Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

I was recently speaking about Swiss watches with in-house made movements and the question was asked “who else has manufacture movements made in Switzerland for prices as good as Frederique Constant?” I had to think about it and I really didn’t have an answer. With retail prices under $3,000 for legit Swiss Made mechanical watches, there isn’t that much else out there when you need or want something a bit more exclusive than an ETA. Not that there is anything wrong with an ETA movement, but they are common and those on the prowl for a high-end timepiece tend to prefer those with movements made by the brand themselves. So going back to the original question, I can’t really think of any other Swiss brands with in-house made movements starting at prices like this.

This little fact is a good start to what is a more long term review of the Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture ref. FC-710MC4H4 watch. We actually received this watch in late 2012, and this will be the second review aBlogtoWatch has published on the Classics Manufacture (we did so first here back in 2013). So why another review? Well for one thing this model is slightly different, having a PVD rose gold case versus a polished steel case. I also have a non-standard strap on this one. If the retail models look like they have a slightly different deployant and strap, that is because they do. We can’t claim that at aBlogtoWatch we never get to ask for custom stuff. But the real reason for a second review (in addition to the fact that I didn’t write the first one) is that I think this watch has not only aged well, but continues to be a good buy 1-2 years after its release.

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

Frederique Constant, and its sister brand Alpina currently combine using both in-house made mechanical movements as well as sourced movements from ETA/Sellita. Watches with “Manufacture” in the title tend to be those which have in-house made calibers. Inside the Classic Manufacture is the Frederique Constant caliber FC-710, and it has been a pretty good looking work horse. The movement is an automatic with about 42 hours of power reserve and includes the time with central seconds and a subdial for the date. Some prior models look very similar but do not have a seconds hand.

Over on the back of the watch you can see the movement through the sapphire crystal caseback window. It is a very handsome looking movement and is actually very similar to the caliber FC-705 movement I made myself at Frederique Constant. I actually recall what I was thinking back when I first got the Classics Manufacture after turning the case around and being really impressed with the movement’s presentation. Use of blued steel screws and a nicely skeletonized automatic rotor gave it a look far removed from most base ETA automatics. I think your lay watch lovers will choose one of these if you compare it side by side with a Hamilton or Longines that has a more basic ETA movement. Frederique Constant overall did a nice job with them and I continue to feel that, for the money, all in-house made Frederique Constant and Alpina movements have a lot to offer.

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

Frederique Constant Classics Manufacture Watch Review   wrist time watch reviews

For some people, getting a Classics Manufacture will be completely based on its use of an in-house movement for the price. For others it will be mere icing on the cake. But unfortunately for many people it won’t even be something they understand. Frederique Constant is the type of brand that exists in a very interesting pricing category. For some people it is the ultimate watch purchase of a lifetime, for others it is pocket change. Frederique Constant themselves muse about this fact in commenting on the types of retailers that carry them. In some stores these timepieces are the most high-end watch available, and in other stores these are the good looking and safe budget buy (which is actually a “real watch”) that you get for a relative or friend after you go in to buy a new Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, or Audemars Piguet for yourself. Watch lovers mostly understand this and I think the brand has a tiny bit of a “name challenge” as a result. What I mean is that Frederique Constant is a name that for me is synonymous with value and reliable style. When I want to recommend a good watch for a fair price I often mention them as part of a short list. If someone asks me about watches with high-end names that will impress social types, it is hard to compete with the Rolexes and Cartiers of the world.

That means that a brand like Frederique Constant will mostly appeal to knowledgeable watch lovers who know when they are looking for a classy dress watch or conservative sport watch – with an in-house movement or not – Frederique Constant is a quality choice. Honestly, I hope it stays that way. I don’t want the brand to start getting ideas about putting tons of money into marketing, raising their prices, and hope that they will upgrade their status by BSing people and abandoning the values that made them great. Countless other brands have done so – and I can’t say that they have all fared well as a result.  The good news is that I don’t think Frederique Constant will do this. Their CEO, Peter Stas, has a slightly different agenda if I can predict his actions correctly. He is sort of making a public challenge to the Swiss watch industry as a whole, showing consumers that as a brand you don’t need to charge a ton for a handsome, well-made watch. He is clearly a businessman, but there is something really noble in that mission.

