Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Review

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The price of a watch is such a loaded topic that it’s sometimes difficult to make head or tails of. There are so many considerations, layers, factors, etc… that go into that price tag. From the region it was manufactured in to marketing and PR to provenance to simply the positioning of the brand in the market, it all effects the cost in the end. We’ve all seen watches with prices that are too good to be true that largely get ignored by the watch world as well as watches that clearly cost too much, yet have devout followings. As a website dedicated to affordable and accessible watches (which there is a difference between) we try to find watches that exemplify good qualities from build to design that have seemingly honest price tags (another loaded term).

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The watch we are going to discuss today is expensive compared to much of what we discuss, yet remarkably well priced for what it is. It might not be “affordable”, but it’s accessible in that the price is not so stratospheric that it couldn’t be reached through saving, selling old watches, a bonus from a good year. And, it is in our opinion that this watch, the Frédérique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture, is a watch worth saving for.

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Frédérique Constant is not like other Swiss watch brands. They are a relative new comer, being founded in the 1988 by Peter and Aletta Stas, who have approached Swiss watchmaking with a specific set of values, which is best described in their own words:

“Our philosophy is not to restrict the interest in Frédérique Constant Genève timepieces just to connoisseurs, but deliberately also to reach a broader selection of appreciative enthusiasts who want to enjoy high quality and timeless yet classical watches at sensible prices.”

Of course, brand philosophies are only as good as their realization in product form, and this is where Frederique Constant has truly succeeded. They have various lines at various price points, starting around $1,000 and stopping at $40k for a tourbillon, but the gem of their offerings is their mid-tier manufacture movements watches. FC has gone and done what so many other brands in the sub $5,000 price bracket seem incapable of doing, and created accessibly priced Swiss made in-house calibers.

Starting at around $2,500 for their Classic Manufacture Automatic, which has 3-hands and a small pointer date, FC has a small, but growing line of manufacture watches available at retail. When you think about many of the so called entry-level luxury brands you see at a major watch AD, you’ll find brands with prices much higher than this, and names that are better known, that are using the same ETA movements you’ll find in watches under $1,000. This puts Frederique Constant, and their sister brand Alpina, in a league of their own. The only other brand that is doing something similar is Nomos of Glashuette, Germany, another w&w favorite, though their aesthetic and approach to design is vastly different.

The Frédérique Constant Slimline Moonphase, which was released at BaselWorld 2013, really defines this notion of accessible luxury. It’s an elegant dress watch with a classic, restrained style, fine finishing and genuine in-house Swiss made automatic moon phase caliber beating away inside. This isn’t only cool from a conceptual point of view, the movement itself is beautifully designed and decorated, making flipping the watch over equally as pleasurable as wearing it. To my knowledge, this is the most inexpensive contemporary Swiss manufacture moon phase, coming in at $3,550, around a half to a third of the next most reasonable.

$3550

Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Review

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
FC-705
Dial
Blue
Lume
No
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Alligator
Water Resistance
30m
Dimensions
42 x 47.5mm
Thickness
11.5mm
Lug Width
21mm
Crown
6.5 x 3.5mm
Warranty
2 years
Price
$3550

Case

The name “Slimline” refers to the restrained aesthetic and elegantly curving case design of the watch. Measuring 42 x 47.5 x 11.5 mm (to the top of the domed sapphire), the watch has surprising dimensions for a dress watch. This could throw some people, dress-watch purists, who believe a proper dress watch is closer to 38mm. I often would agree with that sentiment, but this watch just works, which is easier to grasp in wrist shots. The bowl-shaped geometry has a constant flow to it, which creates a gentle and attractive form. From the bezel, it quickly curves underneath, so the mass of the case is sort of invisible, emphasizing the dial and limiting the overall size. On top of this, the proportions of the case and the layout of the dial (that is to say the positioning of the date/moon phase complication, the size of the markers, etc) are just right.

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The flowing case curves are really quite stunning, given the watch the feel of a polished stone. This is particularly noticeable in the transition from bezel to sapphire crystal, which is nearly seamless. Protruding out of the case are medium sized straight lugs. They angle downward slightly for ergonomics and have a very simple finger-shaped profile. The lugs break the flow of the case, but maintain the restrained aesthetic. They are, in essence, fairly plain, but for the overall effect of cleanliness and a lack of flashy details.

