For many watch collectors, the perpetual calendar is something of a peak in the world of complications. The reason, I think, is that it’s so easily understood as an impressive bit of engineering, even as the technical know-how and skill to create one is beyond the scope of many. The ability of a mechanical device the size of a coin to keep track of the number of days in a month, plus know the leap year, is somewhat mind boggling when you consider it in the abstract. As long as perpetual calendars have existed, there’s been a price premium associated with them, which only goes to bolster their aspirational and somewhat mysterious status in the mind of watch lovers. That idea shifted slightly a few years ago, however, when Frederique Constant introduced their Slimline Perpetual Calendar, an aggressively priced in-house perpetual from a brand that’s become known for delivering serious complications at competitive, enthusiast focused price points. Now the brand is back with a revamped Highlife collection, which includes a new sporty take on their in-house perpetual calendar movement, which seems built for the particular watch moment we find ourselves in.
It doesn’t have to be said at this point, but steel sports watches are kind of a thing in the watch world right now. So it makes sense that Frederique Constant would fit their automatic FC-775 perpetual calendar movement into a watch that has the integrated bracelet look that is so sought after by many. This watch feels directly inspired by sports watches of the 1970s, with its tonneau case and sporty bracelet (which is easily removable and swappable with rubber and leather straps). Case finishing appears to be a mix of brushed and polished surfaces, with prominent vertical brushing on the topside of the tonneau case and high polish on the rounded bezel. The vibe here is sporty, but not in a “tool watch, let’s go diving” way. It’s more of a “I’m on a boat!” flavor.
While the aesthetic is certainly tied to current sports watch trends, I wouldn’t say that the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is style over substance. The movement is genuinely interesting and represents a real value proposition for watch lovers who want to get into a serious complication without spending a literal fortune. The Highlife perpetual isn’t cheap (it ranges between $9,095 and $9,495 depending on strap/bracelet options, and if you want a two-tone look with gold plated center links and case accents), but it’s at least several thousands of dollars away from the traditional entry level for this complication.
The Highlife has a traditional dial layout for a perpetual calendar, with a month and leap year indicator at 12:00, a 31 day counter at 3:00, and a day of the week sub dial at 9:00. A moonphase aperture at 6:00 balances the dial and adds a layer of refinement to the whole presentation. Hour markers are suitably sporty and lume filled, as are the hands. Importantly, the case of the Highlife measures 41mm x 12.65mm, a hair smaller than the original Slimline, and makes good use of the smaller dial, which feels quite a bit more in proportion here than in the slightly larger watch from a few years ago. The sub dials feel more centered, which represents an improvement in my view. Further, there’s a globe pattern underneath the sub dials which, in a literal sense, serves to connect them visually while adding a stylistic flourish.
As alluded to above, Frederique Constant is offering the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture in a few different variants. The most basic is a white dialed option on a leather strap, with the next step being the blue dialed version on the stainless steel bracelet. The top of the range is a two-tone colorway, also on a bracelet, with gold plated accents throughout. All versions come with a rubber strap included that can be swapped without the use of a tool. The Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is now available through Frederique Constant. Frederique Constant