RedBar x Frederique Constant Anniversary
30 years is a long time. Not, perhaps in the cosmic scheme of things, but for us here on earth, there’s a lot that can be accomplished in that not-inconsiderable span. For Frederique Constant, 2018 marks their 30th anniversary, and over the course of the past three decades it can be argued they did, indeed, accomplish quite a lot.
Building anything from scratch takes determination and hard work, and that goes double – if not triple – when it comes to building a proper Swiss watch brand. Yet, this is exactly what Aletta and Peter Stas, two Netherlanders with a passion for hard work and horology, did. What’s more, they did it with the seemingly contradictory mantra of “accessible horology”, which, all things considered, only adds to the heavy lifting.
So, how exactly does one celebrate their 30th anniversary in this business? In this particular instance, with a perpetual calendar tourbillon.
Now, if you’re wondering how exactly a perpetual calendar tourbillon fits into Frederique Constant’s whole #accessibleluxury jam, it’s this: MSRP for steel is $19,995. Yes, you read correctly; $20K for an in-house manufacture perpetual calendar tourbillon. True, this isn’t exactly chump change and there are plenty of watches from brands that don’t purport to be be anything other than pure luxury that are peddling pieces at this price point, but I can all but guarantee that here we’re talking about three-handers in steel, or, in some cases, precious metals. Oh, and speaking of precious metals, there’s a rose gold version of the QP (Quantieme Perpetuel) Tourbillon Manufacture that retails for a hair under $33K. Unfortunately, if you want one of those, you’re SOL as all thirty have sold.
So, this leaves you with two steel and one gold-plated version, all three of which are offered in a limited series of 88 pieces each. Of these, my money is on the steel skeleton, which, quite frankly, is sex on the wrist. No, really, it’s that good, with a curvaceous, round case, large crown, and perfectly integrated lugs. The dial layout is generous, too, which isn’t usually the case with many “budget” perpetual calendars, where the sub dials are crowded around the center pinion; while the uniquely caged tourbillon takes center stage at 6 o’clock, it somehow manages the neat trick of not overwhelming the proceedings.
On the flip side, it’s clear that this is no Lange or Audemars. The movement finishing is clean, yet unadorned outside of some perfunctory Cotes de Geneve, perlage and a smattering of heat-treated blued screws. Of course, this is all by design; if you want to go whole hog on movement decoration, Frederique Constant’s uber luxe brand, Ateliers deMonaco will be happy to sell you something more to your liking.
As for the movement itself, yes, it is in-house, and yes, it more than qualifies as “Swiss Made”. Frederique Constant has had both a tourbillon and perpetual calendar in its arsenal of manufacture movements for some time now, so it was simply a matter of mashing the two together to create the FC-975 movement that powers the QP Tourbillon Manufacture. Okay, so maybe I’m oversimplifying a bit (a lot) here, but when I asked both Peter Stas and Pim Koeslag, FC’s technical director what the biggest challenge was with respect to bringing this watch to life, neither hesitated in replying, “The cost.” And, no, they weren’t referring to the expense involved in creating the calibre, but, rather the mandate that it come in for under $20K USD.
So, when all is said and done, does the QP Tourbillon Manufacture toe the Frederique Constant line? Most definitely, “yes.” True, the price point is significantly higher than the bulk of their collection, but when compared to the pieces that it truly competes against – much as is the case with their core line of timepieces – the QP Tourbillon Manufacture brings all the craftsmanship, technology, and design to the table at a significantly lower price point than one would reasonably expect. Indeed, when I said to Mr. Stas that the bottom line on the QP Tourbillon Manufacture would upset more than a few brands, he said in no uncertain terms, “Good.” Honestly, we need more execs in the business like this…
Of course, announcing a watch like this, on an anniversary such as this calls for a party, and Frederique Constant more than came correct in this regard. The festivities went down at The Vault. A famed Parisian night spot, hard on the bank of the Seine, directly under the Pont Alexandre III. The evening consisted of outdoor cocktails, replete with caricature artists (the less said about my portrait, the better); a rather odd performance that combined Chinese fan dancing, LEDs and lasers; and, finally, a historical retrospective of the past 30 years, with Aletta, Peter and Niels Eggerding (Managing Director), presenting.
Directly following, there were yet more cocktails, this time accompanied by hors d’oeuvres. Although, if you were a member of RedBar Paris, well, let’s just say that there was something else set up… Once you made it past the rather large security guard and through the locked door, there, on a table were several QP Tourbillon Manufactures, along with a whole slew of representatives from Frederique Constant. And presiding over the assemblage was none other than Pim Koeslag, FC’s technical director, who was only too happy to answer any and all questions tossed his way. What can we say, the champagne flowed along with the conversation, and, as always, a fantastic time was had by all.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, and before long it was time to stumble off into the cool, Parisian evening… JUST KIDDING!
Actually, a live band jumped on stage and a brace of extremely acrobatic mixologists set up shop which kicked the party in to high gear, with the dancing and carousing carrying on until the wee hours of the morning. A giant cake also made an appearance, most of which seemed to get eaten, but the focus remained firmly on the band and the mixologists.
When all is said and done, it’s hard to shake a stick at what Frederique Constant has accomplished here. While the QP Tourbillon Manufacture is strictly a limited edition, the shots fired across the bow of the traditional haute horlogerie brigade cannot be ignored. If Frederique Constant can produce high complications of this nature, in house and at this price point, why can’t anyone else? Okay, fine, the movement finishing doesn’t approach that of the standard bearers, but when all is said and done, the value proposition here is off the charts, which is exactly how Frederique Constant wants it.
Joyeux Anniversaire, Frederique Constant!