Made For A Woman: Up Close With The Frederique Constant Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling
Since its inception in 1988, Frederique Constant has been about the democratization of luxury watchmaking. For founders Aletta and Peter Stas, the goal was to make fine timepieces accessible to as many people as possible. That means making haute horology complications such as a flyback chronograph, perpetual calendar, and a tourbillon available for fairly reasonable prices.
Despite its mechanical prowess, the brand has also excelled at the more fashionable fare. In 2020, Frederique Constant relaunched its Highlife family of sophisticated steel watches with interchangeable integrated bracelets and straps. And now, to reach an even larger audience of enthusiasts, the manufacture is releasing the Frederique Constant Highlife Ladies collection of three sport-chic timepieces.
Watchonista got the chance to test drive one of these new models, the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling. Here are our first and lasting impressions.
Life in a Day
This next-generation Highlife collection is very inclusive. The 41mm case is sophisticated and comfortable, the strap system fluid and versatile, the FC-310 caliber robust and reliable. Still, there was a demand for smaller, more feminine options.
Of course, women watch enthusiasts are not a monolith. Many are happy wearing a 41mm watch, but some prefer something daintier (and case size shouldn’t matter; after all, in the 1950s, men’s watches were typically only 32mm or 34mm in diameter). Others like something gender-neutral, while others are into jewels and mother-of-pearl dials. Most women enthusiast have all of the above in their collections.
What the majority of educated female collectors are not interested in (and find endlessly frustrating) is a scaled-down version of a men's watch with some diamonds slapped on and a quartz movement in place of a mechanical one.
Nobody likes being pandered to, so that was Frederique Constant’s challenge in producing a Highlife collection for women. The first step was creating a 34mm case size that kept the proportions and the presence of the 41mm version.
But even on a relatively small wrist, the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling doesn’t look scaled-down at all. You can thank the unique design of the integrated bracelet, as the brushed and polished three-link bracelet merges effortlessly with the case. There is also a rubber strap option that effortlessly wraps around the wrist.
The result is a fluid look that appears bespoke. There is no need to question whether this timepiece is meant for a woman or a man. It is meant to be worn by you.
Though it is smaller in stature, the dial of the Ladies Automatic Sparkling is an expansion of the Highlife universe. The 2020 models, for example, featured a globe-themed design, while the glittering blue lacquer dial of the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling suggests an infinite galaxy of possibilities. And the real stars are the diamond-set bezel and indices.
The effect is not overly flashy – this is a timepiece that works both day and night. In fact, the way different sources of light hit the dial changes the mood of the watch.
Again, it’s all about striking the right balance, getting elements that range from rubber to diamonds to work together. It’s a tricky balancing act, and the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling pulls it off with elegance.
The depth of the speckled dial is romantic without being too girly. The practical, ergonomic curves of the case and the squared-off shapes of the indices play off the starry-eyed influence of the diamonds and dial. Because it is time and date only (and the date window is so understated as to be mistaken for an hour marker), the watch comes off as fancy without being fussy.
Better still, inside the dreamy Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling is a serious movement – the manufacture FC-303 automatic caliber with a 38-hour power reserve.
Variations on a Theme
While it is true that we are completely enamored with the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling, we’d be remiss in not mentioning two other women-oriented watches in this new collection.
First is the Highlife Ladies Automatic. There are several variations. Including an all-steel variation with a black dial and additional khaki strap, a rose gold-plated edition with a diamond-set bezel and an extra pink rubber strap, and a grey-dialed piece with a sky-blue rubber strap. Each of these variations has the engraved globe on the dial that is the signature feature of the Highlife collection.
The second series in the collection is the Highlife Ladies Automatic Heart Beat. These models employ a display window that showcases the maison’s mechanical excellence. There are two versions: an all-steel version or a rose gold-plated steel option. Both come with an interchangeable rubber strap.
Pricing & Availability
Available now, the Highlife Ladies Automatic Sparkling is limited to 888 pieces and priced at $3,295. The Highlife Ladies Automatic and Highlife Ladies Automatic Heart Beat are available internationally and for special order to the U.S. For more information, visit Frederique Constant’s website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)