Frederique Constant Manufacture Heart Beat FC-945 Silicium – in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT
Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Frederique Constant Manufacture Heart Beat FC-945 Silicium, launched at Baselworld 2014. This watch features a “Heart Beat” on the dial, a freely disclosed balance wheel and Swiss lever escapement made of silicium.
I love my wife. This may seem a strange introduction to an article about a wristwatch, but it has taken me a number of years to openly disclose my affection for my partner of 22 years. Perhaps it is because I am stereotypically English that I don’t easily feel able to declare my emotions openly, or maybe, it is something that a psychiatrist would diagnose as a personal character trait. Nevertheless, freely made declarations of love would not have quite so readily left my lips twenty years ago.
The problem with being honest and revealing your inner-self is that you are vulnerable to criticism or, worse still, ridicule. This is something that could equally apply to wristwatches. A watch company may choose to show the movement within a watch via an exhibition case back, but in so doing invite negative comments from journalists and watch collectors, alike. Indeed, there is a growing horological cognoscenti, who, with a loupe in hand, will readily appraise the finissage and specification of a watch with a discriminating eye.
Watch brands continually expose themselves to risk of adverse feedback by showing the inner workings of their watches via sapphire crystals adorning the dorsal flank of timepieces. However, I must admit, I applaud their courage as it allows individuals, like myself, to indulge our horological voyeurism.
Frederique Constant, the Swiss watch brand, has taken this honesty to another level with its Heart Beat Manufacture models which show a view of the balance via the dial. Ten years ago, in 2004, the Genevan watch company launched its first Manufacture Heart Beat watch and has continued to launch new variants of this model ever since.
Earlier this year, at Baselworld 2014, the brand celebrated 10 years of Manufacture Heart Beat with its latest FC-945 Silicium Heart Beat Calibre. This new timepiece, featuring a state-of-the art movement, is presented in a case and dial ensemble which exhibits a traditional mien. The question is, does it capture my heart?
Frederique Constant has earned a reputation for creating handsome timepieces, featuring Swiss watchmaking prowess whilst offering exceptional value for money. This watch proves to be no exception. It is beautiful and priced competitively at £10,700 for the 18-carat rose gold version and £4,440 for the steel variant.
Steel version Ref. FC-945MC4H6
The hour and minutes are conveyed with gorgeous Breguet style hands, wonderfully interfacing with Roman numerals. The resultant aesthetics are effortlessly graceful and deliver an air of traditionalism which will retain eye-appeal for decades to come.
This traditional character is reinforced with a snailed hour ring and gorgeous guilloché motif presented centre-stage.
A moon-phase indication resides below noon, with a circular date display encircling its form. At 9 o’clock a 24 hour display features, allowing the wearer to readily discern daylight and nocturnal hours.
However, the single most striking element of the dial is the Heart Beat. It is truly magnificent and allows the eyes to effectively see through the movement. To the casual observer, they may wrongly assume this is a tourbillon. It is not, however the perception of others that this model incorporates the desirable whirlwind complication, whilst being accesibly priced may appeal to some would-be buyers.
Adjacent the Heart Beat, the balance wheel bridge merges into a crescent shaped area, decorated with Côtes de Genève motif and featuring two blued screws. The outcome is exquisite.
Measuring 42mm in diameter and with a height of 11.6mm, the scale of the Frederique Constant Manufacture Heart Beat is in tune with modern tastes and should prove ideal for a broad range of wearers with large and small wrists, alike.
Steel version Ref. FC-945MC4H6
The highly polished 18-carat gold case has a balletic-like poise and grace which I find bewitching. Indeed, I could not imagine growing tired of the appearance of this watch, such is its profound beauty.
The brown alligator strap accentuates the alluring 18-carat rose gold case, whilst delivering a temperate and tasteful aesthetic.
The new FC-945 Silicium Heart Beat Calibre is self-winding with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz), contains 26 jewels and provides a power reserve of 42 hours.
A prominent aspect of the FC-945 Silicium Heart Beat Calibre specification is the inclusion of a silcium escapement. Silicium, or silicon as it is sometimes referred, offers various benefits ideal for use in watchmaking. The glass-like substance exhibits low friction, mitigating the need for regular lubrication. Silicium has a low-mass, which together with low-friction, results in less energy consumption, hence conferring a greater power reserve.
Silicium is also non-magnetic and not subject to corrosion, two additional attributes ideal for a watch.
Whilst Frederique Constant has pursued innovation and state-of-the-art know-how with the incorporation of a silicium escapement, it has not eschewed traditional craftsmanship.
The oscillating mass is open-worked, allowing the movement to be readily seen. The main plate is adorned with perlage and the central bridge is decorated with circular Côtes de Genève motif, while blued screws add a smattering of colour to the movement. Although I find all these aspects very agreeable, I have to return to the sight of the balance. It is difficult not to be seduced by the sight of the balance wheel moving to and fro and the wonderful prospect of seeing through the movement. I find this aspect of the Manufacture Heart Beat simply sublime.
I applaud Frederique Constant in its success in fusing traditional styling elements with new cutting-edge technology. Within seconds of meeting the Manufacture Heart Beat, I fell for its captivating design.
A key strength of the Frederique Constant is the creation of fine watches, imbued with classical and traditional lines which will remain untouched by the changing tastes of fashion. Moreover, the use of modern day production methods such as CNC machines has allowed the company to deliver impressive watches which are competitively priced.
Many watch collectors would love to own a tourbillon merely to look at a dial and see the pallet lever interface with the escape wheel. Improved accuracy is often not the raison d’être for selection, but rather the spectacle of seeing a revolving tourbillon cage located centre stage. Although the Manufacture Heart Beat is not a tourbillon, it still provides a visual performance which will sate the needs of many watch buyers. The dial aperture, above 6 o’clock, also invites admiring glances of the balance spring pulsating with life.
Does it capture my heart? Most definitely.
- Model: Frederique Constant Manufacture Heart Beat FC-945 Silicium
- Ref: FC-945MC4H9
- Case: 18-carat rose gold; diameter 42 mm; height 11.6 mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; date; moon-phase indication, 24 hour indication; Heart Beat.
- Movement: FC-945 Silicium Heart Beat Calibre, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz), 26 jewels; power reserve 42 hours
- Strap: Brown alligator leather strap presented on a gold pin buckle.
- Price: £10,700 (RRP as at 13.6.2014)