Frédérique Constant set many watch-media tongues wagging at Baselworld 2016 with the introduction of its most complicated watch to date, a perpetual calendar with in-house caliber priced under $9,000. With its newest piece, the Classics Art of Porcelain, the brand strives not for new heights of affordable horological complexity but rather classical simplicity.
The new watch, the latest in Frédérique Constant’s Classics collection, is limited to just 188 pieces and has as its signature feature a hand-made porcelain dial with accentuated black Roman numeral indices. Each dial is made by the craftsmen at Hungary’s Zsolnay Porcelain Manufacture, a world-renowned producer of porcelain, tiles and stoneware, which was established in 1853 and gained worldwide recognition after receiving a Grand Prix for its products at the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris.
Porcelain is a type of ceramic made from heating materials in a kiln at extremely high temperatures — generally between 2,200 and 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit — to produce a final product that is tougher, stronger and more translucent than other types of pottery, mainly through a process of vitrification and the formation in the body of a mineral called mullite, or porcelainite. Unlike other types of pottery, which are fired at lower temperatures, it does not need glazing, though some have it applied for decorative effect. Highly valued for its longtime association with royalty and imperial courts, for which porcelain objects were often given as tributes and gifts, this material is exceedingly rare in watchmaking.
The Frédérique Constant Classics Art of Porcelain (Ref. FC-302P4S6) comes in a 40-mm-diameter, three-part case made of polished stainless steel. Aside from the two central hands for hours and minutes sweeping above it, the porcelain dial is graced only by the black printed Roman numerals and minute track, the brand logo below 12 o’clock, and the “Swiss Made” and “Fait Main” (Made by Hand) – Porcelain Enamel – Automatic” indications around 6 o’clock.
The “Fait Main” refers, of course, to the exceptional dial, whereas the “Automatic” refers to the watch’s movement, Frédérique Constant’s self-winding Caliber FC-302 — with 25 jewels, a 28,800-vph frequency, and a 42-hour power reserve — which is on display through a sapphire window in the watch’s caseback. Completing the picture is a black leather “crococalf” strap. The watch will be available at retail in September, priced at $2,195.