Dress watches are a breed of their own, often avoided by bloggers and enthusiasts because of their delicate balance of clean and boring. I often find myself in a suit, so I’m always looking for a solid dress watch to complete the ensemble. One of the more interesting dress watches of the year came from Frederique Constant. I’ve been drawn to the brand for a while. They have done some creative things in their short time on the scene, and the Classic Moonphase Manufacture — a simple dress watch that features an in-house movement, at a fair price — is a case in point.
Before we get to the watch, I want to highlight why I find the brand so appealing. About 15 years ago, Frederique Constant looked to set itself apart from the competition (because let’s be honest, the brand is in a pretty saturated space) by starting to manufacture movements in-house. This allowed them to be a little more creative and offer a better-value product than many other brands in the same price bracket. Because of this approach, they aren’t limited to heavily modifying a Sellita or ETA to achieve the desired features. The decision created a slew of interesting models, including a Flyback Chronograph and a Worldtimer that both come in at less than $5,000 — a very competitive offering.
Classic Moonphase Manufacture Case
The stainless steel case measures in at 42mm but is relatively thick for a dressier style watch. I don’t necessarily mind the design, but I did find a few irritants about the size and flow of the case. First, the bezel is thick, significantly rounded, and tall. I imagine the dramatic taper off the sides is intended to help the watch slide under a cuff better. However, I found the case thick enough to consistently catch on my sleeves, no matter which wrist I wore it on (eliminating the large onion crown as the culprit). Maybe I wear my sleeves too tight, but I do feel the design of the case was certainly unforgiving.
The convex sapphire crystal butts up nicely to the bezel and gives the watch a uniform aesthetic. On the wrist, it looks attractive. The lugs extend straight from the case and feature a clean taper that makes the watch very comfortable. They offset some of the thickness by sitting nicely against the wrist. I wasn’t constantly pulling the watch back to the center of my wrist, as I would have expected with a thicker watch with larger lugs (ah-la Chronoswiss). A flat sapphire crystal fits to the back, so the in-house movement is fully on display. The 5 ATM water resistance was a nice step up from the typical 3 ATM of many dress watches, though I still avoided the water.
Overall, I felt the case was a bit of an odd design choice. I recognize that other watches in the Frederique Constant catalog have similar cases, but on the Moonphase Manufacture, it feels a lot more round than it needed to be. I think lowering the size to 39mm or 40mm, with a thinner bezel, would have suited the watch a lot more — similar to the brand’s Slimline collection. For a dress watch, it felt unnecessarily large, thick, and wasn’t the easiest watch to slide under a dress shirt cuff.
Classic Moonphase Manufacture Dial
Moving onto the dial, and my favorite part of the watch: it’s coherent. This spawns from the desire to split the single sub-dial display of the Classic Manufacture Moonphase (see what they did there?) into two separate displays. And to that end, it’s a beautiful design that I feel simply works.
For the dial, Frederique Constant combined design features that have worked in previous models. For one, the elongated white Roman numerals are both legible and aesthetically easy on the eyes. They pop against the sunburst blue dial and don’t distract from the rest of the watch’s feature sets. The date subdial at 9 o’clock feels just large enough to be effective and recessed enough to be elegant. The moonphase at 3 o’clock matches well with the dial and, in this model, the moon has been made white as to not distract from the overall blue and white color scheme — a feature I really appreciate. The finishing on the moonphase is slick but has matte stars and moon, really helping the display “pop” out from its matching subdial.
The handset is clean, with simple sword hands with a glossy white finish. They are difficult to lose in the dial and contrast nicely against the Roman numerals. I never have a hard time picking out the time at a glance. Overall, there is a large margin of error when creating a dress watch with multiple complications, and I feel like Frederique Constant nailed the dial.
Classic Moonphase Manufacture Movement
Flipping the watch over, you’ll find the gorgeous FC-712. This is Frederique Constant’s 29th in-house caliber, and a serious value. The decoration is superb. The center plate features circular Geneva striping that I found more pronounced than in many movements I’ve handled. The striping is deep and catches the light nicely. Beneath, Perlage covers the entire length of the main plate. The hollowed-out gilded rotor doesn’t obstruct the view of the movement — a feature I greatly appreciate.
Designed around the FC-700 series, the FC-712 splits the date and moonphase into two separate complications. This took the brand two years to achieve. The automatic movement features a power reserve of 38 hours and ticks at a smooth 28,800 VpH.
Classic Moonphase Manufacture Strap
The Frederique Constant Classic Moonphase Manufacture comes on a blue alligator leather strap with a simple deployant clasp (that I came around to). I was concerned, from the press images, that the blue would be a bit much, but it wasn’t. Luckily, it tied nicely into the watch. The strap features a full belly lining that was incredibly comfortable, though, in a suit for a long period of time, I noticed it did flex when moisture from sweat got in it. This is a normal phenomenon, but I found, when paired with the thickness, it could get uncomfortable under a sleeve.
One thing that’s important to note is that my strap clicked at the lugs quite often — usually, due to pulling on the spring bar and grinding against the lug. In my case, I believe that the strap sat too loose on the spring bar, and it rattled against the case when bending or twisting the wrist. Possibly a fluke or an older, stretched-out strap, but important to note when considering it at the boutique.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Classic Moonphase Manufacture. Unfortunately, this watch simply didn’t fit my criteria for a dress watch, as much as I wanted it to. I found the watch well-built and easy on the eyes. However, it’s simply too bulky to wear with dress clothes. Making this 2-3mm smaller, and a few millimeters thinner, seems like a missed opportunity. I feel it would make the watch immensely more wearable with a cuff. I don’t fault the brand for trying something outside the box, and I have no doubt this watch will find buyers who won’t mind the footprint. Price for the Frederique Constant Classic Moonphase is $2,595 in stainless steel. They do have a rose-gold plated option available for $300 more. Read more about this watch at frederiqueconstant.com.