Speed racin’, Adrenaline pumpin’, Retro feelin’: Presenting the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic
2004 falls somewhat mid-way of Frederique Constant’s evolution. They launched themselves on the watch scene in 1988. Some 16 years later, they started sponsoring classic car rallies and developing limited-edition watches for each of these sponsorships. Over the years the brand has been involved in “Healey Challenge” race in the UK, the Second European Healey Meeting in St. Moritz, the Healey Le Mans Challenge, the Healey Challenge Heidelberg, the 34th International Austin Healey Challenge 2009, and the 2010 Healey Challenge in the United Kingdom among others. Now another 16 years later, present day, they continue this tradition with the launch of the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic. So if you come to think of it, 2004 it appears was a marquee year for Frederique Constant. They established a partnership with the Austin-Healey car brand, a British sports car maker established in 1952 through a joint venture between the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation (BMC) and the Donald Healey Motor Company.
This partnership has spanned almost two decades and has produced a number of limited edition watches.
We can’t go back all the way to 2004 and review all the watches here, but let’s still put the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic into context by looking at some of the previous limited edition version releases.
– 2015 saw the release of the Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Chronograph Automatic that was powered by the calibre FC-397 movement featuring 25 jewels and a 46-hour power reserve. This outsourced movement with a chronograph module came at the price point of 2’850 € for the steel version and 3’200 € for the rose gold plated variation. 42mm in diameter, these watches came in silver or dark green/black coloured dials. A total of 2888 numbered pieces were introduced and they came with a Healey NOJ393 car miniature model.
– 2016 saw the release of the Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Limited Edition Austin Healey, a much more handsomer 3-handed variation. It is this variation that’s similar to the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic. Inspired by the iconic 1960s classic cars, these limited edition (again) 2888 pieces featured a smaller 40mm diameter polished and 3-part case. Again, these were offered either in stainless steel or in rose gold plated steel. Ticking under the hood was the calibre FC-303 which is a Sellita-based automatic movement. It beats at 4Hz and offers a 38-hour power reserve.
– 2018 saw the (alternating) release of the Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Chronograph, but this time in three variants. One of these was a striking British racing green dial variant. The dial colour of this release is what’s present in the new 2020 version. All three variants were housed in polished 42mm diameter steel cases. The movement used was the calibre FC-397 automatic chronograph movement (Sellita SW-510). The movement beat at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 vph), had the same power reserve of 46-hours as the 2015 version, and comprised of 25 jewels. It was also a limited edition of 2,888 pieces but cost a little less, 2’595 € for the steel version.
– 2019 saw the under the radar — very limited edition of 99 pieces only —release of the Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Chronograph that was exclusive for Germany and the Netherlands. Again featuring a 42mm diameter case and the calibre FC-397 movement, it set itself apart due to a beautiful reverse panda dial and a clous de Paris that adorned its pushers.
The latest 2020 release is again presented in numbers of 2888 pieces only. So essentially, if you take the style and design of the 2016 release and insert the green dial of the 2018 release, what you get is the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic steel version that wonderfully captures the spirit of Healey racing cars.
The New Variants
Two new three-hand models with date take centre stage in 2020. Featuring well balanced dials, exceptional legibility, and a stunning British racing green colour (steel version), these certainly present a tough argument against not buying them given they only cost 1’450 Euro for the steel version and 1’750 Euro for the rose gold-plated option. There is usually a pattern of alternating chronograph and three-hand models by the brand as we can see above, and this one doesn’t defer from it as well. Frederique Constant is known for making luxury watches accessible, and these price points for sporty limited edition watches oozing oodles of retro charm are a true testament to that.
The specifications of both the variants are the same, with the main difference coming in the form of dial colours. The dial of the steel version adorns the deep, bold green colour of the Healey company while the rose-gold plated version features a more classic silver/chocolate coloured theme.
The heart used — FC-303 caliber — is an automatic winding mechanical movement that is a derivative of Sellita SW 200-1. It beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), comprises of 26 jewels, and provides a 38-hour power reserve. Essentially, it has the same specs as the one used in the 2016 version. The movement is encased inside a polished stainless steel 2-parts (or rose gold plated) 40mm diameter case that is water resistant up-to 50m (5 ATM). The watch has a sealed caseback that is engraved with a (racing) Healey car, an individual serial number and “Limited Edition” text. The steel version comes on a light brown perforated calfskin strap while the rose-gold plated version features a dark brown perforated calfskin strap.
The dials show the functions of central hours, minutes, and seconds, and a date window at 3’o clock. Plain, simple, legible, and to the point; I would say that the dial architecture is the winner here.
The green dial is beautifully framed by the silver coloured sloping flange ring with minute tracks. This chapter ring complements the applied silver indices with white luminous in-fill and the hand-polished silver alpha hands. The bold Arabic numerals provide for an added sporty feel.
The rose-gold plated version sports a silver coloured dial with a brown chapter ring. The brown of the sloping mount track works in cahoots with the brown of the strap to nicely contrast against the rose-gold plated case and crown. Adding further retro charm are the applied rose gold plated indexes with white luminous in-fill and the hand-polished rose gold plated hour and minutes hands. Another subtle use of colour is introduced in the form of the pearl black seconds hand that works in harmony with the inner seconds track.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
In our recent interview with Frederique Constant’s Managing Director, Niels Eggerding we established how the brand is the quintessential playground for the young Swiss watch enthusiasts.
Said Eggerding: “Frederique Constant’s aim is to reach young graduated upcoming businesswomen and men starting at an age of 25, who look up to high-end brands, but can’t afford such expensive watches yet. We are thus giving them the opportunity to access luxury timepieces featuring a similar look and feeling when wearing them, at a much more accessible price.”
This new release doesn’t disappoint. Visually striking and featuring a very distinctive and sporty appeal, these watches are the definition of high end looks meeting entry level pricing. In our interview he also told us how 2020 is going to be a promising year ahead for the brand and how the brand “will present a very typical design we have created for men, relaunching a product line aimed to please a new and younger audience.”
The recently released Frederique Constant Yacht Timer Regatta Countdown is a fine example. Additionally, their other new 2020 novelties so far have been impressive as well. The brand has catered to both the masculine and the feminine markets with their new releases with the Flyback Chronograph and the Classics Art Déco Round respectively. The former offer classic appeal, handsome looks, high legibility and great value for money (3’895€); these chronographs are truly the embodiment of the brand’s values.
Coming back to the watch of the hour, even though I prefer the green version given it resembles the colour of the famous Healey 100S NOJ393 car sold for nearly €1 million in December 2011, the gold version with rounded surfaces and high levels of polishing really stands apart almost to the level of looking blingy. I like it even though I realise this could be polarising to an extent as usually luxury isn’t cased inside a gold-plated body but given the price point of these watches, that’s something that can be overlooked easily.
Throttled by a good blend of sporty looks, retro charm and classic design language, and super-charged with value for money, the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic is simply the one that wins the race in its class.
As an added bonus, it comes in a collector’s gift set complete with miniature replica of the NOJ393.
For more information on the new 2020 Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic and other Frederique Constant watches, head to their website here. All images courtesy © 2020 FREDERIQUE CONSTANT, GENÈVE