An aspect of watch buying that has become cheaper in recent years is the world-timer complication. Coincidentally , this is a watch complication suited to foreign travel, simultaneously displaying the time in 24 locations around the globe.
The world timer was invented by Louis Cottier in 1931 and is a very useful complication. Cottier created watches for several prestigious brands, including Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. However, in the last few years, rather than the world timer being merely the preserve of the most prestigious maisons, a touch of egalitarianism has crept in, with more accessible offerings entering the fray. No longer does the notion of owning a world timer necessitate parting with a five-figure sum, as Frédérique Constant perfectly demonstrates with its Manufacture Worldtimer, costing £3090 (RRP as at 15.12.2014). I recently grasped the opportunity to handle this watch and appraise its specification.
This particular model is part of a limited series of 1,888 pieces featuring a Clous de Paris hobnail motif center-stage. Black Breguet hands convey the hour and minutes with exquisite poise. The hour track is marked with Roman numerals, except at its southern aspect, where it defers to a circular date display, presented on a subdial. The prevailing time in the respective 24 time zones is shown on a two-tone display adjacent the hour track. Nocturnal hours are shown in white text on a black background while daylight hours are presented in a black font on a white background. In my opinion, a potential drawback with some world timer watches is that the display can appear somewhat congested. However, Frédérique Constant has managed to produce a refreshingly legible display which is enhanced with contrasting textures and harmonious detail. The “guilloché” is stamped and could never be fairly compared with the peerless dials featured on Breguet or Vacheron Constantin timepieces, created using a rose-engine lathe. However, the Frédérique Constant timepiece does not operate within the same price segment as these luxurious exemplars of haute horologerie; rather, it offers a more affordable taste of luxury.
Prior to knowing the retail price of the watch, I picked it up and readily placed it upon my arm, appreciating its golden tones. It was only after hearing of its asking price that I discovered the case was not made of solid rose gold but rather rose gold-plated steel.
I confess to being a bit of a watch snob, and ordinarily I would dismiss a case that was plated. However, I then reflected on other watches I have written about. I have never exhibited the same horological snootiness over PVD- or DLC-coated steel. Perhaps, with an air of superiority, I was unfairly dismissing several worthy watches. Again, it comes back to cost and value. The case of the Frédérique Constant is clearly lighter than if it had been produced solely of 18k rose gold, but I was initially fooled by its appearance. I prefer the warmth of its case when compared with its plain steel-case sibling. This plated version attracts only a negligible price premium over the plain steel variant and is worth the additional outlay.
The case diameter of the watch is 42 mm and is blessed with sufficient scale to adequately display the functions without appearing cluttered. Conversely, the watch does not appear unduly cumbersome, proving comfortable to wear.
The caseback includes a sapphire crystal, revealing the self-winding movement within.
The FC-718 Worldtimer Manufacture Caliber is automatic, and a clear demonstration of the impressive vertical integration of Frédérique Constant.
The oscillating mass is open-worked, revealing much of the surface decoration below. Indeed, the Genevan watch brand has chosen to show off a significant proportion of the movement, with the balance visible in its entirety. A large proportion of the mainplate is exposed with perlage much in evidence and a circular côtes de Genéve motif graces the large central bridge. Blued screws also feature on the movement.
The movement has a simple, tidy design. The finishing is good, considering the modest pricing, and it is a manufacture movement, which is unusual within this market segment. An area that is particularly impressive is the operation of the city disk using merely the crown. Often an additional push-piece is necessary. The approach adopted by Frédérique Constant grants a welcome purity of line.
I appreciate the charms of the Frédérique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer. It offers an impressive specification for a relatively modest sum. There is clearly a difference between the Frédérique Constant and those select brands that populate the highest echelons of horology. With additional outlay, the case material would have been solid gold, the movements would be finished to a higher standard with a greater degree of hand craftsmanship in evidence. However, not everyone is able to afford this degree of rarefied excellence. Frédérique Constant has cleverly captured the aesthetic appeal of costlier timepieces and achieved economies without losing the sense of luxury.
- Model: Frederique Constant Manufacture Worldtimer
- Reference: FC-718MC4H4
- Case: Rose gold plated stainless steel; diameter 42 mm; height 12.1mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds; date; world timer
- Movement: FC-718, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz), 26 jewels; power reserve of 42 hours.
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap presented on a rose gold plated pin buckle
- Price: £3090 (RRP as at 15.12.2014)