Recently, I experienced the debut of Frederique Constant’s most high-end watch yet — an 18k rose gold Highlife model with their rare tourbillon-based perpetual calendar movement known as the Frederique Constant Caliber FC-975. Debuted at Dubai Watch Week in November 2023, the 18k rose gold version of the Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture watch has a retail price of about $50,000 USD. Less than a month later at the Citizen Group flagship store opening event in New York City, Frederique Constant unveiled a steel-cased companion watch that costs about $20,000 less and contains the same exotic (for the brand) in-house Caliber FC-975 automatic tourbillon perpetual calendar movement. So today, I go hands-on with this Frederique Constant reference FC-975BL4NH6B with its blue dial and steel case with matching steel bracelet. Note that this steel watch is a limited edition, whereas the 18k rose gold version is not.

I’ve always wondered by a brand like Frederique Constant has been so intent on having higher-end luxuries like tourbillon-based watches in their product catalog. The prices of these watches are very different from the average price point sold by the brand. There is also a lot of competition in the market for tourbillon-based timepieces, and from a technical and design perspective, Frederique Constant isn’t adding anything new. The main value proposition appears to be price, which is where a company like Frederique Constant has typically stood out. With that said, there are at least a few fully Swiss Made tourbillon watches on the market that undercut Frederique Constant prices rather significantly.

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Price sensitivity still appears to be a major selling point of Frederique Constant’s most high-end watches, but their strategy isn’t now to offer the lowest price, but rather a lot of bang for your buck. You might not pay the absolute lowest amount on the market for a Frederique Constant tourbillon, but the brand hopes that they include enough finishing, features, and accessories to give their products a competing edge over many of the much fancier tourbillon watches on the market that their models hope to compete with. In that sense, the Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture watch is a success. It doesn’t offer too much independent personality, but for those who prefer to shop for watches with a checklist of features, this watch by Frederique Constant offers a lot to get excited about.

In that way, the primary customer for (especially the steel version) the Frederique Constant Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is an aspirational one. They look with lust at the $80,000 – $150,000+ prices (mostly) for other tourbillon perpetual calendar-based timepieces on the market and then get excited about what Frederique Constant is offering for a lot less. The 41mm wide Highlife case is comfortable and handsome (albeit not a design brimming with personality or originality), and it also offers all-day wearing comfort either on the tapering steel bracelet or one of the two included strap sets that come with the set. Those added straps (which can be easily removed/added using the quick-release spring bars) include a matching blue rubber strap as well as a blue textile strap. For those looking for a high-end watch-wearing experience, this timepiece satisfies that. It just doesn’t have too much independent reason for existing outside of wanting to act as an alternative to even more expensive options out there on the market.

The caliber FC-975 automatic movement builds on previous Frederique Constant calibers that came before it. The company has already produced a perpetual calendar module as well as tourbillon-based time-only watches. This mechanism combines both of those features into one movement, which operates at 4Hz with 38 hours of power reserve. The tourbillon escapement system can be viewed through a window on the dial, and it also doubles as the seconds indicator. The rest of the dial is used for the perpetual calendar display subdials, which include the month, date, day of the week, and leap year indicator. While priced right, this perpetual calendar system does require the use of in-set pushers on the sides of the case to adjust the information. While I really like perpetual calendars from a visual standpoint, given how many timepieces I wear in any given week, I rarely keep watches wound enough for calendars to be accurate. Thus, each time I end up reviewing a perpetual calendar watch, I have to keep it wound so that the information displayed is correct. Perpetual calendar-based automatic watches are among the best reasons for people to put these timepieces on watch winder devices.

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Frederique Constant does an amicable job with the view of the movement on the rear of the watch, including some nice machine decoration and the use of colors and materials. Though aficionados will yearn for more hand-finishing (which is where a lot of the value of the higher-end luxury watches comes in), and that would be nearly impossible for Frederique Constant to offer at this price level given the high number of watches they produce annually.

Given the trendiness of blue dials and polished steel cases on matching bracelets, it makes a lot of sense for Frederique Constant to appoint their debut Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture with this dial color to start. What I don’t entirely understand is the need to make these watches a limited edition. That creates a push for the brand to produce the entire limited-edition collection rather quickly, and it is known that watches like this take a while to penetrate into the market. I think it would have made more sense for their more elite watches to be serialized and regarded as limited production, as opposed to limited edition. Then again, I am only saying this as a veteran collector and I don’t necessarily understand the nuances of Frederique Constant’s production or distribution realities. Accordingly, the Frederique Constant Highlife Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Manufacture reference FC-975BL4NH6B in steel is being produced as a limited edition 88 pieces. The price is $28,995 USD. Learn more at the Frederique Constant website.

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