Frederique Constant Reimagines The Highlife Collection With Modern Design And An Integrated Bracelet
A unique new integrated bracelet and new complications further elevate these accessible luxury timepieces.
Here’s a brief timeline of Frederique Constant. In 1988, Aletta and Peter Staas started the company with a mission to create and produce luxury timepieces. In 1999, the launched the Highlife collection with two series: the Triple-Time and the Heart-Beat. Over the years, the brand has become celebrated for the value proposition of its haute horology offerings, especially after Frederique Constant introduced its first tourbillon in 2000.
While 1999 doesn’t seem that long ago, the sporty Highlife collection has become a classic, and in fact, the look of its unique integrated bracelet is very much in vogue again. Never a company to rest on its laurels, Frederique Constant decided it was time to update and reinvigorate the collection by adding three new models: Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture, Highlife Heart Beat, and Highlife Automatic COSC.
We talked to Niels Eggerding, Managing Director of Frederique Constant, about the new Highlife collection and the ongoing elevation of the brand’s accessible luxury strategy.
The heart of Frederique Constant’s philosophy is making high-end Swiss-made watches accessible to a wider demographic. This was the prime directive when the original Highlife collection was introduced in 1999, and it is the guiding principle for the three new models.
The idea of luxury had changed. In the last 30 years, buyers have become savvier and more educated about the art of watchmaking. Younger collectors are interested in both finish and function. And by reinvigorating the sport-chic Highlife Collection, said Eggerding, Frederique Constant hopes not only to attract buyers who are rewarding themselves with their first high-end timepiece but also to make them life-long customers.
Speaking from Geneva via Zoom, Eggerding said that although Frederique Constant, the brand still has a story to tell, and although the Highlife series was successful, “we had to redesign to enrich our story.”
While each of the three models has the same 41mm case as the original collection, it still took two years of development before Eggerding and his team were happy with the evolution of the Highlife. “The goal,” he said, “is to attract new customers without losing old customers. If you do it wrong, you could damage the brand.”
Fortunately, Frederique Constant has done it right. While the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture, Highlife Heart Beat, and Highlife Automatic COSC are three distinctly different kinds of watches, thematically, the collection is unified by dials that all feature a globe motif. This decorative element is meant to symbolize the Earth and the circle of life.
Snap Out Of It
Another characteristic the Highlife trio shares is an integrated bracelet sans horns. “This bracelet is very important to us,” Eggerding said. This design makes the watch more flexible and comfortable to wear. It is also much more complicated and difficult to execute as the process requires seamless flow between the case and the links. Integrated bracelets always make a watch look more premium, but they can also be stiff and pinchy. “We got back to the small details. Little curves on the connections are not good enough,” he added. And even though computer renderings were made in early design stages, “the final design needed to be done on the wrist.”
Eggerding virtually demonstrated the new system, and it looked light and fluid. Another advantage of the integrated bracelet is that even at 41mm, it doesn’t overwhelm the wrist.
If that’s not enough, the bracelet can be swapped out without the use of additional tools or accessories. In seconds, the Highlife can be restyled from a sporty stainless steel bracelet to a more modern rubber strap, by simply pressing on the two pushpins to disconnect and then snapping a new one into place.
All new Highlife models come with either a stainless steel bracelet or alligator leather strap plus an additional rubber strap. A set of three additional crocodile calf suede straps in brown, blue, and black can be bought separately.
This Year's Models
Of the three 2020 Highlife introductions, the most stunning is the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture. This complication represents a level of watchmaking that few brands can achieve. And to top it off, it features a Frederique Constant FC-775 in-house movement. This self-winding mechanical caliber beats at a frequency of 28,800 vph and boasts a power reserve of 38 hours.
In addition to the technical excellence, each mechanism features outstanding finishes – you can view the perlage and Côtes de Genève through the sapphire crystal caseback. On the dial side, you’ll find three counters: a day display at 9 o’clock, month and leap year at 12 o’clock, and a date at 3 o’clock. There is also a moon phase at 6 o’clock. The hands are hand-polished, and the index hour markers are painted with luminescent material for maximum legibility.
There are three variations in the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture series. The first (Ref. FC-775V4NH2B) has two-tone steel and rose gold plating on the bezel, bracelet, and crown. Rose gold-plated hands and index hour markers are set against a white dial decorated with a globe motif.
The second version (Ref. FC-775N4NH6B) features a polished stainless steel case and a blue dial with silver color applied hands and index hour markers, both treated with white luminescence.
The third version (Ref. FC-775S4NH6) also has a polished stainless steel case and comes with a white dial that is contrasted by a black leather or rubber strap.
What really blows our minds is the fact that Frederique Constant made a Perpetual Calendar for under $10,000. “It’s not easy,” said Eggerding, “but it’s in our DNA.”
For many enthusiasts, the Heart Beat is Frederique Constant’s signature timepiece. And now the manufacture is bringing the prodigal watch back into the Highlife family.
Initially released over 25 years ago, this inventive mechanism reveals its inner workings through a dial side aperture, which shows the rotation of the balance wheel, the beating heart of the watch.
The new Highlife Heart Beat series brings this iconic innovation into the 21st century with a more modern, minimalistic display. And now, you can admire the automatic FC-310 caliber from the front and back through sapphire crystals.
The Highlife Heart Beat is also available in three different versions. The first (Ref. FC-310V4NH4) has a polished stainless steel and rose gold-plated case and comes with a white dial and brown leather and rubber straps.
The second (Ref. FC-310N4NH6B) features a polished stainless steel case and navy blue dial with a steel bracelet and blue rubber strap.
The third (Ref. FC-310B4NH6B) has a black dial as well as a stainless steel case and bracelet and black rubber strap.
“It’s a testament to Peter and Aletta’s strong point of view,” said Eggerding. The foundation the Staas laid gave Eggerding the freedom to reinterpret the often imitated, but never duplicated, classic.
The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (a.k.a. COSC) is the gold standard when it comes to certifying the precision of mechanical watches. COSC is an independent Swiss organization that issues its chronometer certification status only after the watches have undergone numerous tests over several days. Only timepieces that can guarantee perfect isochronism, consistently and precisely, can meet the COSC’s strict standards for certification.
As such, COSC certified pieces are highly sought after by collectors. While Frederique Constant has always set its own high standards for precision, the Highlife Automatic COSC is the first COSC-certified watch from the brand. It is powered by the FC-310 caliber, which vibrates at 28,800 vph.
Inspired by the original 1999 collection, this series is designed for everyday use. There are three stainless steel-cased iterations of the Highlife Automatic COSC. The first stainless steel model (Ref. FC-303V4NH2B) has a white dial and comes with a two-tone steel and rose gold-plated bracelet and black rubber strap.
The second stainless steel version (Ref. FC-303N4NH6B) is a blue dial model and comes with a steel bracelet and blue rubber strap.
And the third stainless steel model (Ref. FC-303S4NH6) is a white dial variation that comes with a black leather band and black rubber strap.
A fourth Highlife Automatic COSC, featuring a black dial, is also available in an ultra-luxe rose gold-plated case mounted on a brown leather strap and comes with a matching brown rubber strap.
The Highlife collection is available now. Pricing for the Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture timepieces is between $9,095 to $9,495. The Highlife Heart Beat is priced between $1,995 and $2,195. And the Highlife Automatic COSC is priced between $1,895 and $2,195.
For more information, visit www.us.frederiqueconstant.com
(Images provided by Frederique Constant)