While everyone is likely familiar with the big collaborations and limited editions that get produced between watch brands and celebrities, artists, musicians and other creatives, it’s less widely known that authorized dealers get in on the customization game too. Recently, Amsterdam-based  Ace Jewelers, an authorized dealer for Frederique Constant, put its spin on the brand’s Highlife Worldtimer. I got a chance to review it, and I actually think this 100-piece limited edition version is more attractive than stock models — it certainly has more personality, and it fairly-priced. Overall, the Highlife Worldtimer is a pleasant mixture of casual wearing and complexity, with a few interesting quirks that give it personality.

The first change Ace Jewelers made to the stock Highlife Manufacture Worldtimer was the inner dial decoration, which, on the stock models, has map-style longitude and latitude lines that make the dial feel bloated, in my opinion. I understand why Frederique Constant wanted to fill this empty space with decor, but the retailer’s version demonstrates that an un-decorated matte-black surface works better given how busy the rest of the dial is. The classic embossed decor in the subsidiary seconds dial remains and adds a mildly dressy character to this rather sporty design.

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Also unique to this limited edition watch is the black, white, and red colorway on the dial, inspired by the Amsterdam city flag. Present, as well, are the famed triple Xs, which are found on the Amsterdam flag and on furnishings around the city. “XXX” is also a label generally applied to signal dangerous or prurient content, so having it on the dial makes for a fun wrist statement when wearers are in a rebellious mood. The final small change is the replacement of “Geneva” on the city reference ring with “Amsterdam” spelled in red. (I’m sure the folks at the Swiss brand HQ loved that.) In addition to the removable steel bracelet, this Highlife Worldtimer watch comes with an added textured and stitched rubber strap.

Now that you understand what makes this limited-edition Highlife Worldtimer distinctive, let’s talk about the Frederique Constant Highlife Manufacture Worldtimer watch itself. It begins with a movement that Frederique Constant developed and manufactures based on the FC-700 series known as the caliber FC-718 automatic (4Hz, 38 hours of power reserve). This movement builds on other Frederique Constant movements and includes its first worldtimer 24-hour time zone indicator functionality. This uses a ring around the periphery of the main dial in conjunction with the main time and an outer reference city ring indicator to make it possible to know the current time in any of the major 24-hour time zones. The dial also features the time with central seconds and a subsidiary date indicator window. There is a small issue with this layout that sort of boils down to a form-over-function debate. The issue is that the date wheel overlaps the world time ring at the bottom of the dial. This effectively obstructs you from precisely reading that part of the dial, which is perhaps exactly what you need to be looking at in order to know the time in your preferred second city. The dial does look pretty and more interesting with this added subdial, but it also has the effect of removing some of the functionality. Again, given that most people don’t actually strictly rely on these tools to know world-time information, and because people wear watches they find pretty and distinctive, this isn’t exactly a deal-breaker.

Otherwise, the dial of the Highlife Worldtimer is quite legible with easy-to-read lumed hands and enough high contrast to read most of the dial well. The watch also has a higher-end look that gives a luxurious, formal appearance to the display. Much of this is because the dial never feels flat, which is a common issue with these types of 24-hour-style worldtimer watches. I would say that, overall, this watch has the feeling of a more expensive watch. I think many people easily dismissed the Highlife when it came out as Frederique Constant’s answer to the integrated steel watch bracelet trend. That may be true, but what is also true is that Frederique Constant wanted its integrated bracelet steel watch to be really nice to wear on the wrist, as well as highly competitive in the marketplace. This is a very crowded segment of the market, and it can be tempting to spend too much on such a timepiece. As priced here for under $4,000 (without taxes), you get a good-looking and comfortable watch with a very decent in-house automatic movement on the inside.

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Stylewise, the Highlife case here is 41mm wide and 12.9mm thick. It actually wears modestly and doesn’t feel large thanks to a modest lug-to-lug distance of about 46mm, and relatively narrow lug structures. The case isn’t thin, either, but Frederique Constant integrated a number of design elements intended to reduce visual mass. This includes a lot of curved surfaces, as well as a lot of tapering from the middle of the case in almost all directions. I wouldn’t say that the Highlife profile is as distinctive as a Royal Oak, but it has a calm timelessness and certainly isn’t a copy or emulation of any other particular watch out there. It has a light retro-1970s vibe to it but is otherwise a sturdy and elegant daily-wear. Personally, I found it very easy to enjoy the looks and comfort of Frederique Constant’s Highlife collection. The case has a slightly domed AR-coated sapphire crystal over the dial and is water resistant to 100 meters without a screw-down crown. There is another sapphire crystal over the caseback that offers a view of the pleasantly decorated mechanical movement.

Even those with no particular affinity to the Dutch city of Amsterdam can enjoy this limited-edition Ace Jewelers watch. It’s easy-to-wear and stylish, and it’s complicated enough to satisfy the horology urge within. Limited to 100 pieces, the Ace X Frederique Constant Highlife Worldtimer Amsterdam watch (Ref. FC718AMS4NH6B) has a retail price of $4,295 (with VAT). Learn more about this model at the Ace Jewelers website, and visit the Frederique Constant website for additional information.

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