Today we examine the Frederique Constant Worldtimer in blue dial form. This watch combines a well-decorated in-house movement with a tasteful combination of both sporty and classical elements. The result is a great looking watch that will impress collectors while being quite functional, thanks to its intuitive world timer complication.
Frederique Constant is commonly characterized as a rising star in the watch industry. Founded not all that long ago, in 1988, the company has nonetheless managed to become a powerful influence, and was relatively early to develop a wide variety of sophisticated and well-decorated in-house movements. Their Worldtimer is a fairly recent addition but has been quick to gain popularity.
It's easy to see why: the dial is just stunning. The Worldtimer steps out of Frederique Constant's normal design for their flagship manufacture watches (of which this is a member) in that it's quite a bit sportier than usual. Despite the complex dial, it does maintain a nice sense of traditional watchmaking with a very finely textured blue sunburst finish and elegant alpha hands.
As you might expect from a watch called the Worldtimer, it features a world time complication, in addition to a pointer date (another traditional design element). Although it looks busy, it's actually one of the easier to use incarnations of the complication. Basically, as time passes, the numbered ring rotates automatically. The only thing the owner needs to mess with is setting the home time, which is done simply by rotating the crown counterclockwise at the first stop. This moves the city or time zone ring. Once that ring correctly reflects your home time in the GMT ring, you can then look to any other time zone in the ring and see the time instantly. It's an elegant solution.
The Worldtimer also features a rather beautiful (particularly at its price point) in-house movement, the FC-718. It has a number of unique attributes, but we'll get into those details in the movement section below.
The dial is, even more than the movement, the main attraction of this watch. That blue dial is hypnotic.
Looking closer, we can really appreciate the complexity of this dial. A guilloche finish to the date subdial, a raised texture forming a map of earth, the twin rotating rings of the world time complication: there's a lot going on here.
Frederique Constant attempts to alleviate some of the business by raising the section I've highlighted for you here above the rest of the dial, as if to denote its greater importance.
Deviating a bit from the Breguet hands the company is so fond of, we have very nice, and very elegant, alpha hands, each with a substantial amount of luminous paint applied.
Here's the GMT ring. This rotates (counterclockwise, interestingly) automatically as the main hands turn. It is always in lockstep with the main hands and therefore, aside from making sure AM or PM is correct anyway, needs essentially no special consideration when setting the watch.
This is in contrast to the time zone wheel, which does not move automatically. You can rotate this ring by turning the crown counterclockwise at the first stop (where clockwise advances the date). This is a very simple, usually one-time operation. You simply match the time zone with your home time, in my case Chicago (or central). Now I can simply look to another time zone on the ring and compare it to the number on the GMT ring beside it.
The hour markers are simple, applied circles, but they contribute to the luminescence of the watch at night.
With the functionality of the dial addressed, let's take a look at the artistry. Here's a beautiful guilloche pointer date subdial. My only complaint here is that it covers some of the world time area.
Then, of course, there's the world motif, which is very nicely done. It's actually very slightly above the rest of the dial, perhaps 0.1mm. It's quite dark so in some lighting it fades into the dark blue dial, but when the blue dial is shining, it remains matte and reveals itself by contrast.
The dial is a dark navy in some settings, but when the light hits it directly, it glows a brilliant blue.
Of course, no review would be complete without a lume shot. While the Worldtimer doesn't have a massive amount of luminous paint on it, it's certainly sufficient to be easily visible in a dimly lit restaurant or movie theater. The lack of the 5, 6 and 7 markers may actually be advantageous in orienting the watch in total darkness.
The 42mm steel case (other versions are available in gold) is quite simple and very classical.
The onion crown is another traditional touch. It doesn't screw down and the watch is certified for 50 meters of water resistance, so this is probably not an ideal swimming companion.
The entire case is mirror polished, again contributing to a relatively dressy appearance.
The watch looks a bit thick in photos (and not just mine), but actually it's just 12.10mm, which isn't bad at all by 2016's standards.
The combination of a smooth, flat case back and curved lugs helps increase comfort.
Frederique Constant, like Nomos, has achieved a degree of notoriety for its fast-paced adoption of beautiful in-house movements. This is the FC-718, a 26 jewel automatic.
While the movement is interesting in a number of ways, perhaps most important is its beauty. It's just gorgeous for this price point.
The gold rotor is beautiful, and its skeletonized design means the top plate is never really covered up. I believe it's plated, but given that it's inside the case and will never be scratched, there is no real disadvantage to it. In fact, the majority of luxury watches have some sort of plating on their movement, typically a rhodium or white gold plating on the top plate.
Now let's take a close-up look at the components responsible for time keeping. First off, we see that Frederique Constant, like most watchmakers, has opted for a smooth balance/regulator combination, by far the most prevalent today. Do not confuse being common with being inferior, however. Very respected watchmakers like Vacheron Constantin and Grand Seiko rely on what is essentially the same design.
This, however, is quite unique. Frederique Constant has opted for a balance bridge over the more common balance cock. Several watchmakers do employ this design, mainly Rolex and Omega, but it is far and away the minority approach, compared to the ubiquitous balance cock, which you'll find in both the humble Seiko 5 or the high-end Patek Calatrava. Nomos generally uses a balance cock as well, but in their new DUW 3001, they chose to switch to the bridge design that you basically see here. The advantage of the bridge is that, given that the balance is anchored by two locations instead of one, it is a bit more robust.
Here I've illuminated the relevant components for regulation, which we briefly touched on earlier. The regulator changes the effective length of the hairspring, which has the convenient property of changing the rate of the watch. We can also see Frederique Constant has chosen to utilize an ETA-style fine adjustment mechanism with an eccentric screw, seen on the right. This is popular not just among ETA watches, but also Grand Seikos. Consequently, this should be very easy to regulate.
While it may not have some sort of wild new design or exotic new technology, it certainly isn't lacking in beauty or charm. Like Nomos, they offer excellent decoration for the price, but in a uniquely Swiss style. This is a movement that the owner will probably admire often.
The Frederique Constant Worldtimer, specifically this blue one, is a bit unique among the brand's overall lineup. It's combining what is undoubtedly a very contemporary, sporty dial with the brand's classic, Breguet-inspired motif. Even compared to other FC Worldtimers, this is far sportier.
It works really well. Despite my love for Breguet hands, these alpha hands work terrifically, and the sportier look is going to make it a bit better suited for everyday travel and business wear.
The movement can't be ignored either. It's remarkably beautiful, particularly when you consider the price point. What a great time for watch collectors where we can find this incredible diversity of movements even at relatively attainable prices.
So it looks great, inside and out, but what really sets it apart is the very easy to use (and set) world time complication. Sure, it's not the only watch in the world to implement it like this, but that doesn't take away any of its functionality. So many world timer watches are just a pain to set and read, but not this one. In a way, it's a good alternative to the Nomos Zurich Weltzeit, and in my view, that's quite a compliment.