Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A manufacture watch - Frederique Constant

It is hard not to be romantic about watches - I realize I am on theme here, but it's hard not to be romantic about it.

I had time to meet with the folks from Frederique Constant in Las Vegas.  Luxury is something that you don't necessarily need.  Luxury is not defined by the number of zeros on the price tag.  Luxury, at least when it is real, luxury represents something special, something that you can live without, but that you will be happier living with.  

A truly amazing cup of coffee in a world of Nescafe swill - that is a luxury.  A beautiful pair of Alden shoes in a world of Nikes - that is a luxury.  A watch company that has its own movement - one expressly designed and produced for its own watch lines - that is luxury.  But who ever said that it should cost 2 - 3 month's salary of a normal person?  We all want something better - don't we?  And it doesn't have to ask you to chose between funding your retirement, or having a beautiful timekeeper.  Does it?

Luxury is not always about the price tag, and I thank Frederique Constant for reminding me of this.  Luxury is having the time to read a book.  Luxury is being able to enjoy time with your family and friends.  
Courtesy of Frederique Constant

So here it is - direct from the source -
Frederique Constant has been developing and producing its in-house Manufacture Calibers since 2001.  The first caliber was the Heart Beat Manufacture, cal. FC-910 with its iconic aperture in the dial and main plate at 6 o'clock position.  Newer versions of the Heart Beat Manufacture included various complications, a silicium (silicon) escapement wheel, and even an in-house Tourbillon.

Development of the second base caliber by Frederique Constant started in 2008.  The design and development briefing for this second base caliber was very straight forward: redevelop all components and search to reduce cost of manufacturing with 30%, while at least maintaining the same high quality level of the Heart Beat Manufacture calibers.  As a result, the Maxime Manufacture (cal. FC-700) was born.  Frederique Constant realized significant economies of scale with this caliber.  In line with our Accessible Luxury philosophy, these cost-savings were transferred to the final consumer, by offering these Frederique Constant Manufacture timepieces at unbeatable retail prices.
Courtesy of Frederique Constant
This year, Frederique Constant is proud and excited to introduce the new Classics Manufacture, with a retail price starting at €1’750 in stainless steel.  Designed and produced with utmost care, the sophisticated dial shows a remarkable refinement.  Decoration of the movement is to the highest standards, with Cotes de Geneve and Collimacon patterns, brightly shining due to the rhodium finishing.  The new Classics Manufacture is based on the second generation of the Maxime movement, cal. FC-710 and features an added center seconds hand.  Apart from stainless steel, the Classics Manufacture is also available with a case finished in rose gold plating, at €1’950. A duo of stunningly beautiful timepieces!

History Frederique Constant Manufacture Calibers
In 2001, Frederique Constant launched the development of its first manufacture caliber in close collaboration with the École d'Horlogerie de Genève, the École d'Ingenieurs de Genève and the Horloge Vakschool Zadkine, Netherlands.  The Heart Beat Manufacture has the characteristic bridge for the balance wheel on the front side of the caliber, which made it possible to have the spiral and fine regulation on the front side as well, creating a much more appealing Heart Beat design. This construction was new - allowing Frederique Constant to obtain a patent.
In 2008, Frederique Constant introduced its first Tourbillon Manufacture movement with Silicium (Silicon) Escapement Wheel.  There are three main advantages compared to a regular escapement wheel:
       - No oiling necessary
       - Ultra smooth surface
       - Weight 1/5th of steel
As a result, the Frederique Constant Tourbillon has an amplitude of over 300 degrees in dial-up and dial-down positions.  Even in the crown-down position, the amplitude is over 275 degrees, which is substantially more than the performance of other high-end tourbillons.
In 2009, Frederique Constant launched a new in-house base caliber (FC-700).  Component rationalization and assembly efficiency were the top priorities for the development of this caliber. Result was an overall 30% cost saving compared with the earlier Heart Beat Manufacture caliber. Various new technologies were incorporated.  For the first time, a Swiss watch manufacturer introduced a watch with a manufacture caliber below €2’000 retail.
Courtesy of Frederique Constant
Frederique Constant Factory 
The Frederique Constant production facility in Geneva measures 3'200 square meters, divided over four floors, offering an attractive working environment in the sectors of caliber component production, caliber assembly, watch assembly, and extensive quality control.  Numerically controlled machines of the latest generation are located in a large atelier in the basement, where all component manufacturing is concentrated.  Caliber and watch assembly, as well as state-of-the-art quality control is primarily organized on the first floor of the Frederique Constant building.  The building also serves as the brand's international headquarters.

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