Frederique Constant Peking to Paris Chronograph ¶
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Frederique Constant (and sister company Alpina) have a history of interesting sports sponsorships. Alpina sponsors the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, while Frederique Constant has been a part of the Lake Geneva Regatta for classic boats (commemorated by the Runabout series), and has also worked with the Austin Healey owners club for the Healey line. The latest limited edition from Frederique follows that same idea of a classic watch for a classic event – the Peking to Paris chronograph commemorates the legendary automobile rally between China and France.
It seems appropriate that Alpina would sponsor Sebring (a modern sportscar and prototype series) while Frederique would cover a classic car event. Alpina produces modern, avant-garde, bold sport watches while FC makes perfectly elegant and classic dress designs. The Peking to Paris model is a great example of FCs retro-modern designs. It is simple and with a traditional layout and design, but the finishing and proportions are definitely modern (and all the better for it). It is clearly inspired by sports chronographs of the 1960s, recreating their tricompax subdial layouts and clean dials with modern levels of detailing. The dimensions are clearly inspired by today’s taste – a solid 43mm, the Peking is large enough to satisfy the modern client who wants something elegant but still big enough to stand out.
The dial of the Peking is flat-out gorgeous, particularly to vintage watch nuts like myself. It channels the spirit of classic chronographs very well, and this version in particular really stands out with its contrasting subdials (aka the Panda dial, which recalls the look of Rolex Paul Newman Daytona chronographs). The base of the dial is a silver grained metallic finish, while the subdials and chapter ring are a matte-black finish for easy legibility and reduced glare. Hands are classic dauphin style (tapering to sharp point) with luminescent inserts on the hour and minute hands. The hour markers are applied batons – look closely and you will see that they have a ball of lume at the outer edge and a stripe of lume running down their centres, a great little detail that increases night-time visibility. And that is what distinguishes Frederique Constant from most brands in this price range – their attention to detail. All FC models are exceptionally well finished and have beautifully designed dials, which gives them the appearance of a watch costing several thousand more.
Inside is a tried-and-true Valjoux automatic chronograph calibre (modified and called the FC396 in Frederique parlance). Laid out in a tricompax (subdials at 3-6-9) manner, it’s a typical Valjoux workhorse – reliable, accurate, and with good function. An exhibition back displays the decorated rotor, with the Peking to Paris logo engraved on the weight. Not much to say here except that you can expect reliable service from such a well-proven calibre, and that FC offers a Valjoux movement at a reasonable price point.
In the case of the Panda dial the strap is a croc-patterned leather item in a subtle charcoal grey shade with white stitching. It matches with the dial perfectly and is well integrated into the case with fitted ends. Other models feature straps tailored to the colour of the dial. The buckle is a nicely finished deployant that slides the excess length on the inside of the strap (ala Tag Heuer) – so you get a clean looking strap without any extra sticking out the side.
All Peking to Paris models are limited editions of 1888 pieces, like the Runabout series that preceeded them. Each watch numbered and accompanied a certificate of authenticity. That means that you are getting a fair bit of exclusivity, considering how reasonably priced the series is. That’s the beauty of Frederique Constant as a brand – it is still relatively small and exclusive, without being overly expensive. It is a no-nonsense watch brand that produces good, solid designs for reasonable prices, and that is why it has become a Matt Baily favourite here in Montreal.
The Peking to Paris chronograph is another winner from Frederique Constant. Personally I think it is even nicer than the Runabout and Healey series that preceded it, and those were far from boring designs. If you want the looks of a classic chronograph but with modern proportions and function, not to mention limited-edition exclusivity and a reasonable price tag, the Peking is the watch to beat. If you have any questions about the Peking to Paris, Frederique Constant, or any other watches we have in store, please feel free to call me at 514 845 8878 or visit our contact page.