Swiss Frederique Constant‘s new Ladies’ Automatic collection, introduced at a launch party in London last night hosted by brand ambassador Gwyneth Paltrow, is compelling for two main reasons. One, the company is donating $50 for every watch sold from the new collection to DonorsChoose.org, a charity chosen by Paltrow. Secondly, the watch in its basic version is pretty much exactly what you want in a classically styled everyday ladies’ watch. Priced under $2,000, it represents great value when you consider the automatic movement, the finishing, the number of options (there are six versions, including a more decorative double heart-shaped dial opening) and the functions.
I have been wearing the basic steel version with a blue strap for the past week, and found it to be quite comfortable; lightweight, compared to my other watches, which tend to be bigger. It’s also easy to read and useful. The watch isn’t outsized in order to accommodate these extra functions. It measures a wearable 36mm in diameter by 9.85mm thick, and because of the streamlined case, it wears much smaller than my other 36mm watches. Besides, anything smaller would crowd the indexes and date window (maybe even eliminate the date window altogether if a smaller movement is required). It would also detract from the elegance of the watch if the long leaf-shaped hour and minute hands had to be shortened.
The design is classic minimalist, including the two most appealing elements of a classic ladies’ dial: diamond markers (in this instance, eight one-point bezel-set gems) and applied Roman numerals. The guilloché-like embossed pattern on the dial is an elegant, greyish white on white that reads as a stylized four-petal daisy within a grid pattern. Plain white dials can seem a little flat, and this subtle pattern helps break it up without adding unnecessary flash. The date window and seconds hand are just what you want in a ladies’ automatic daily wear watch. The sculpted edges of the rounded case blend perfectly with the rounded bezel, which melds seamlessly with the case and tapered lugs. The result is a really nice, feminine profile that is slim and lightweight.
The movement in the standard automatic models (without the heart-shaped opening) is the FC-303, based on the reliable Sellita SW200, an alternative to the ETA 2824 and a base movement Frederique Constant has also used in its watches, including the Classic men’s models. The rotor is clearly audible up close, but that is typical for Sellita movements. This one is nicely decorated with Colimaçon (snail) finishing and Geneva stripes on the rotor, which you can see through the open caseback, another extra that you don’t often get on a ladies’ watch, especially in this price range. There are six models in the new Automatic Ladies collection, including four in the brand’s signature “Double Heart Beat” style, with a window in the dial cut in an overlapping heart shape. These models, two in rose gold plate and one in steel, contain the FC-310 Heart Beat movement, and are priced at $1,695 in stainless steel and $1,995 in rose gold plate. The two versions without the heart-shaped window, one in steel and the other in rose gold, contain the aforementioned FC-303, and are priced at $1,895 in rose gold plate and $1,595 in steel.
There are few brands that offer this quality and value in a ladies’ watch with these functions. The Mido Baroncelli and the Tissot PR100 Lady are two that come to mind. It is worth mentioning that Frederique Constant holds an equally important position on the men’s side as a maker of well-made entry-level classic watches, competing more on the level of Baume & Mercier, TAG Heuer, and Longines.
The watch has only two small drawbacks for me, and they are entirely a matter of personal taste. Although the alligator straps are gorgeous, and available in a beautiful range of colors – patent blue, light grey, navy, and burgundy – to me, this very classic design cries out for a black strap, or maybe just because black and white are my go-to colors of choice. That goes for the steel model only, by the way. The rose gold plate models look best on the brown or burgundy straps. The patent blue strap does look great with blue jeans, though, and give the watch a less formal, summery feel. Secondly, I prefer a pin buckle on a strap, only because my wrist is so small that a deployant clasp, once hitched up to the last notch, sits well off to the side rather than the back of my wrist, which results in the case being positioned uncomfortably above my wrist. Why don’t more watch brands think of this? It’s not a problem on bracelets because links can be removed from either side, resulting in a centering of the deployant clasp. For $1,500–$1,995, though, this is a small point, and the watch still represents great value. And don’t forget the great cause it supports: DonorsChoose.org, which support educations and sports programs for underprivileged children. frederiqueconstant.com