Today we have a splendid new tourbillon watch with silicon escapement at a price point of right around $35,000 (give or take a couple grand depending on your choice of case metal). A tourbillon at $35,000? Must be from China, right? Nope, far from it. This compelling watch comes from none other than Geneve-based Frederique Constant.
Given that the price point for a tourbillon watch easily runs into the six-figures for most brands who produce such a watch, these pieces from Frederique Constant certainly stand out. And as you can see, this new Slimline Manufacture Tourbillon is a pretty good looking watch. Let’s take a closer look.
Shown below is the steel-case model, ref. FC-980S4S6. I strongly prefer this model to the slightly higher priced alternative with a
titanium steel body and rose gold bezel (ref. FC-980V4SZ9). Although one should expect that a tourbillon for just $35,000 or so would not be delivered in a precious metal case (white or rose gold, for example), I do find titanium and rose gold to be a peculiar combination of metals. Ed’s note: Frederique Constant’s website incorrectly stated that this watch was titanium and rose gold — it has been corrected. Thus I prefer this one (sorry for the fuzzy image):
Limited Edition 188 pieces, $33,995/€26,500
The view through the sapphire crystal caseback is also quite nice. The finishing and decoration is very modest, as I would expect. You can see some basic and common finishing techniques such as perlage and cotes-de-Geneve striping. The rotor is also elegantly shaped. More laborious hand finishes are not present (chamfering, for example); again as would be expected.
Shown here is reference FC-980V4SZ9, with a titanium body and rose gold bezel. The case size is 43mm x 12.3mm thick.
Limited Edition 188 pieces, $36,995/€28,500
You can see here the 60-second tourbillon, and the silicium escapement components (with their blue color). Note also the dual-tipped day/night indicator hand — personally, I think that this watch would be more elegant without it.
Let me also share some thoughts on my examination of the the history that brought us this piece. In fact it was back in 2008 that the Geneva-based manufacture presented its first Tourbillon Manufacture movement, the Caliber FC-980. The FC-980 debuted in the Frederique Constant Heart Beat Manufacture Tourbillon watches which were issued in a limited edition of 88 pieces in white gold, 188 in rose gold, and 188 in rose gold with a grand feu enamel dial.
FC’s launch of a tourbillon in 2008 was, I think, a remarkable surprising announcement from the brand at the time. After all, although a member of the small circle of Swiss watch brands that develop and produce their movements in-house, FC was and is known for its presence in the “accessible luxury” segment. That is, they produce high quality pieces and price them very aggressively — offering the consumer a lot of “bang for the buck” so to speak. Thus a value-oriented tourbillon was, and remains, an interesting product in the world of high watchmaking.
I believe that the Heart Beat tourbillon — with the same caliber as today’s Slimline tourbillon, but with precious metal cases — were priced around $50,000. So it is interesting to see that Frederique Constant has decided to move even more aggressively down the price scale with the Slimline Tourbillon, and doing so by moving away from a precious metal case.
I am somewhat ambivalent about this strategy, but I believe that FC knows its market well and if it is able to find a home for these watches then there can be really no questioning of their wisdom in applying the “value for price” model to even the most elite of complications. The end point for me here is that the Slimline Tourbillon is a great looking watch at a very compelling price point, and it provides the opportunity for someone who might otherwise never be able to own a tourbillon the chance to own one. And this, more broadly speaking, is what I like about Frederique Constant — that they are enabling more watch enthusiasts to experience complications that were previously (and mostly still are) the reserve of the elite brands.