It’s hard to believe, but Frederique Constant celebrates their 35th anniversary this year. This is a brand that’s truly part of the old guard when it comes to the contemporary, affordable watch scene. Making the “nice Swiss watch” accessible to the masses was a big part of why the brand was founded, and over the course of their history the entire watch industry has changed multiple times over, currently finding itself in a healthy spot where more and better watches are finding their way onto the wrists of enthusiasts at a pace that couldn’t have have been imagined three decades ago. The line between “luxury” and “affordable” continues to shift, and there’s no doubt that Frederique Constant has played a role in those changes.
Specifically, Frederique Constant has broken new ground when it comes to making complicated watchmaking affordable. We all know about their excellent perpetual calendar, which they are still able to sell for a little less than $10,000 several years after its debut. But they also dabble in other historically significant and tech forward complications. Over the years we’ve seen everything from flyback chronographs to moon phases equipped watches, and of course their Slimline Monolithic with an ultra high frequency oscillator. But it could be argued that their signature complication, the one that the brand has leaned into the hardest and gained the most acclaim for, is the worldtimer. So it makes sense that for Frederique Constant’s 35th anniversary they’d debut a special worldtimer with a beautiful new dial variant as part of the Highlife series.
The new version of the Highlife Worldtimer Manufacture features a dial marked by various tones of brown. The outer section, where you’ll find the ring of cities that tell you the time across the globe at a glance, is a darker shade, while the interior globe motif is a softer shade. Half of the hour ring that separates the interior and exterior sectors is nearly beige, providing some welcome contrast. Brown dials are somewhat rare in modern watchmaking, but I’ve always felt it’s a versatile and classic color, and it’s nice to see it used here. Brown dials can convey a natural warmth when done well, and I think Frederique Constant has done a nice job here of presenting a brown that feels complex and luxurious.
The Highlife case, similar to Frederique Constant’s worldtimer execution, is fairly well understood by the watch community at this point. The design was introduced during the recent mania for all things integrated and stainless steel, and while it could been easily brushed off at one point as the brand trying to jump on a trend, they’ve stuck with it, and the Highlife now feels almost like a subsidiary brand unto itself within the Frederique Constant universe. It’s an attractive, strictly 70s inspired take on the integrated bracelet sports watch aesthetic, and comes in at a very wearable 41mm diameter while measuring 12.9mm tall.
The watch is powered by Frederique Constant’s FC-718 caliber, which is capable of tracking the time throughout the world by way of a rotating city disc, which when set properly always corresponds to the correct time in the interior hours disc. The worldtimer is a great, classic complication that has historically been used in watches that epitomize luxury and extreme wealth. They are mechanically quite ingenious, but of course you pay a price for that. Frederique Constant is one of a small subset of brands that has truly democratized the worldtimer. It’s a niche watchmaking achievement to be sure, but one that Frederique Constant should take some pride in.
The new Highlife Worldtimer Manufacture is available beginning in March directly through Frederique Constant. The retail price is $4,495. Frederique Constant