Off of three is a medium-sized push pull onion crown. Perhaps the most ornate external detail, the crown has deep grooves which follow the form to nearly a point, resembling the “onion domes” of Russian Orthodox churches. As such, the crown is not signed (there is no space to sign), but the form is very elegant and quite nice to grasp.

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Flipping the watch over, you are presented with a massive display window showing the gorgeous FC-705 movement within. We’ll get to the decorations later, but this is a movement you’ll find yourself gawking at often. The kind of movement that will prompt you to take the watch off when you are at your desk and lay it face down (on a soft surface, of course) so you can simply admire the metal. Around the window is a thin polished steel rim with black script indicating various details about the watch.

The Slimline Moon phase case is entirely polished. This works well with the look of the watch, emphasizing the curves as well as the markers on the dial. That said, part of me wishes there was a surprise detail or two somewhere. Perhaps brushing on the lugs or a beveled edge somewhere. It’s not that the polishing looks plain even, just on a watch this price I’d personally like a bit more finishing to speak of. Of course, restrained does mean holding back, and the movement is far from lacking, so perhaps their discipline is to be commended.

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Dial

The dial of the Frédérique Constant Slimline Moon phase continues the muted elegance of the case with a simple yet rich design. The watch is available with a few dial color options, chocolate brown, silver/white and, what we have here, dark blue. There is an oil paint color called “prussian blue”, which is the most similar color I can think of. When thick, it’s nearly black, with subtle hints of a cold tone. Thinned out, it ranges from midnight to a deep navy. Simply put, its one of the most gorgeous blues I’ve seen on a dial. The color is emphasized by both a slight sunburst and a mildly domed form, which throw of flares of navy as the light changes. The range of color gives it much greater depth than a black sunburst dial might have achieved.

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The primary index consists of thin polished steel applied batons, doubling at 12 and a bit longer at 3 and 9. Nothing more, nothing less, just a baton per hour/five-minute increment. The batons themselves all have a slightly pyramidal shape, so they glimmer in the light nicely. The watch lacks an active seconds hand, so there is no seconds track, and the whole thing is quite calm and still.

The weight of the dial is put on the date and moon phase complication at 6. Rather than having a date window, as we see much more often, FC designed their movements to have a small pointer date. As such, what might look like a small seconds at a glance is in fact the date indicator. Around the beveled sub-dial, which measures several millimeters in diameter, is an index of numerals and dots in white for the date. The font is very clean, with some interesting design details, such as the spiraling 9. My only issue with the look of this area is that the “31” and “1” are very close, almost read “311”, and seeming a bit cluttered, though this same issue can be seem on other watches with similar complications. Despite being smaller than the typical windowed presentation, the date is very easy to read at a glance.

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Within this sub-dial is the moon phase display, which consists of both a disk and the window shape. The disk beneath features the moon (or two moons to be precise) and a smattering of stars in a golden tone and a deep teal night sky. This rotates within the specifically shaped aperture, which simulates the Earth’s shadow and thus creates the phases. The execution of the moon phase is very classical and looks great within the reserved dial. As a complication, a moon phase is not the most practical, far from it, but it has prestige and almost a mystical air. Suddenly, you’re not related to a moment on the work calendar, but something celestial and far larger than you. Furthermore, as a piece of decoration, it’s cool that it has function.

The hour and minute hand are long, thin leaf shapes made of polished steel. The form works perfectly with the design, tying the slender batons together with the flowing case. A nice detail here is the minute hand curves down slightly with the dome of the dial. The date hand has similar shape, but appears to be a bit more faceted and has a counter weight. Once again, these reinforce the restrained elegance of the watch as a whole.

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Regarding the size of the watch, the layout and proportions of the dial justify the size as a whole. This is a dial where nothing is out of place and everything occupies the right amount of terrain. Specifically, the date/moon phase sub-dial. If the case diameter changed, the center of this dial would remain the same as it is forced by the movement design. So, either the diameter of the area would have to decrease, or the markers at 4, 5 and 6 would have to be overcome, at which point the date index would likely be too close to the edge… it’s a balancing act, and I think the larger size was the better choice.

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Movement: FC-705

Everything we’ve discussed so far regarding the Frédérique Constant Slimline Moon phase has hopefully indicated it’s a very nice watch, but the real magic and much of the value and price come from the movement within. In terms of both design and execution, the FC movements are a real treat for the eyes, and certainly amongst the best decorated of anything we’ve seen on the site. The movement is a 26-jewel automatic with manual wind, hacking seconds (though there is no seconds hand in play), small pointer date, moon phase and a frequency of 28,800 bph.

