As the official timer of the "Healey Challenge" race in the UK, Frederique Constant has been making Austin Healey themed timepieces for a little while now. I have always been fascinated with the collection given their solid good looks and classically sporty styles. If you recall, some versions of the watches comes with little model Austin Healey cars, while others came with the Frederique Constant built "Stoptimer." When asked why the "stoptimer" is called that versus a stopwatch, the Frederique Constant rep I asked just shrugged. It just goes to further my theory that much of the watch and product naming practices in Switzerland make no sense!
Frederique Constant is located in Geneva and makes a lot of watches. They are one of the only Swiss brands that I know that isn't afraid to experiment - and experiment they do. Products generations are often short, and they like to play around with parts. Whether this is good or bad depends on how you look at it. It does offer customers a lot of choices and a lot of new products. Frederique Constants also gets to test the market. This is often better than a brand taking forever to release a watch, and then sit there and have to mercilessly defend it as the public hates it. Sometimes asking for a few outside opinions on design isn't a bad idea. Anyhow, back to 'choco-Healey' over here.
This version of the Frederique Constant (FC) Healey is the Chronograph (Chrono), and comes with its "chocolate" brown dial. It has a rose-gold plated case that is 43mm wide and a nice elegant looking case. According the FC the case is hand-polished. It has a sapphire crystal that looks to have bottom coated AR, and a rich, easy to read dial. At 43mm wide, the case doesn't actually sit very large - though it does have long and nicely curved lugs so that it wears comfortably, but doesn't look like a small watch.
Actually, because the watch is rather thick, it does sit high off the wrist and feels large. I don't recall a watch that in my mind keeps going back and forth between large and medium sized as much as this Healey Chrono. The case is water resistant to 100 meters. On the back of the case is a small porthole to view the movement that is right over the escapement. The caseback also has an engraving of the UK Healey Owners club. As a limited edition, the watch is individually numbered out of 1,888 pieces. 1988 was the year the brand was established.
Overall the case is quite nice, save for the crown. While the crown and pushers are designed to flow together nicely, the crown is too small and set too close to the case. It is easy enough to pull out to adjust the time, but it isn't ideal for manually winding the watch if necessary (though this timepiece does have an automatic movement in it).
The dial of the watch is the best part for me. The brown face is nice as mixed with the rose gold tones hands and applied large hour indicators. The chronograph subdials are well-designed and easy to read, while the hands and numerals are applied with luminant. FC designed the date to be in the lower subdial, which is nice. There is also an applied little Healey logo which is cute and adds a dash of color. I think that FC could have made the hands longer. These are re-purposed dauphine hands from other FC watch models. The lume segments in them are thin - but actually designed to accept tritium gas tubes. It would be great for FC to put some tubes in the hands of this collection as lume. A sloped flange ring with minute indicators rounds out the dial design well.
Of course, inside the Healey Chrono is a Swiss ETA Valjoux 7750 automatic movement. The watch is made complete with a chocolate brown leather strap with portholes and contrast stitching. Overall the design of the FC Healey is quite nice - certainly on of their best out right now. The stoptimer - screw it, I am just going to call it a "stopwatch" - has a manually wound movement that is wound via a key in the back. The style and tones of it match the watch. It has a thirty minute stopwatch feature and is a bit archaic in design - though it does have a flyback mechanism. First of all, I wish FC would have labeled the pushers. Unlike most stopwatches that have a "start and stop" pusher, this one has separate pushers for each, and I forget which button does what. The flyback pusher doubles as the reset pusher when the stopwatch is stopped. None of this really matters because the stopwatch is sort of a fun add-on to the set. No one will really use it, and for most people, it will just be a fun toy given that you don't see mechanical timers very often anymore (if at all).
Price for the rose-gold plated Frederique Constant Healey Chrono is $2,995, while the non-plated steel version with a silver dial is $2,895. This chocolate one is really the way to go. www.frederique-constant.com