Long focused on affordable mechanical watches, Frederique Constant continued with its specialty after its acquisition by Japanese watchmaking giant Citizen.
Now the Swiss brand has just revived its bestseller from two decades ago, the Highlife collection, which has been redesigned extensively. It’s a new watch in all but name – the revamped Highlife harks back to the integrated-strap of the original, but it is a design very much catered to today’s taste.
The new Highlife collection debuts with three models that share the same tonneau-shaped case and integrated bracelet with quick-release pins. The most interesting watch of the trio is the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture, which is affordable despite its in-house movement and styling that’s reminiscent of more expensive watches.
The other two models in the line up are simple automatics: one is time-only with an “Open Heart” dial revealing the balance wheel, and the other is a COSC-certified three-hander with date.
The Highlife manages to translate the look of high-end luxury-sports watches into an affordable watch by keeping a few design elements and simplifying everything. It is unavoidably derivative in style, but competently designed.
So the 41 mm case is a simple affair with simple lines and surfaces, but dressed up with a polished, domed bezel. However, it avoids looking too plain even with the time-only base model thanks to the stamped globe pattern on the dial.
Though least obvious because of the calendar sub-dials, the globe pattern works best on the perpetual calendar, giving the complication a more contemporary look despite the traditional layout. The globe also gives the dial a sense of order; the calendar registers are contained within, while the outer section of the dial is preserved for large hands and luminous indices.
Priced at a little over US$9,000 on a steel bracelet, the Highlife Perpetual Calendar offers strong value, especially given the complication and design.
Frederique Constant describes that the integrated bracelet as a feature for comfort, as a lug-less case better fits a wider variety of wrists. The fact that integrated-bracelet sports watches are current in vogue surely does not hurt either.
Nevertheless, the downside of such bracelet attachments has always been the difficulty in replacing the bracelet or strap, but this has been eliminated with a fuss-free, quick-release mechanism.
While the quick-release feature is often found in higher end watches, it often relies on proprietary locking systems. Frederique Constant has instead opted for the simplest solution, a spring bar featuring a built-in tab, which is just as effective and helps maintain affordability.
Inside is the in-house cal. FC-775. Introduced in 2016, the FC-775 is the brand’s workhorse movement with the perpetual calendar module on top. The view from the back is decorated enough to avoid looking plain, though it is still simple and clearly an entry-level movement – which is entirely appropriate for the price.
Key Facts and Price
Frederique Constant Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture
Ref. FC-775V4NH2B (two tone)
Ref. FC-775N4NH6B (steel, blue dial)
Ref. FC-775S4NH6 (steel, silver dial)
Diameter: 41 mm
Water resistance: 50 m
Functions: Hours, minutes, and perpetual calendar with moon phase
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 38 hours
Strap: Steel bracelet or alligator strap, additional rubber strap with both options
Availability: From Frederique Constant or retailers
Price: Steel on bracelet – US$9,295
For more, visit Frederiqueconstant.com.
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