Frederique Constant is best known for their affordable luxury watches that riff on classical styles. Their catalogue appeals to watch enthusiasts who want value-for-money complications like a flyback chronograph or a perpetual calendar in a mechanical watch. In a year when steel watches with integrated bracelets have made a massive comeback, Frederique Constant ups the ante by introducing an affordable high complication in a steel case with, hold your breath, an integrated bracelet. Without further ado, meet the Highlife Manufacture Perpetual Calendar.
It’s not often that you hear of a perpetual calendar timepiece under $10,000, so pay attention. The new model is a part of the Highlife collection, an update on a time-only model that was first released 20 years ago. The updated models have a strap-and-bracelet system that allows the wearer to alternate between steel, crococalf (that’s a calf leather strap with an embossed crocodile scale), and rubber strap.
For those who don’t know, a perpetual calendar complication is a complex mechanism that allows the mechanical watch’s calendar displays to automatically adjust the day, date and month and account for leap years. The Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture features the company’s in-house-made FC-775 movement, which famously debuted in their first perpetual calendar in 2016.
Frederique Constant calls the self-winding FC-775 “one of the most innovative yet easy to assemble perpetual calendar[s] ever produced”. Once adjusted, the watch – like all perpetual calendars, many of them with significantly higher price tags – will take into account the months with 30 and 31 days, the 28 days of February, and also the leap-year cycle, adding a 29th day to February every four years. The watch, providing it is kept in running condition, would not need adjustments until March 1, 2100.
A result of two years of R&D, Calibre FC-775 measures just 6.7 mm thick and consists of 191 parts, which is unusual for a perpetual calendar [To compare: Patek Philippe’s Calibre 324 SQ comprises 367 components]. A movement with lesser parts is easier to mass-produce and assemble. It has a power reserve of 38 hours and the finishing of the movement is executed by CNC machines [as opposed to hand-finished in a higher-end movements] including the perlage and circular Côtes de Genève decoration on the bridges and plates.
Three style variations are available. One is a two-tone model that combines steel with rose-gold plating on the bezel, crown, hour and minute hands, and bracelet. The case is 41 mm wide and is water-resistant to 50 meters. It comes on a textured black rubber strap with a rose gold-plated buckle. The other two are in all-steel cases, one with a blue dial with silver-colored hands and hour indices, mounted on a steel bracelet, the other with a silvered dial and mounted on a black leather strap.
The Highlife Perpetual Calendar is $9,095 for the steel-on-leather version, $9,295 for steel on a bracelet, and $9,495 for two-tone steel-and-gold on a bracelet.