Frederique Constant is a manufacturer of luxury wristwatches with a clear message that it intends to bring high qualitative watches to a more affordable price. The brand is involved in some of the most interesting technological choices in the industry: combining traditional horology with ultra-tech modern smartwatches. We review today the latest creation – the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture, an unusual mixture of a classical automatic movement and a smartwatch module, with an extra flavour added.
In 1988, Aletta Francoise Frédérique Stas-Bax and Peter Constant Stas founded the Frederique Constant company. The name is a combination of the great-grandparents of the Dutch entrepreneurs. The first collection was launched in 1991.
In 1994, Frederique Constant launches the Heart Beat Collection – the dial feature an aperture, revealing the balance wheel. The collection was well received by the public and the critics. The brand collaborated with 14 watchmakers of École d’Horlogerie de Genève, École d’Ingenieurs de Genève and the Horloge Vakschool Zadkine and produced the first manufacture movement in 2001. The new calibre was used in the new Heart Beat Manufacture Collection.
Alpina Watches is acquired by Frederique Constant in 2002.
In 2004, the collection is enriched with hand-wound version. The brand’s in-house designs can be recognised after the appellative “Manufacture” in the model name. Frederique Constant became a sponsor to several classic car and sport boat rallies worldwide.
In 2007, two years after the introduction of the silicon escapement, Frederique Constant produces its own silicon escapement. The first watch with the new FC935 Silicium was introduced in October 2007. A year later, the brand introduced a tourbillon version of the silicon escapement with increased precision.
In 2009 Frederique Constant Manufacture revealed a Tourbillon Moonphase & Date 24 Silicon with low maintenance (no lubricant needed for the silicon escapement). The same year is marked by the release of the second generation of the in-house movements, the brand offering watches complete in-house developed and produced with a list price lower as €2,000.
In 2012, the Worldtimer’s innovative design permits the adjustment solely from the crown.
2015 is marked by the first Horological Smartwatch – a smartwatch with a two years battery life using a classic dial with hands. Among the functions available were motion tracking and sleep monitoring.
In May 2016, Citizen acquires Frederique Constant.
This year, Frederique Constant released the third version of its smartwatch, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture that includes a classic movement and an Analytics module.
Review: Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture
As the name describes it, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is an in-house development. The watch features three distinct entities: a purely mechanical movement, a mechatronic smart module and an electronic Analytics module. Before going into details of the watch, let’s have a look at the presentation from Baselworld 2018.
The case, dial and hands
The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture looks, at a first glance, like any other modern mechanical watch. A key feature of Frederique Constant watches, the contemporary design combines elements of classic horology, sometimes with more daring and youthful colour schemes.
The 42 mm stainless steel case has a voluptuous shape with a rounded body and inwards curved lugs. The convex bezel is slightly smaller in diameter as the main body and integrates well in the overall look. The three parts case has a mirror polished finish. One of the four versions comes with a rose gold plated finish.
The screwed in see-through case back reveals the mechanical part of the Hybrid Manufacture watch. It is engraved and black ink filled with watch information like name, reference number and so on.
The case has a beautiful onion crown, met also in other traditional watch collection of Frederique Constant. Crafted in stainless steel, gold plated for the rose gold Hybrid Manufacture, the crown is well proportioned with the case. The pusher placed at 9:30 o’clock is responsible for the activation of the Bluetooth and of the smart functions. The size is generous, offers a good tactile feedback.
The top is covered by a convex sapphire crystal that contributes even more to the classical appearance. The case has a water resistance of 5atm / 50m, enough for the daily use and eventual water accidents at the pool but not recommended for swimming.
The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture comes with three dials versions. A white dial for steel and rose gold, a navy/white dial and a dark grey. The first two version in white and navy/white has a white chapter ring with Roman numerals as hour indexes. The top part of this sandwich construction is a combination of guilloché patterns with black print chapter ring for minutes and seconds. The blue navy / white dial keeps the same hours’ chapter ring but has a navy coloured layer on top with white print. The hour and minute lacquered hands are Breguet classic shaped, as often met on other Frederique Constant classic watches.
The dark grey version has a monotone grey theme with applied baton indexes with Super-LumiNova insert. The alpha hands also feature the luminova insert.
The dial layout is a vertical construction with two sub-dials. At the left side, we find printed the brand name and on the right is printed “Hybrid” – the name of the watch. These two elements are symmetrically placed but not proportional. Some might find the design unbalanced. We are not bothered by it though.
At 6 o’clock we find the classic date displayed using a delicate leaf hand with small leaf counterweight. On top of the dial at 12 o’clock, we find the smart and smartly connected functions. This sub-dial is split in two: a 24 hours indication with day/night contrasting colours and 0-100 scale for the percentage display.
The connected display can fulfil the following functions: Activity tracker (Define your objective (# of steps per day) and track your step count), Sleep (sleep quality and quantity), Dynamic coach (get suggestions, tips and information tailored to your personal activities and goals), Worldtimer (second time zone or local time in 24h format).
The movement FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid
The world’s first 3.0 watch – as Frederique Constant Website describes it, is developed around two major parts: the classical movement and the mechatronic side. The cyborg, if we can call it so, is named Calibre FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid.
