In our digital world, one could argue that a smartphone has replaced the traditional timepiece. But that pragmatic stance fails to acknowledge the captivating artistry of a watch altogether. There’s a certain joy that accompanies this milestone investment, a shift in confidence when you snap that perfect weighty object on your wrist, not to mention the relief of disconnecting from devices.
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Enter Frederique Constant, the remarkable watchmaking house that believes more people should be able to own a high-quality, Swiss-made timepiece.
Aletta Bax and Peter Stas established the brand in 1988 with a mission to democratize Swiss-made watches, and named it after their great-great grandfathers, Frederique Schreiner and Constant Stas (the latter of which founded a company that printed clock dials for the watch industry in 1904). Bax and Stas spent four years meticulously developing their first collection, successfully releasing six models in 1992. All were fitted with Swiss movements. All were assembled in the watchmaking capital of the world: Geneva. And all were crafted with value in mind.
The brand has maintained its thoughtful approach to this day, now offering 30 in-house calibers across many styles within the Manufacture collection, starting at $3,795. All Manufacture collection timepieces are produced in the brand’s headquarters in Geneva, from initial concept discussion to sketch, manufacturing to assembly and decoration. While the brand champions the human touch across the development process, technological innovation is equally valued, ensuring that timepieces are produced efficiently and outfitted in industry-leading features — think transparent dials (more on that later), their proprietary monolithic complication, as well as sophisticated tourbillon, world timer, and perpetual calendar complications.
Interestingly, many of the watches offered today are evolutions of models that have been perfected over time, freshened up with current industry trends or tech advancements. The elegant Heart Beat, for example, initially launched in 1994 and turned heads with the aforementioned first-of-its-kind window into the watch’s mechanics (its “heart,” if you will) and see-through case back. This year, the brand released a new, sleeker look for the iconic style, with an updated dial outfitted with a circular cutout (the initial design was comma-shaped), lighter indexes, and in two of-the-moment, limited-edition colors: 18K pink gold and steel.
Similarly, the Highlife was created in 1999: a celebration of accessible luxury with classic high-quality Swiss watchmaking and interchangeable bracelets that give its savvy owner multiple options in one gorgeous piece. In 2020, Frederique Constant reinvigorated the collection with several versions including the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture. Featuring the same stainless steel case and interchangeable straps, this updated timepiece indicates both the days and phases of the moon complemented by the date, month, and leap year indications, all on a single dial that favors simple and intuitive reading. Just last year, the maison issued the Highlife Worldtimer Manufacture, an ode to travel with globe engraving on the dial, three interchangeable bands (one above the industry standard), and ability to monitor 24 time zones.
It’s rather shocking how quietly Frederique Constant has been producing some of the world’s finest watches for over 30 years. Perhaps it’s time to change that.
The editorial staff of Departures was not involved in the creation of this story.
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