Frédérique Constant has long been known for producing quality timepieces at reasonable prices. Now the brand is stepping into the big leagues with a limited edition tourbillon with a technically-advanced manufacture movement and a grand feu enamel dial in a rose gold case, priced at less than you might think. Find complete specs, wallpaper and pricing inside.
Enameling is an ancient technique where finely powdered colored glass is applied to a metal plate. The metal plate with the glass powder is then baked in an oven hot enough to melt the glass. This enameling process produces a beautiful deep, shiny surface. Only few of the plates will survive the 900+ degree Celsius fire and produce an even surface. The slightest imperfection in the mixed powder or the supporting metal plate, or even a speck of dust will ruin the dial. That’s why today, genuine enamel dials are made by only a handful of companies.
Beneath the finely-crafted dial lies the Caliber FC-980 one-minute tourbillon. Based on its Heart Beat manufacture caliber, Frédérique Constant developed its tourbillon in-house with some unique features:
– Silicium (or Silicon) escape wheel and lever
– Smart Weight Balancing system
– Fast oscillation – 28’800 vph
Silicium (or Silicon) Escape Wheel
The Silicium escape wheel and lever have the following three main advantages:
1. The escapement runs without need for lubrication, avoiding problems caused by age-related thinning and drying of oil, and there is no risk of lubrication spreading to other parts of the movement.
2. The escape wheel is very light, and so offers low inertia. As it is accelerated and stopped at each tick and tock of the watch, it runs with greater efficiency.
3. Lower friction reduces loss of energy, so the caliber’s energy requirements are lower.
Given these advantages, the Frédérique Constant escape wheel has an amplitude of over 300 degrees in dial-up and dial-down positions. Even in the crown-down position, the amplitude is over 275 degrees, which is excellent performance.
Smart Weight Balancing
The Frédérique Constant tourbillon cage consists of 80 individual parts. Each part is produced to a tolerance of 1-2 micron, or .001 to .002 mm. Many of the parts are produced on Frédérique Constant’s ultra-precise CNC machines in Plan-les-Ouates. These custom-made CNC machines have a tolerance of 1 micron on the X and Y axes and 2 microns on the Z axis. Even with this level of precision, it is impossible to achieve perfectly equal distribution of weight in the individual parts, yet for a tourbillon to run accurately, an equal distribution of weight is essential. Frédérique Constant solved this problem with its patented “Smart Screw” system on the outer edge of the tourbillon cage. At first, the cage is constructed with a slight over-weight opposite the Smart Screw system on the main cage wheel. Thereafter, a skilled watchmaker balances the weight into the center of the tourbillon cage by adding or exchanging tiny metal rings under the two screws on the main cage wheel. Typically, 8 hours are required for a watchmaker to adjust the tiny rings and balance the weight perfectly for the entire tourbillon cage.
The Frédérique Constant tourbillon runs at 4 Hertz or 28,800 vph. Most competing tourbillons run at 3 Hertz. The higher rate enables higher timekeeping accuracy. The higher oscillation also makes the caliber less susceptible to gyration effects.
The Frédérique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon Grand Feu will be produced in a limited edition of 188 pieces, priced at $46,500 in the U.S. The edition number of each piece is engraved on both the tourbillon top plate and the case.
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