26.10.2023 | 5 MIN
Frederique Constant – a relatively young Swiss brand with Dutch roots, mainly dedicated to dress watches. Today we're taking a look at their classics... a model that was an innovative novelty in its time and won over crowds of enthusiasts. And especially those who wanted to be swept away by the rhythm of a mechanical watch at every glance at their wrist. This is a model from the Frederique Constant Heart Beat collection. And as the name suggests – we peek into the very heart of Frederique Constant.
We could say something similar about the watchmakers at Frederique Constant when they first brought the then-unknown Heart Beat to the market in 1994. A watch that wasn't shy about exposing the beauty of its mechanics. The aim of this move was to let everyone know at a glance what was hidden under the dial, and thus distinguish the watch from the flood of quartz watches at the time. They achieved this by adding a window above the flywheel, clearly the most beautiful and interesting part of a mechanical watch, which they also placed defiantly at 12 o'clock.
At the time, however, Frederique Constant surprisingly did not patent this innovation, although I think they could have easily used it to his great advantage and an ace up his sleeve to his advantage. On the other hand, however, we can be grateful for this generous step... or perhaps omission. After all, the heart beat (often referred to as the open heart) is a very popular feature of particularly elegant watches and can be found in the repertoire of just about every brand.
I'll try to be unbiased, but because of my love for anything that abounds with breguet hands and Roman numerals I can't help but think – the watch is really beautiful at first glance.
Underneath the subtly convex sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, you get a glimpse of a simple and perfectly tuned dial. Around its perimeter we find minute indices, reminiscent from afar of the so-called "railroad tracks", a simple pattern for minute indices, particularly popular at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Moving closer to the center of the watch, we see a sunburst-effect "disc" with contrasting Roman numerals printed on it. The centre of the dial is decorated with fine guilloche, precisely using the technique called "Clous de Paris" – a square pattern reminiscent of small pyramids. There is also the inscription "Frederique Constant Geneve", referring to the company's headquarters. The hands, as I mentioned above, are in the breguet style. The exception is the Frederique Constant FC-310MS5B6, which has leaf hands and only part of the Roman numerals.
Just below 12 o'clock, we see a visor with a polished bezel. Through it we can observe the oscillating flywheel and with a little effort we can also catch a glimpse of the bouncing anchor and stepping wheel. Here we can also see the ruby of the flywheel, which contrasts with the whole dial and reminds me a little of a kind of "third eye" (although of course we are missing the other two here...). The bridge in which the flywheel is mounted is decorated with mother-of-pearl.
Inside the watch beats the automatic calibre of the Swiss company Sellita, probably the biggest competitor of the famous ETA. However not many people know that if it weren't for ETA... there is no Sellita. In fact, this company used to function mainly as a sort of middleman, modifying ETA movements and passing them on to the end brands. However, that changed when they became calibres exclusively for members of the Swatch Group. So Sellita had to find a new path, and thanks to the patents that had already expired, it put its own spin on it.
But back to our watches. We find the FC-310 calibre based on the Sellita SW200 – a slightly modified "clone" of the ETA 2824-2. The only differences that distinguish the Sellita are one extra ruby on the featherweight and a different profile of the wheel teeth. But let's not take this the wrong way, the architecture of these calibers has been proven over decades and so there is no need to change anything at all. And besides, who else would have the right to get so close to the "ETA" than a manufacture that has worked directly with it for a long time.
The FC-310 calibre itself offers hacking, manual and automatic winding and an average power reserve of 38 hours. The accuracy of the watch is guaranteed at -5 to +24 seconds per day. The seconds hand runs at smooth 4Hz (for those of you like me who never pay attention to physics and have to Google the conversion from hertz to beats per second, I'll make your job easier – the hand moves a total of eight times between seconds indexes). There is, of course, a screw on the flywheel for finer control of its speed.
The whole movement is embellished, we find blue screws and Geneva stripes on the rose gold-coloured rotor.
It's all housed in a polished steel case. The diameter of the case is 40 mm, and the height of the watch is a very pleasant 10.5 mm. The spacing of the lugs is 20 mm, which for me is the ideal size for this model. On the watch we find a black calfskin strap with an alligator pattern and a thorn buckle with the brand logo, which we also find on the signed screw crown. It will come as no surprise that the watch is only water resistant to 50 metres, but this cannot be seen as a shortcoming in a watch of this style.
The strap on the Frederique Constant Classics Heart Beat Automatic FC-310MC5B6.
If you're looking for an affordable yet well-made watch from a brand that doesn't make "boring" watches, I think Frederique Constant is the right choice. And that's also true of our model reviewed today. For me at least, this is a really great piece – we find here a calibre with a proven architecture and beautiful decoration, a refined dial with a proven combination of Roman numerals and Breguet hands and of course there is also a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating. As for myself, this watch will be very hard to part with...