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The first thing that struck me about the movement was its layout. It’s almost completely symmetrical, with an emphasis on the large and fully exposed balance, which sits center, behind 6. Having looked at other FC watches as well as Alpina watches, I believe the design of their calibers is modular, as the general layout seems to stay true regardless of the watch. Even when you look at their Slimline Tourbillon movement, you’ll see the same architecture, with the balance removed, the plates skeletonized through to the dial and the tourbillon in their place. From a manufacturing perspective, this is very smart for the brand, as it allows them to create more calibers without having to start from scratch on each one.

Then, the finishing strikes you. Everything here is decorated in some way, creating a beautiful, layered display of fine watchmaking. Under the balance is a plate featuring a small diameter perlage. Stepping up from there, you have several plates each with what appears to be different gauges of perlage, creating a set of dynamic surfaces, each of which are studded with heat blued screws. Stepping up one more layer, you have the automatic winding bridge which features circular Cote De Geneve, with a beautiful spiraling grain and a beveled edge. Topping it all off is the skeletonized gold tone rotor with engraved Frédérique Constant Manufacture text.

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Another nice feature of the FC-705 is how you interact with it. Unlike many moon phase watches, all functions are controlled through the one crown (versus indented pushers along the case). With the crown pulled out one stop, you turn it away from you to change the date, moving forwards only. Also in first position, you turn the crown towards you and you will jump the moon phase disk clockwise a small amount. This makes setting it, should the watch run out of juice, very easy. That said, moon phases are presented in various terms and percentages which aren’t going to help you set it with great precision, so you’ll be eyeballing it. Luckily, a slightly off moon phase is probably not going to cause you much trouble.

Straps and Wearability

The Slimline Moonphase comes mounted on a 21mm blue Alligator strap. It’s a beautiful strap with a nice, rigid feel that compliments the watch well. The dark blue has a slight sheen, which brings out deep blue dial, while the subtly off-white stitching reflects the steel. The contrast stitching is actually a bit of an interesting choice, as it’s perhaps less formal, but I think it works well. With the larger case diameter and dial that does speak to mid-century designs, there is a casual bend to the watch as well. Not t-shirt and shorts casual, but office appropriate attire. The 21mm lug width is a bit of an inconvenience, though it can be worked around. The blue strap works exceptionally well, but for variety and versatility, I’d seek out a mid-dark brown gator for this as well.

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On the wrist the watch wears beautifully. The 42mm diameter is large, but it works, especially because of the tame lug-to-lug. Yes, it’s big for a dress watch, but it’s modest and elegant enough to come across as formal, while the added width makes it all the more handsome and masculine. For those of you with larger wrists who find smaller watches are dwarfed when on, this is a nice alternative. That said, on my mid-sized 7″ wrist, I still found it very appropriate.

Aesthetically, this watch is cleanliness incarnate. It’s quiet, reticent, only being noticed when needed. And when noticed, it reveals slowly. First, the deep blue dial draws you in, then the glints of light off of the markers and hands, lastly the pointer date and moon phase add some texture and complexity. It’s kind of everything you want in a formal watch. And as an accessible luxury watch, it also hits the mark. It’s not vying for attention, it doesn’t scream its price tag, it just exudes quality and confidence.

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The blue is also an interesting color to pair with. It’s dark enough, or close to black enough, to work with a dark blue suit, though grey is probably preferable as clashing is possible. In just business casual attire, it becomes a bit more playful. Wear this with a patterned shirt with some blue in it, and it will come alive, or a solid oxford and the contrast will be greater. Since blue shoes are probably not your go to, I think this still works well with medium to dark brown as well as burgundy.

Conclusion

Well, it should be pretty clear that I am a big fan of the Frédérique Constant Slimline Moonphase. It’s simply a gorgeous watch that could very easily be one’s go-to formal timepiece. That’s apart from the remarkable fact that it features a genuine Swiss made manufacture movement, one that is a pleasure to view. Combining those two things turns this watch into something special and very rare in the watch market.