25 comments
DG Cayse
DG Cayse

A beautiful classic watch. It will rein as 'fresh' through the years as it is today.

Nice review of an exceptionally nice time piece. IMO, this falls into the "heirloom" category.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

FC make some great watches but this one is just too homely and safe looking.  Nothing about it makes me gasp in awe and delight.  It's rather a rotund, chubby little fellow with grandfather-clock looks.  So it has an in-house movement -  still a huge deal amongst the Swiss manufacturers.  I long for the day when they can all say "we make all our own stuff!"  Anyway, i'd much prefer something like a slimline moonphase than this - now that has looks that would make you say "wow".  Watch-collecting shouldn't be like train-spotting, where you have a check-list of features you want to see or own for the sake of them, only to tick them off one by one.  If people are rejoicing primarily because FC have put an in-house movement into an "affordable/budget" watch, I think that's sad.  If, however, it inflames your passions, then by all means go grab one.

emenezes
emenezes

Who else has manufacture movements made in Switzerland for prices as good as Frederique Constant?”  Any brand in the Swatch group, from Hamilton to Longines? ;-)

Ayreonaut
Ayreonaut

I really like the movement and price.  And I want to love this watch.  However, I hate the rounded case.  The best alternative is probably the Alpina Startimer Pilot Manufacture Small Date Automatic.  Its a totally different style, being a 44mm pilot watch, but I like it a lot.

MikeinFrankfurt
MikeinFrankfurt

Funny, when you mention that the brand has a touch of an identity crisis, I remember initially passing it off immediately as a bit of an impostor as the name was awfully close to Vacheron.  

That being said, I appreciate the fact that they are answering what I would assume is the call from aspiring, yet knowledgeable, watch lovers who desire a real in-house movement in a larger sized case. Larger case aside and the great feeling one gets by walking out of the shop with a new watch, box, etc, I had a quick look on a certain site for prices on vintage AP, JLC and IWC dress watches.  It's astounding what can be found at this $3K price level and they're usually solid gold and available in all colors with legendary movements.  I know where my money would go...

But...new watches must be made and this is a nice effort!

Chronic
Chronic

Frederique Constant is not a luxury watch brand. The company produces products that superficially resemble real luxury watches, but on closer inspection we can see that they are overpriced fashion watches like those sold in shopping malls, with cheap plastic dials and base-metal cases that are painted/coated to imitate yellow gold or pink gold. When the thin plating scratches and wears off after a few years the underlying base metal will show through, and the once shiny wristwatch will only be an embarrassment to its owner. I'm astonished that Ariel Adams chooses to include this brand on his blog; it represents a black mark on his writing career.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Ulysses31 Perhaps its not so much excitement of a watch with an affordable in-house movement as being the opposite emotion of seeing an expensive watch with a straight stick ETA movement. In the end you are right, a watch has to be something you want, not something that checks all of the boxes.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@emenezes True, but as Swatch brands, they use ETA movements. Some are made especially for a single brand but the are not made by the brand. They come from one of the ETA factories. Personally, I have nothing against ETA movements. I'm happy to use them in my watches. Cheers.

LapYoda
LapYoda

@Chronic You sound like you have an ax to grind with FC, and I would like to know where you get your information.  FC is one of the more transparent watch companies out there, and they will flat-out tell you what your watch is made of and what movement it has.  They have inexpensive quartz watches to solid gold tourbillions and everything in between.


As far as gold plating, Peter Stas has plainly and publicly stated that they plate the cases in 10 microns of gold, though the bracelets may be PVD coated.  They do offer solid gold but for the expectedly much higher price, while the plated gold pieces are only slightly more expensive than their stainless steel models.  This is part of their value strategy, and again, they have been totally transparent about it with the press.


