Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Watch Hands-On
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture represents the brand’s recent efforts to develop high quality in-house movements with complications at a very reasonable price point. While haute horologerie is a bit of a stretch, this movement, along with the in-house perpetual calendar found in the Manufacture Perpetual Calendar, is an impressive achievement for the brand and its technical team.
The caliber FC-760 is a modular movement with a column wheel activated flyback chronograph complication. To reset and start a traditional chronograph, you have to first stop it with the top pusher and then reset it using the bottom pusher. The flyback functionality circumvents this and you can reset the hands to zero while it’s still running. This is useful when you have to time successive intervals with minimal delay, like lap times on a race track for example. The other interesting feature of the flyback module, is the column wheel.
Generally considered to be superior to cam activation, a column wheel mechanism is also more expensive to manufacture, especially in this case as Frederique Constant uses a patented star-shaped column wheel which it claims provides a smoother operating feel while using fewer parts. I reckon that the motivation behind simplifying the mechanism is not just for bragging rights, but to also increase the robustness of the movement and make it easier to service and maintain, something modular chronographs are not well known for.
Frederique Constant has also realized that good watchmaking is equal parts sound mechanics and refined design/finishing. The movement is well decorated with perlage, Geneva stripes, and heat-blued screws, which are not often seen at this price point. A rose-gold plated steel rotor tops off the entire movement, which is of course visible through a sapphire crystal case back. My only concern with the movement is its relatively low power reserve of 38 hours, but it’s forgivable here considering the overall value.
While the movement is definitely where most of the interesting bits of the watch are, the dial and the rest of the watch aren’t far off. The watch is immediately recognizable as a dressy chronograph suitable for daily wear. The refined dial, with baton indexes and lumed alpha hands, makes for a tasteful presentation. While the dial layout is similar to a three register chronograph, a closer look will reveal that the sub-dial at 6 o’clock is not an hour totalizer but a date display. I think this was a smart design choice as a date window would have definitely ruined the overall aesthetic of the watch, especially if they had placed it at 4:30 like we’ve seen in many other chronographs.
The dial is completed by a railway track chapter ring and a rather minuscule pulsometer scale. The addition of the pulsometer offers little utility and I can’t help but feel that the watch would be just as good, if not better with it left off. The dial is offered in three variants; silver, dark gray, and silver with a hobnail texture. The hobnail textured dial is the black sheep of the group and comes with Roman numeral indexes instead of batons, Breguet hands, and no pulsometer scale.
All of this is housed in a 42mm case, offered either in stainless steel or rose-gold plated stainless steel options. The rectangular chronograph pushers and fluted crown help complete the dress watch look. While the bezel on the case is thin and leaves the dial in the limelight, the lugs are interestingly finished with a brushed top, polished sides, and for lack of a better way to describe it, have a perlage edge instead of the usual sharp edge. This lug design, with the thin but rounded case helps slim down the appearance of the watch, making it look smaller on the wrist than you might expect. The watch has a 50m water resistance rating, which can be seen as somewhat of a standard for dress watches.
While all available combinations of dial and case look good, my favorite is the stainless steel version with a dark gray dial. Unfortunately, the steel with dark gray dial and rose-gold with silver hobnail dial are not available within the US. All watches ship with an alligator leather strap and a rather unique looking deployant. I should mention here, that the same movement within a functionally similar watch is available from Alpina (which is owned by Frederique Constant), in the guise of the Alpina 4 Flyback Chronograph. However, the prices are not far off from each other, and this looks significantly better in my opinion.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Frederique Constant’s offerings in the past, mostly due to not feeling a real emotional response to many of them, but if the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is a sign of things to come, then I will be paying close attention to them in the future. Sure, the design may not be revolutionary, but this watch isn’t about innovative design. It’s about the movement and offering watch enthusiasts a mechanically interesting piece in a classic, familiar aesthetic. It’s a refreshing and welcome example of the kind of value proposition the watch world can use more of. The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is available at retailers and online for $3,995 in steel and $4,295 in rose-gold plated steel. frederiqueconstant.com