April 30, 2016
by David Bredan
Frédérique Constant is among a handful of brands who have been making a name for themselves by intelligently identifying what many watch enthusiasts around the world want, and then delivering these “must-haves” in very competitively priced packages. Over the years, Frédérique Constant have covered a wide range of these longed-for features, including in-house-made movements and relatively affordable perpetual calendar watches with proprietary movements – and the list goes on, but you get my point. The just released Frédérique Constant Classics Art Of Porcelain, as its name implies, takes a more rare, but no less lust-worthy design element, the porcelain dial, and offers it in a classical, elegant, and relatively affordable watch.
Clearly, in-house-designed and -produced movements and historically important functions such as tourbillons and perpetual calendars were of high priority to the brand – but the time has come again for them to cater to a niche. Regardless how much bragging rights one wishes to have from a manufacture caliber or a cool complication, others are not interested in any of that, but instead want a classical, reliable, timeless dress watch, with an extra touch that makes it stand out from the infinite seas of boring, regurgitated designs.
To make it into a more special (and specialized) contender among dress watches, Frédérique Constant has teamed up with world-renowned Hungarian porcelain manufacturer Zsolnay (pronounced “sholna-y”), to produce the dials for each of the 188 pieces in this limited run. Zsolnay was established back in 1853, in Pécs (“Paitch”), Hungary, and has gone onto becoming one of the top manufacturers of handcrafted porcelain in the world, having a wide range of products from roof tiles to jewelry and fine china.
Not to be confused with some other types of enamel, to create the porcelain dial of this piece in the Frédérique Constant Classics collection, the components are heated in a kiln to temperatures between 1,200 and 1,400 °C (2,200 and 2,600 °F), where “the toughness, strength and translucence of porcelain arises mainly from vitrification and the formation of the mineral mullite within the body at these high temperatures.”
The Frédérique Constant Classics Art Of Porcelain dial does sport a “Fait Main” or hand-made designation above the six o’clock position, and that refers to how these components have been formed and sanded by hand, to reach the desired shape, thickness, and shine that is required for a watch dial.
The dial looks as traditional as they get, just two long, blued, feuille-style hands, large, legible Roman numerals, and some fine print are all there is to see – and likely all that those interested in a watch of this nature would ever want to see.
The stainless steel case of the Frédérique Constant Classics Art Of Porcelain is 40 millimeters wide – and, yes, it could have been smaller, but those who say there is a rule that somehow sets dress watch sizes at 38-or-so millimeters are either utter snobs or people who forget that: a) that is a stupid rule, and b) there are other people out there in the world with larger wrists, and for them a 40mm-wide case is the perfect fit. So, 40mm wide it is.
The combination of the case’s coined edge, slim, straight lugs, and the onion crown all make for a perfectly traditional-looking dress watch – the hand-made porcelain dial really is a match made in heaven.
The movement underneath that glossy white dial is the FC-302, which is a sourced base caliber (Frédérique Constant does not mention it to be an in-house movement and the reference number of the caliber does not line up with what they have been using for their manufacture calibers either, so we take it as a Sellita base movement). It provides 42 hours of power reserve and is exposed through a sapphire crystal case back – providing the only way to admire the mechanical nature of this watch, as there is no sweeping seconds hand on the dial side.
Price for the Frédérique Constant Classics Art Of Porcelain is $2,195 – that is clearly more than your average classical steel dress watch with a sourced movement, but a lot less than the utmost majority of comparably traditional-looking watches that offer a hand-made porcelain dial. frederiqueconstant.com