But where do you get this information that they use cheap plastic dials?  I can tell you firsthand that my FC Moonphase Manufacture has a brass dial.  How do I know this?  Because I put it on the movement I made there when I visited the manufacture with Ariel last year.  I've googled "frederique constant plastic dial" but get no relevant hits, which surely by now would exist were it a concern among WISes.


So yeah, Frederique Constant ain't Rolex, or Patek, or Lange.  But it also is a far sight from Invicta or Fossil, so give them some credit.  They are a manufacture that makes well-finished, quality watches at fair prices across the board, and should be commended for selling a good product to people who don't have the money of drug lords or Russian mobsters.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Chronic Wow, thanks. I did not know that mall fashion watches had in-house manufacture mechanical movements from Switzerland. Can you help me out by naming brands and which malls I should be shopping in?

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Grinnie Jax Looks like either a ETA 2824 (or 2836( movement with a Dubois Depraz module for the big date and small seconds. Not plain jane ETA but not truly Manufacture either. Nothing wrong with an ETA/DD combination, but I'm sure it is irritating when you see a claim of being an manufacture movement when a guy like you knows better.

Grinnie Jax
Grinnie Jax

@ZL Revue Thommen today are just a weak shadow of the past... After a long devastating crisis they were bought by Grovana and now everything is not so bright as in the past when they were making Presidents' Crickets for instance.

aBlogtoWatch
aBlogtoWatch moderator

@ZL As of this specific moment Revue Thommen's website doesn't even work. They are a brand without any media communication and while I personally know the brand, I am unsure about their in-house made movements. It is possible that they are legit, but they may also be using old stock or mixed parts. It just isn't clear as this moment - though it is possible sure.

emenezes
emenezes

ETA is part of the Swatch group, so the watch brands of the group technically use in-house movements, don't they? ;-)

Grinnie Jax
Grinnie Jax

@MarkCarsonYou are right, it does irritate a bit. Before purchase I tried to find better movement picture, but wasn't successful at it... Many companies like Armand Nicolet, Maurice Lacroix and even Baume et Mercier use "manufacture" calibers, which are slightly modified ETA. Suppose, every company can play the same game (Bell & Ross could easily do it, for instance, but they don't).

So, Frederique Constant caliber FC-705 was created by them from 0?

ZL
ZL

@Grinnie Jax @ZL  Does that mean they're in financial trouble or something? And does it mean that their products are no good? They still pop up here and there and make me curious...

MVM006
MVM006

@aBlogtoWatch @ZL  

Hola Ariel,


You should check Revue Thommen website now, it works and even has a video about their history and their in-house movementes. It would be nice to have a review of some of their watches.


Saludos! 

ZL
ZL

@aBlogtoWatch @ZL  Thanks, yeah, they are really hard to find anything out about. Have been wondering for a while if they are legit...

Grinnie Jax
Grinnie Jax

Suppose, that no. Swatch group has factories through all the world (some even say, that most of them appear to be in China). Swatch group brands are using all the power of being part of huge corporation. Its much less of "watchmakery" in them then in Frederique Constant, IMO

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@emenezes That's a point of view question. But the conversation seems to have been about in-house manufacture movements as opposed to ETA based movements.  The whole notion of "Industrial" movements stems from ETA freely selling movements to parties outside of the Swatch group in the past. This is of course diminishing going forward. But at this point they are still a 'commodity' and can be had (at higher prices and lower volumes than in the past) by outside companies. Cheers.

LapYoda
LapYoda

@Grinnie Jax @MarkCarsonYes, the FC-705 (the moonphase version) and the other members of the FC-700 and FC-900 families are manufacture movements designed in house.  They do outsource components like hairsprings and balance wheels (which is extremely common for Swiss manufactures) but otherwise are unique designs that don't build on a base ETA or Sellita caliber.  They do have watches that are ETA or Sellita-based, but they are not part of their "Manufacture" lines and are priced lower.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Grinnie Jax Yeah, from what Ariel has reported and witnessed when he and a lucky winner went to FC and assembled their own watches, these are truly new designs by FC and made by them. No BSing around claiming a new caliber number for essentially a stock ETA movement (which too brands do). So hats off to FC for being both the real deal and not charging the price of a house for it.