact the same strap that is offered on the 48 000$ plus Manufacture Tourbillon models. On the downside it only comes on a tang buckle, no deployant option. You can’t have everything I guess.
The Manufacture Dual Time is a standout timepiece. One of Frederique Constant’s flagship designs, it’s a beautiful watch that adheres to the brand’s ethos of offering exceptional watches for fair prices. The quality and finishing is top notch for this category, and the fact that it has an in-house movement for under 5000$ is quite a feat for a small company such as FC. It’s a winner in my books, and trust me when I say that photos don’t do it justice. You need to see it and wear it to really appreciate the quality it offers. For more information about Frederique Constant feel free to call us at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.