Tested For You: The Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic COSC And Heart Beat
Much has already been written about Frederique Constant’s new Highlife collection. Released in late summer, the Highlife has taken on many forms. From a limited-edition collaboration with collector group RedBar to a well-received lineup of 10 different SKUs across three different model types, it’s clear that Frederique Constant is all-in on the Highlife.
Of course, like many of you, I was cautiously optimistic when I learned of the revival of the Highlife. Could the brand go beyond the current integrated bracelet trend and produce something truly special for collectors and enthusiasts? As it turns out, yes, they absolutely can. The Highlife collection delivers on a variety of promises while staying true to Frederique Constant’s brand ethos. Let’s explore!
The first question you may have is, “Why a stainless steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet, and why now?” I, too, sought the answer to this question, which is why I asked Frederique Constant’s Managing Director, Niels Eggerding, about the strategy behind one of the brand’s biggest 2020 rollouts. He replied:
“We know that it has been done by a lot of brands – purely because there’s a huge opportunity. Two years ago, it was analyzed that 60-65% of sales above the 3,000 euros mark in Europe was done by integrated bracelet designs. We’re really trying to position ourselves in the market, but with our own design and close to our own DNA – the sport chic finishing and within our pricing, there’s not many competitors for us in the accessible luxury segment.”
What I find most remarkable about Eggerding’s comment is the sheer popularity of timepieces within this design type and the extent of opportunity in the category. With the new Frederique Constant Highlife collection, you have a range of accessibly-priced and well-finished models.
The Frederique Constant Highlife
The Highlife is available in three models and is priced starting at $1,895 and tops off at $9,495. This collection fulfills the age-old cliché of offering something for everyone. The only difference here is that Frederique Constant actually delivers on its promises. Where else can you find a sub-10k perpetual calendar? While the brand has offered one for years, never has it been done to this level of style.
At the time of introduction, my colleague, Rhonda Riche, went in-depth with the collection, which you can read about HERE.
For the purposes of this review, Watchonista was sent five Highlife models from the Automatic COSC and Heart Beat lines. This sampling of pieces provided a good example of the sub $2k options available in the Highlife collection.
In The Metal
As my previous experience with the Highlife was limited to Zoom and social media, I was eager to go hands-on with the collection. Once I saw the pieces in the metal, they exceeded my expectations. The fit and finish of the 41mm case felt refined, and the brushed finished bracelet with polished center links was smooth on the wrist and didn’t pinch. All of which, I’ll admit, is a feat at this price point!
Having the choice of a stainless steel integrated bracelet or a supple alligator leather strap only increases the wearability of the Highlife collection. In the metal, I found the interchangeable bracelet system easy to use and didn’t reach for my spring bar tool once. Each bracelet option was comfortable and refined.
Another remark on the finishing of the non-case components, most notably, the dial. Across the board on the Automatic COSC and Heart Beat models, the brand opted for a stamped dial with the globe pattern. Each dial features applied indices filled with luminous material. These dials have an elegant look to rival all competitors at the 5k price point.
Lastly, viewable through the sapphire crystal is Frederique Constant’s proprietary FC-310 (on the Heart Beat models) or FC-303 (on the Automatic COSC) calibres. These movements follow the same exacting finishing standards that fans of the brand have come to expect. And again, at this price point, you’ll be hard-pressed to find Côtes de Genève and Colimaçon patterns.
On The Wrist
As you can see in the images, the Highlife collection suits a small-ish wrist remarkably well. The pieces sit nicely on the wrist, and because of their 12mm thickness, one might even say the collection has a luxurious wrist presence.
So, I asked Eggerding about the target market for this collection. He said, “It’s really the price, the quality and the finishing of the watch that should differentiate us from others and also to connect us with the customer who previously never appreciated a leather or classical look who now has options in the collection – and it’s accessible. A young, upcoming businessman who is successful – 30 to 35 years old – but simply doesn’t want to spend $20-$50k, they can now purchase an accessible watch in our collection.”
I found the steel bracelet’s clasp easy to use from any angle or orientation, and the leather strap’s buckle was smooth to operate and easy to adjust throughout a day of wear.
The Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic COSC and Heart Beat models offer a variety of styles at an accessible price point. Whether you’re looking for a modern steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet and blue dial, or you’re going for a retro-inspired two-tone model with steel and rose gold plating, there’s certainly a Highlife (or two) for you.
For my money, I’d have to go with a model from the Automatic COSC collection, but I’m torn between the blue and black dials. There’s a certain vibrance in the blue dial model, but the black might be more understated and tuxedo appropriate. Assuming, that is, we ever end up having the opportunity to don formal wear again.
The Frederique Constant Highlife Heart Beat is priced starting at $1,995 and goes up to $2,195, depending on the configuration. And the Highlife Automatic COSC is priced between $1,895 and $2,195. For more information, visit Frederique Constant’s website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)