Three years ago, Frederique Constant built upon its legacy of affordable in-house complications with the launch of the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture in two distinct dial and case versions. This year, the Geneva-based manufacturer adds to the series with two new models whose faces feature two-tone styling, with contrasting silvered subdials against colorful main dials.
First, the basics: the latest versions of the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture — which the company says are designed for improved legibility and a sportier aesthetic from the originals — come in 42-mm-diameter cases in either stainless steel or rose-gold-plated stainless steel. The tricompax dial, dark blue in the steel model and chocolate brown in the gold-plated one, features subdials at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock for the 30-minute chronograph counter, hand-type date display, and small seconds indicator, respectively. A tachymeter scale, which can be used in conjunction with the flyback chronograph to time events — is printed on the dial’s outer edge.
Secondly, a refresher on what makes the watch’s in-house movement, the self-winding Caliber FC-760, so notable. It’s based on flyback chronographs of the 1930s, using a column wheel rotating on bearings to govern the stopwatch’s start, stop, and reset functions. Unlike conventional column wheels, which have several columns, this one is star-shaped. Working in unison with with the operating lever, which is controlled by the start/stop push-piece, this star-shaped wheel is responsible for the mechanism’s exceptionally smooth operation. The movement’s modular construction is comprised of 233 components, only 96 of which are dedicated to the flyback module — fewer than in most such mechanisms — contributing to the overall slimness of the caliber. The balance oscillates at a brisk 28,800 vph and the rotor swings in both directions to amass a 38-hour power reserve.
The other notable chronograph component is the clutch, whose function is to establish the connection between the movement, or power source, and the gearing, or under-dial work, when required. Most chronographs use one of three different types: the classic horizontal wheel coupling, the traditional oscillating pinion, or the modern, vertical friction clutch. Caliber FC-760 employs a new type of swiveling component with two toothed pinions. When the button is pressed, it connects the two “stories” together. At the lower level, in the watch movement proper, it takes up the rotation of the center seconds and conveys this, via the corresponding upper component, to the actuating mechanism to turn the chronograph hands. At the same time, the lower central seconds also drives the seconds hand at 9 o’clock, which turns continuously in unison. The rotations of the chronograph hand are “recorded” by the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock. Repeated pressing of the start/stop push-piece causes the clutch lever to pivot slightly. As the chronograph stops, a small locking lever ensures that the two stopped hands pause exactly at the last position chosen, offering ideal legibility. The user can repeat this stopping operation, via the upper push-piece, as often as needed; the chronograph will not be reset to zero until the lower push-piece is pressed.
Pressing the push-piece at 4 o’clock once re-starts the timer from zero. This push-piece and its associated mechanism are essentially performing three tasks in rapid succession, one after the other, for an instant flyback of the chronograph hand: first, disengaging the clutch; second, resetting the chronograph to zero by means of the single-piece hammer, whose sloping surfaces turn the two zero-reset hearts so that the hands may reposition themselves vertically; and third, re-engaging the clutch as soon as the push-piece is released. This highly complex sequence of movements proceeds directly from the push-piece to the clutch lever. The flyback module, attached to the base movement, Caliber FC-710, in a configuration designed to conserve energy between the mechanisms, is produced in-house by Frédérique Constant. The movement, on display behind a sapphire caseback, also boasts a variety of high-end finishes, including perlage and côtes de Genève.
Each of the new models comes on an alligator leather strap in a dial-matching dark blue or brown color with a deployant clasp stamped with the Frederique Constant logo. Retail prices have been announced as 3,895 euros (about $4,240) for the stainless steel, blue-dial model and 4,195 euros (about $4,565) for the rose-gold-plated, brown-dial version.