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Of course, that has to be something you are looking for to care about. It certainly raises the price of the piece dramatically, even if it’s still one of the great deals currently available. At $3,550 the Slimline Moonphase is far from inexpensive, far from a watch one buys on a whim. But, if there were ever qualities, especially in a modern watch, that would make it stand out and be worthy of saving up for, this has them.

Even if this specific watch doesn’t do it for you, Frédérique Constant is clearly a brand worth keeping an eye on. It’s hard to emphasize enough how exceptional it is that this fairly young brand who is just getting their name out there (at least in the US) is able to create manufacture movements, let alone in Geneva, Switzerland. And that the watches with these movements are able have a starting price of $2,500 at retail, which inflates cost unto itself. As it seems like their business is doing very well, I believe they produced over 120,000 watches last year, it is likely very exciting things will be around the corner.

Images from this post:
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.
wornandwound zsw
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23 responses to “Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Review”

  1. Ryan says:

    Affects 🙂

    Love the slimline moonphase. Frederique Constant is one of my new favorite watch brands. I’m looking at their models around the $1000 mark for a coming purchase. I would love to see more reviews of their line!

  2. Altan says:

    A crystal clear review again as we get used to it..

    Mr Weiss, you have redefined the standards of watch review !

  3. austin says:

    great review – what are those oxblood/burgundy shoes you have in the photos? I’m trying desperately to find a watchstrap in that tone – i wish W&W would re-up on their Model 1 in Crimson (hint hint!)

  4. w&w says:

    Thanks Altan!

  5. Chris says:

    Absolutely stunning watch. Frederique Constant just showed up on my radar and I am blown away by the value for the money.

    Thanks for another great review.

  6. Porter says:

    Beautiful watch and awesome review as always. At that price point there may be some stiff competition IMHO. Longines Master Collection for example with a moonphase chronograph for under 3k–which may not be an appropriate comparison but that kinda cabbage will certainly broaden the field lol.

  7. Stephen says:

    I just wish it was more classically-sized. Doesn’t have to be 35mm, but 39 would be classy.

  8. Vadim says:

    Great review!
    But i thought i had already seen that watch at 800$..
    Was it me who overlooked it, or is there a cheaper version of this one (with the moon phase)? Because i already saw that one on your instagram and loved it!

  9. bene says:

    I don’t think moonphase, date and 42m is dress watch. More accepting business casual you’ve called them 🙂

  10. Eric Henao says:

    Note of caution. Keep in mind what servicing costs are going to cost you every 5 years for a watch of this caliber. Just sayin’…

  11. Timothy says:

    I picked this watch up about a month ago. Unreal watch! The detailing of the movement that Zack pointed out is a sight to see. I have several other watches costing much more than this, but this is every bit as nice, if not more. The blue dial is definitely the way to go! A brown or tan strap looks great next to the blue dial. This is a watch everyone should be familiar with.

  12. Stephen says:

    I am really tempted by this watch, although I really do wish it came in a smaller version. I’d probably get the white dial.

  13. Rob says:

    Nice watch, but a little too big and clumsy for its style. And also too pricey for this “affordable” blog.

  14. Rob says:

    Actually I f. hate these kind of no sec hand watches. They’re all like dead, like you never know if they stopped or still working. I’d always have the feeling of being late…

  15. Thanks for the detailed review and video, I have been keeping my eye on this watch for a while now, I love almost everything about it and would have bought it for SURE if not for the LACK OF A SECONDS HAND! I know you are a dress watch, but WHYYYY??? 🙁

  16. user88 says:

    nice watch, but a clear rip off the JLC ultra thin moon. I definitely see the value, but I’d rather purchase the JLC at around 7k

  17. RSG says:

    The case diameter is at least 2mm too large. Otherwise, it’s not a bad contender, thought the white dial model is preferable.

    Comparisons are often made to the JLC Master Ultra Thin Moon but I’d say the Girard Perregaux 1966 series is the obvious inspiration here.

  18. I have been wearing this watch for a few months. I really love it, and it truly feels much more expensive that it is. That is a hard accomplishment, but FC did it. The dial is magnificent, and this article about the watch is spot on. The only thing I do not like is the clasp. It feels pedestrian, and it is not up to the quality of the rest of the components. They make a folding clasp, but did not put it on this model, to keep the price down. I think it was a mistake.

  19. blowfish says:

    This makes my future grail list.

  20. Greg Brindley says:

    Ivé owned an FC slimline moonphase for the past 18 months and love it. It has been mistaken for a GP on a few occassions.