Frédérique Constant Heartbeat watch with ambassador Ines Sastre
Frédérique Constant is one of those brands that is so much a part of the current horological landscape that you’d have thought it had a history stretching back a century or so.
In fact, its first collection, comprising six models, was launched in 1992, after Peter Stas and his wife Aletta Bax formed the company in 1988.
The idea from the beginning was to create a brand that was democratic – that still featured the best of Swiss watchmaking but at prices people could afford. And this is what it has continued to do.
Frédérique Constant watches are not flashy or attention-seeking but quietly classical watches, such as its Slimline Moonphase below, that pride themselves on being well made. In recent years, the brand has developed its own movements, something that has been necessary for brands following ETA’s decision to limit its supply of base calibres to the industry as a whole.
Stas’s relationship with ETA became somewhat strained when Stas was the only defendant named in an appeal against this decision. Back in 2012, he was named, along with his wife who remains just as involved in the business as he, as one of the 11 plaintiffs who wanted the Swiss Administrative Court to issue a freeze on ETA’s ability to slash its provision of finished movements to the industry claiming that they hadn’t had enough time to find alternatives; a request that was denied.
Despite this minor setback, Frédérique Constant has continued to thrive and, in 2015, it brought the world’s first horological smartwatch to Baselworld (pictured below). Unlike other smartwatches, this actually looks like a watch but one that links up to your phone or android device to monitor things such as activity and sleep.
The only sign of this extra technology is a sub-dial at six o’clock, which provides an analogue read-out of the data collected by the watch.
This may seem like a massive leap for a brand that has previous concerned itself with classic Swiss styles. However, it is not surprising when you consider that Peter Stas gave up a career in management with Philips Electronics in Hong Kong to make watches.
The technology used to create the watch was devised in partnership with Philippe Kahn, founder of Fullpower Technologies and the first man who, back in 1997, managed to instantly upload a camera phone picture to a public network thanks to the technology he created.
The two men have set up Manufacture de Movements et Technologies (MMT) a Swiss-based company, operating out of Plan-Les-Ouates, dedicated to creating watches that straddle the two worlds of horology and technology. Along with Frederique Constant and Alpina, Mondaine is currently the only other brand licensed to use this groundbreaking quartz calibre, which has a battery life of two years – a dramatic improvement on most smartwatches.
The other thing that sets Frédérique Constant apart is its commitment to its charitable concerns, which are now managed by the Frédérique Constant Foundation – the umbrella for all the company’s charitable donations, which will also support projects more directly.
Previous charitable concerns have focused on those related to children and the heart, which the gorgeous Heartbeat watch, with its open heart-shaped aperture that reveals the balance, was created to raise money for.
A few examples of initiatives it has supported include “Paint a Smile” in 2009 to support Bejing Children’s Cardiology Department and, in 2010, helping raise money for the Par Coeur Association – a French foundation that seeks to bring attention to fiscally responsible charities that continuously make substantial differences in the lives of countless families and children worldwide via schools and educational programs for young girls in developing countries.
In 2012 Frédérique Constant announced a global partnership with the World Heart Foundation, which has manifested in events around the world including Pakistan and Hong Kong.
As the brand is very much a partnership of equals, gender equality is something that is also very important to Frédérique Constant. This year, it partnered with entertainment journal Variety and UN Women’s HeforShe campaign to host landmark event on gender equality in the film industry. The event was attended by the likes of Salma Hayek Pinault (pictured above with Peter Stas) and Parker Posey and Frédérique Constant gifted a watch to be auctioned for the benefit of UN Women.
This is certainly a brand that is making a difference and not just to the world of horology. No wonder it seems older than its years.