The flesh and the soul
Under the see-through case-back, it is visible the mechanical side of the FC-750. The movement does not reveal too much from its gears but balance wheel is highlighted by construction at 6 o’clock. The mainplate denote a machined finished perlage. The top bridge is decorated with circular Côtes de Genève stripes, brand’s logo and the name of the calibre. A nice touch is done by the blued screws. The rotor weight is skeletonised and gold plated, finished with a deep vertical brush.
The FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid calibre has the date adjustable by the crown. The movement uses 33 jewels, it has 42 hours power reserve and a balance wheel oscillating with 28’800 vph.
Symbiotic or independent?
The “smart” connected part of the movement is placed on top of the mechanical movement, under the dial. It serves two functions: the smartwatch functions and the Analytics.
The smart module is used with a dedicated app, available for iOS and Android. The app is developed by MMT Swiss Connect. Initially part of the Frederique Constant Group, MMT was not included in the package acquired by Citizen and became a stand-alone Swiss company in 2016. The application is the same one used for the older Horological Smartwatches developed by Frederique Constant and Alpina, including the smart E-Strap.
The connected module is activated by the push of the left-sided button. It activates the Bluetooth and changes the displayed function on the analogue sub-dial. The sequence of the functions is customisable from the smartphone application. The application offers OTA (over the air updates) and Swiss cloud services to backup and to recover the personal information safely.
The smart module has a battery life of 7+ days. The watch is delivered with a special winding box. This also assures the recharge of the smart module’s battery.
The second brain of the Hybrid Manufacture is responsible for the health of the mechanical movement. The Analytics monitor the rate, the amplitude and the beat error, offering valuable information about the state of the movement and signalize if the watch needs to be seen by a “watch doctor” – the watchmaker. The system integrated into the FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid is a personalised version of the Analytics released in 2016.
Priced at CHF3,250 in steel, and CHF3,550 for the plated rose gold version, the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is not the most expensive, but certainly one of the more expensive smartwatches on the market. The question is if the price is justified or not. If we consider the two main parts of the watch, a purely mechanical movement and a smart connected module we can consider as a mixture of two Swiss watches. Let’s make a thinking exercise: we consider around CHF2,000 for the in-house mechanical movement, around CHF1,250 for the smartwatch module and CHF100 for the Analytics. We notice that the price is quite easy to justify. Considering the unique design, unmatched by the market, we’ll say it packs a good value. In this regard the Hybrid Manufacture has no real competition.
For the sake of the game, we can remind the older version of the Frederique Constant’s Horological Smartwatch or the sportier Alpina Horological Smartwatch. But neither of these feature a mechanical movement.
We invite you to have a look at the Throwback article of the luxury smartwatches, characterised mostly by touchscreens and low battery life – specific to the electronic touchscreen devices available now.
The only design playing with a traditional movement is Ressence. Their Type 2 e-Crown (with an estimated retail price of approx CHF 33,000 before taxes) is a glorious evolution for the mechanical movements and is the only one available now that can fit the horological “cyborg” definition.
Some attempts were made by small microbrands to launch hybrid smartwatches via crowdfunding platforms, but none of them reaches this hi-tech level.
The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture feels and wears like any other automatic watch. The nice case and domed sapphire bring a vintage, classic note. The size does not matter that much since the watch shape and construction permit a cosy feel regardless wrist size. The variety of choices is large enough to cover most of the main wishes.
As a smartwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture covers the most important and used function: activity and sleep tracker, worldtimer, chronometer and so on. The handling of the function is customisable but need some time until the owner gets used to. It’s not difficult to use, but only one button needs accommodation time, until the way to use it turns into a reflex.
Having the Analytics included in the watch is an excellent idea. Every collector and watch enthusiast wants to know how his piece performs and, most important if the movement is in a good state.
The development of the Hybrid Manufacture is a step beyond. This could be one of the directions used in the future. Ressence did an excellent job integrating a movement corrector, being able to keep the mechanical movement correct within a second. But it lacks the typical smartwatch function. On the other hand, the pure mechanical movement of FC-750 is a sign that classic horology can co-exist with a smartwatch function. Who knows, maybe the future will bring the best of all present designs.
Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture Specification and price
Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture FC-750MC4H6 and FC-750MCN4H6 are priced at CHF3,250 / €3,250 / US$3,495. The rose gold version FC-750MC4H4 at CHF3,550 / €3,550 / US$3,795 and the dark grey/luminous hands version costs FC-750DG4H6 CHF3,350 / €3,350 / US$3,595. More information can be found on Frederique Constant Website.
Calibre: FC-750 Manufacture Hybrid calibre
Type: Automatic with date adjustable by the crown and connected counter adjustable by a pusher
Power reserve: 42 hours / 7+ battery life
Frequency: 4Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date by hand, connected counter
Connected functions: Activity tracking, Sleep Tracking, Dynamic coach, Worldtimer (2nd time-zone + local 24h time), Analytics (Measure mechanical movement: Rate, Amplitude, Beat Error). Pusher settings (24h display, Worldtimer, Activity/Sleep, Workouts, Stopwatch, Nap, Battery indicator).
Material: Polished stainless steel 2-parts case
Dimensions of the case: Diameter Ø 42mm
Crystal: Convex sapphire crystal
Caseback: See-through case back
Material: Aligator strap
Buckle: Deployment clasp.