Introducing the Frederique Constant Manufacture Quantieme Perpetual Tourbillon
At a grand launch party in Paris, Frederique Constant celebrated 30 years of modern luxury watchmaking with an introduction of the new Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon QP.
The tale of Frederique Constant is a love story. Co-founders Peter C. Stas and Aletta Stas-Bax came up with the concept of the brand while on a ski holiday in Switzerland. They spied a timepiece in a shop window, and their curiosity blossomed into a full-blown passion for providing accessible luxury watches.
Thirty years later, The Stas’ commitment to the creativity and craft of watchmaking has never been as strong and assured. And to celebrate, the brand has launched the new Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon QP, a marriage of their unique Tourbillon and perpetual calendar technologies.
Just a brief history of Frederique Constant to provide some context. Stas and Stas-Bax’s watchmaking roots in both run deep. The company’s name is derived from the names of great-grandparents of each founder – Frédérique Schreiner and Constant Stas, the latter of which founded a company producing watch dials in 1904.
The brand's big break, as it were, was the development of the Heart Beat movement in 2001. The bridge of the balance wheel, the spiral, and fine regulation were displayed on the front side of the movement so that you could see the beating heart of the mechanism while wearing the watch.
“This was the watch that changed everything,” says Stas-Bax in Paris, where the company has gathered its family and friends to celebrate their anniversary. Stas-Bas is sitting in a booth in the Purple Bar of the Hotel Le Collectionneur, reflecting on Frederique Constant’s history and how it has come of age during some of the trade’s most turbulent eras — the aftermath of the Quartz Crisis, the recession of the Oughts, and the impact of wearable technology.
“Peter and I started because we loved watches but we couldn’t afford the really great watches,” says Stas-Bax. “We were our own customer.” Sticking to their vows, she adds, helps when it comes to adapting to changing times. "We have always stayed true to our motto ‘let more people enjoy luxury, and I think that has allowed us to stay more dynamic than other companies." You can learn more from my colleague Josh Shanks interview with Peter Stas, HERE.
Even though it’s a young brand by watchmaking standards, Frederique Constant’s attention to traditional finishes (in 2002, for example, they acquired Alpina, established in 1883) helped make the company one of the largest Swiss manufactures. By 2011, its Plan-les-Ouates facility had produced over 120,000 watches, sold in over 2,700 points of sale in more than 100 countries.
While Frederique Constant is known for watches that look much more luxe than most of the competition in their price point, the brand also bats way beyond its league when it comes to technology. They started producing the Heart Beat Calibre FC 935 Silicium in October 2007. The next year they introduced a Tourbillon with an amplitude of over 300 degrees between its vertical and horizontal positions. Coupled with the rapid oscillation of the almost frictionless Silicium, Frederique Constant tourbillons have an unusually high level of precision.
2015 brought the Horological SmartWatch. 2016 saw the introduction of the Slimline Perpetual Calendar (the most affordable perpetual calendar of its class). Each of these introductions brought joy to collectors, but not to the establishment of the Swiss Watch industry.
For example, says Stas-Bax, when Frederique Constant introduced the world's first mechanical smartwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture, earlier this year “it caused quite a disruption.” Not just for the price but also the approach — focusing the technology on what the watch can learn about the wearer (tracking health and fitness goals rather than providing a digital screen for scrolling through email, for example) and also about the watch’s performance itself.
“If it’s just a screen,” says Stas-Bax, “It doesn’t need to be a Swiss Watch.”
A Good Pairing
Which brings us to the Manufacture Tourbillon QP. According to Technical Director Pim Koeslag, this timepiece is the culmination of all the technology and experience that Frederique Constant has accrued over three decades.
Despite all the know-how, this watch was still a super challenging project. Says Koeslag, “Apart from the technical challenge, it also had to be produced at a reasonable price point without sacrificing quality.”
First, the Frederique Constant team started with the design of the watch. The Manufacture Tourbillon QP had to be readable and balanced. A design which also paid homage to the signature Heart Beat’s forward-facing display eventually emerged.
From there, Koeslag and his crew used the technology of the classic Manufacture Tourbillon and the slimline Perpetual Calendar and came up with a brand-new in-house caliber. “There are 250 moving pieces of the mechanism,” says Koeslag, “We knew we couldn’t make the components cheaper, so we used technology to make production smarter.”
Another essential feature of all Frederique Constant Watches is the attention to beautiful finishes. The Manufacture Tourbillon QP comes in four styles: open and closed dial options in either 18k rose gold or stainless steel. All are limited edition, and the open dial versions are already sold out.
While it’s not an inexpensive timepiece, the Manufacture Tourbillon QP may the best value for your dollar when it comes to a super complicated watch. Everything about it is thoughtful, from the texture and depth of the dial to the grace of the onion-shaped crown to the blues hands and screws.
It also signals that Frederique Constant has truly made their unique voice heard in the watch world. So, what’s in store for the next 30 years? "Who could have predicted smartphones or smartwatches in 1988?" Asks Stas-Bax. One thing she does know is that she and her husband will be stepping back from the day-to-day operations of the company and giving more responsibility to managing director Niels Eggerding. But because their passion for watches is still strong, they will remain involved in maintaining the mission of Frederique Constant.
“Technology changes,” says Stas-Bax, “but a mechanical watch is always a piece of art.”