A while back the folks over at Frederique Constant offered me to wear one of their watches for a hands-on review - an opportunity I very much welcomed, as my experiences with the brand have been very limited to date. After some emailing back and forth we decided on one of their latest, the Flyback Chronograph Manufacture reference FC-760MC4H6.
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph was introduced at BaselWorld 2017. It is their first in-house chronograph, and to achieve this the brand fitted a proprietary 96-part chronograph module on top of its base (and also in-house) self-winding movement. Some sources say that the development took some 6 years, and I would care to guess that the majority of this time was spent looking for ways to make production cost-effective without compromising on both specifications and functionality. So while sporting a few collectors-favorites like a column wheel and flyback functionality, the price is reasonable. In fact, it is below that of quite a few Valjoux-powered chronographs of well-known brands - very much in the brand's spirit of Accessible Luxury.
In the Metal
When I first opened the box containing the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture, the first thing I noticed was the size. This is probably me though, as I've been wearing my NOMOS Club almost religiously for months, only interrupted by a few dainty vintage watches for a couple of days here and there. Coming in at 42mm the size is best described as contemporary. Lug-to-Lug it measures about 50mm, which is certainly not unreasonable. The height of approximately 14.3mm on the other hand is considerable and arguably a drawback of the modular construction of the movement, though the box-shaped crystal also accounts for a few millimeters. All in all the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture has quite a bit of wrist-presence without overdoing it.
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture does not feature an external bezel / ring and as such most of the 42mm is reserved for the dial. Still, the proportions are wonderful. The subdials are large but do not overlap nor do they reach the center pinion, and their placement seems just about perfect. With large(r) watches it sometimes seems as if the movement is too small for the case, but that's not the case with the Flyback Chronograph. In terms of design this might just be my favorite aspect. Running seconds are found at 9:00, while a 30-minute totalizer is found at 3:00. There's no counter for the hours, but instead the three-eyed look is completed by a pointer-date sub dial at 6:00.
This particular version -reference FC-760MC4H6- sports a distinctively Breguet'esque look. The dial is done in silver and features a guilloché Clous-de-Paris center, recessed tracks for the subdials, and black printed Roman numerals for hour markers. The hands are of the Pomme type - often simply called Breguet-hands. It's a very traditional combination of features that's perhaps not my favorite for a chronograph, but I can certainly see why it appeals to others. I furthermore found the juxtaposition of this design and the very contemporary case dimensions rather interesting.
There are other versions available which feature applied hour, a tachymeter scale on the outer edge of the dial, and pointy Alpha hands - a slightly less formal configuration.
The case of the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is mostly polished, while the tops of the lugs are brushed and separated from the rest of the case by a wide bevel. The rectangular pushers go well with the classic look and are easy to operate. The difference in force required to operate the start/top and the reset button is more distinct than I remember of other watches- the former is exceptionally smooth, while the latter requires a slightly harder push. The chronograph operates flawlessly, with a dead-center reset every single time, and though I have not timed it accuracy seems good.
The view through the case back is typical for Frederique Constant's Manufacture collection, with a gold-plated and openworked rotor, and perlage & circular Cotes de Geneve on the main plates, and some nice blue bits. As dictated by the modular construction all 96 of the chronograph parts are sadly on the dial side of the movement -including the patented 'star' column wheel- and as such they're completely hidden from view.
Last but not least, the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture is strapped by means of a hand-made alligator strap in 21mm. It is fitted with a (single) folding clasp, which operates well but looks like a bit of an afterthought with a level of finishing not on par with the rest of the watch.
I enjoyed my time spent with the Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph. I found it to be quite comfortable, especially considering its diameter and height. To my own surprise I even warmed up to the classic design codes quite a bit. The dial is perfectly balanced and well finished. The movement is interesting, especially to those who appreciate an in-house movements. My gripes with this watch are minor; the 21mm lug width is a pain for those of us who like to fiddle with straps, and the folding clasp is under par. At the end, it's a very appealing offer at its current price point.
The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph FC-760MC4H6 is available in our eBoutique.