BY HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN
In 1999, Frederique Constant introduced the Highlife collection, and we all forgot about it. Then, earlier this year, the Highlife name was in use once more with a brand new design and set of complications. The most intriguing of these complications is undoubtedly the perpetual calendar, a feature rarely seen on watches that cost less than $10k. And yet, the Highlife collection had it, and their one did cost less than $10k, just. This new one, however, doesn’t cost that.
In an unusual move for Frederique Constant, they’ve released the Highlife Perpetual Calendar in a solid 18k rose gold case. That changes the aesthetic of the watch entirely, as it now immediately stands out on the wrist. The design marries the tone of rose gold with a deep blue dial and strap combination which work well. The dial still features the globe design motif, along with a classical three-subdial-and-moonphase layout for the perpetual calendar indication. Remember, a perpetual calendar allows the watch to adjust for the number of days in each month, it also knows when the next leap year is and can adjust for it.
Inside the watch is the calibre FC-775, which is the same movement you’ll find in the steel versions. That means you get an automatically-wound calibre with a 4Hz beat rate and an ample power reserve of 38 hours. It features some nice finishing on it and a skeletonised rotor, so you don’t necessarily feel like you’ve been left out.
There is one major glaring issue I can see with this watch, however. It’s the price. At €29,995 it’s costly, and yes, I know you’re paying for a 41mm chunk of gold and tiny mechanics on your wrist, but there are a lot of other options around that price which seem to do it better. For around that sort of money, you could get yourself a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Perpetual or a Blancpain Villeret Quantième Perpétuel. Heck, if you didn’t mind downgrading to an annual calendar and paying a little more, you could get a Patek Philippe 5146, and a Patek is leagues above Frederique Constant.
It’s not that the Highlife is a bad watch because I don’t think it is. But when a brand that’s known for making watches which aggressively undercut the mainstream names for the same complications makes a watch which is priced the same as those mainstream brands? That’s when things get tricky, and that’s when I think this watch will become a hard sell. Luckily for them, it’s limited to 30 only.
Visit Frederique Constant here.