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Frédérique Constant - Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Frédérique Constant Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Frédérique Constant is relaunching its regatta watch. Twenty years after the original was introduced, it seems like a good decision. It puts the watchmaker squarely back in its prime territory: fine mechanical watches, Swiss Made, at an affordable price.

How long do you have to wait before you can plunder your own heritage? Is there an age requirement for reissuing a forgotten piece from the back catalogue? The comparative youth of the Frédérique Constant manufacture (it was founded in 1988) means that digging up authentic vintage models is not an option. But it does still have some hidden treasures. There is one particular technical, sporty timepiece, designed for racing, which isn’t Frédérique Constant’s usual stomping ground. Its name is the Yacht Timer Regatta.

Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Yacht Timer Regatta © Frédérique Constant

Back on the water

Older readers might remember it. It was back in 1997. Newcomer Frédérique Constant, with just nine years under its belt, and several freshly minted collections, launched an entry-level technical sports watch.

It was a new departure for the company, which generally operated in the dress watch space. A collection was created for the occasion: the Yacht Master. It was a good name. So good, in fact, that Rolex also registered it. 

2019: after a hiatus (which began in 2003), the Yacht Master is back on the water, but this time with a new name. The Yacht Master has become the Yacht Timer. We thought the original name was perfect. But the new one is possibly even more perfect, given that the watch in question includes a countdown timer. It is a genuine horological complication that has a specific use in yacht regattas. 

Originally powered by quartz

The complication is built on a dedicated calibre (FC-380), an automatic three-hand base calibre (SW500) with an additional countdown timer developed internally (comprising 21 additional components). That makes it an innovation, given that the original 1997 piece came with a quartz movement. It was developed in response to a change in the rules for the start of yacht races, which had come into effect the previous year, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. The new rules redefined the countdown periods. The quartz movement used at the time (FC-298) offered the flexibility of four different countdown options: 10, 6, 5 or 3 minutes. Another advantage of quartz was that it could beep, and the sounds got closer together as the start time approached.

Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Yacht Timer Regatta © Frédéric Constant

More noble, more mechanical

Its successor, the new calibre FC-380, is completely mechanical. Frédérique Constant thus reconnects with a form of horological purity, which will no doubt please collectors. Obviously, this movement has lost some functionality (adjustable countdown time, audible beeps), as well as the COSC certification that was granted on 12 June 1999. However, it gains prestige by becoming 100% mechanical. The manufacture has also chosen not to reproduce the compass bezel of the original 1997 model, which made it possible, theoretically speaking, to calculate tacking angles. It was a bit of horological whimsy that we assume was not overly useful in an Olympic regatta! So the bezel with its cardinal points will not be greatly missed.

Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Yacht Timer Regatta © Frédérique Constant

Five little dots and we’re off

The 10-minute timer of the new Yacht Timer Regatta is more minimalist and more mechanical. It takes the form of five dots. The first countdown sees them gradually switch from white to blue (or blue to white, depending on the model). When the fifth dot turns blue, five minutes have passed. A second countdown then starts, during which the five dots progressively turn orange. Once the last dot has changed, 10 minutes are up, and the race begins. As was the case for the quartz movement, the central second is part of the timer function, and thus remains static when the timer is not activated. 

Frédérique Constant weighs anchor

Yacht Timer Regatta © Frédérique Constant

A lucrative niche? 

Mechanical sailing watches have become rather rare. Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Panerai and Richard Mille have them. Omega offers a limited-edition Speedmaster X-33 with a quartz movement. But Maurice Lacroix and Alpina have discontinued their regatta watches. All that now remains for the dedicated collector is a high-level collection of costly timepieces. With its Yacht Timer Regatta, Frédérique Constant is playing an interesting card, one that has taken it a long way over the last 30 years: mechanical luxury, Swiss Made, always affordable. 

The brand

Frédérique Constant has made a successful business out of offering affordable luxury, experiencing growth rates well above the industry average. The owners have a clear mission to make fine watchmaking available to the largest possible audience of watch enthusiasts at sensible prices.

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