Editorial: Frederique Constant Finally Puts the “Horological” in Smartwatch

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Last week we attended the launch of Frederique Constant’s newest creation, the Hybrid Manufacture 3.0 smartwatch. It was an elegant event with various watches and movements on display for us media to ogle. There were also banners placed around the room with a graphic that I found curious: the word “HYBRID” with the “Y” highlighted in blue. As I took a precursory look at the watches, seeing that Frederique Constant had integrated their smart tech (vis-à-vis the Horological Smartwatch platform) into their in-house automatic movement, I felt the obvious question was simply “why?” (A question that, ironically, I felt was emphasized by their own signage.)

Is this really the next step of the smartwatch that people have been asking for? Does an automatic watch need to track footsteps, sleep patterns, and other goals? If I do want those functions, do I really need to spend $3,500 to get them in order to have a classic watch as well? Doesn’t my cell phone do most of these things anyway?

I was admittedly a bit skeptical going in. It was during CEO Peter Stas’ introduction to the watches that my question of “why” was answered. Yes, the watch does what you’d expect from a fitness tracker (er, I mean, a smartwatch), and it has an app-controlled second-timezone (which is handy), but it also does something else. It’s something new and far more interesting—and it’s something actually horological.

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Before getting to that, the movement itself is worth a quick look. Named the caliber FC-750, it’s one of Frederique Constant’s very attractive in-house automatic movements, decorated as you’d expect with a gold tone rotor, perlage, blued screws, etc. It also features their signature pointer date complication at six. From the case back, you’d never know there were non-mechanical elements to it.

However, on the dial side of the movement, they’ve managed to fit in a battery (rechargeable), an accelerometer, an “analytics module,” a Bluetooth antenna, and a step motor. That seems like a decent amount to jam on top of a movement, but they appear to have pulled it off well. That said, I do wonder if it will have servicing implications down the road being that it is part of the movement itself.So, what does it do that’s so cool? It uses the “smart” elements to monitor the movement itself. Through the app you can pull up the beat rate, amplitude, and beat error of your watch with an indication of your watch’s “health” and whether or not it needs to be serviced. It automatically runs these diagnostics daily at 4am, which I assume is because the watch is likely to be off your wrist at that time, or you’re asleep and keeping the watch in one position. There’s no telling if you can run these live to see your watch in motion.

This is a very clever and even daring thing for Frederique Constant to do. First, it gives a reason why one would want to integrate smart tech into a mechanical movement. Giving users the power to know the health of their watch demystifies—even if only partially—data typically reserved for watch makers. Sure, us enthusiasts might have timegraphing devices, but normal consumers don’t and likely have never heard the terms “beat error” or “amplitude.” To them, a watch works or it doesn’t, so being able to see how many seconds a day their watch is off is very informative. It also gives them some insight into what might be going wrong (e.g. a movement suddenly increasing in speed could indicate it has been magnetized) and it lets them know when they need to service their watch.

Second, it’s bold of Frederique Constant to allow for people to see this data as it means they have to stand behind the quality of their movements. Of course, this is something they should do regardless (and I’m not saying they don’t), but giving everyone who owns the watch the ability to see if it’s up to spec is a bit risky. As we all know, two movements from the same manufacturer—whether they’re ETA, Miyota, Nomos, or anyone else—will not work exactly the same, and it’s a manufacturing challenge for a brand to create consistency within fixed tolerances (not to mention the external stresses than can throw a watch off before it even gets to a customer).

The watches that will first sport the new Hybrid movement follow Frederique Constant’s more classical aesthetic, and they’re quite appealing. There are four with varying dial colors and cases, but the overall design is consistent. They feature 42mm cases, which is large but not uncommon for Frederique Constant, and nicely layered dials with a sunken hour track and big, mirrored sub-dials at six and twelve that make a statement. The dial is cut in such a way as to make it look like the hour track runs under the sub-dials, which has a nice effect.

The design definitely doesn’t say tech or smart watch, despite the mysterious 10 o’clock pusher which actuates the top sub-dial. But there is one nagging detail. With the brand logo pushed to nine, they left space for the word “Hybrid” at three. I understand why they did this, but it breaks up the sophisticated feel of the design, much like the unfortunate 10hz on the Breguet Classique Chromométrie 7727 (which seems to have gone from red to silver). That, and the word “Hybrid,” just aren’t sexy. It’s technical at best, fanciful or abstract at worst.

In the end, there’s still a lot to say and think about in regards to the idea of a hybrid smart watch, its utility, etc. I could do without the fitness tracking on my $3,500 watch, but the idea of an integrated horological diagnostic circuit is something I can really get behind. Just imagine a world where the majority of movements have this built in. Looking to buy a second hand watch? Just pull up its stats. Have a watch that has been in the attic for too many years? See if needs a tune up. It’s practical, smart, and a real way this technology can have horological implications. So, kudos to Frederique Constant for thinking of it and implementing it. Now I hope to see it find its way into more accessibly priced pieces.


To learn more, visit Frederique Constant.

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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