Bridging The Generation Gap: Introducing The New Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021
Editor’s note: For nearly a decade now we have curiously anticipated the Only Watch Auction. The 2021 edition doesn’t disappoint! While watches earlier this year had a green theme, this year’s Auction watches seem to have an orange theme. Following the releases from Watches & Wonders 2021, today we present the new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021. Here’s our preview and the Gut Reaction Review (Grr…). For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
Frederique Constant recently disrupted the watchmaking industry when they launched their quite revolutionary Slimline Monolithic Manufacture (and you can read our detailed photo-essay review of that here). We had the opportunity to check it out in person, and after understanding how different it really was, our appreciation for the technology and the brand only grew.
Now they follow up for this auction with a more nuanced version of it, the new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Manufacture Only Watch 2021. A lot of enthusiasts had an issue with the case and dial design of the Slimline collection family that FC chose for the debut. The use of a different family’s design for this Only Watch should then come as a welcome surprise to most; it certainly makes this technology look more appealing to us.
It still retains the same movement that FC debuted, the FC-810 in-house calibre which theoretically provides accuracy within COSC-specs and features that super-smooth Spring-Drive killer second’s hand thanks to the ground-breaking silicon monolithic oscillator.
I would call it ground-breaking because even though the tech has been employed by Zenith in their Defy Lab watches before, FC’s version is smaller, way more affordable, and seemingly actually in production.
It has been designed in partnership with Flexous an independent innovative horology-oriented technology branch of YES!Delft specialising in compliant or flexible mechanisms.
The dial layout is rather similar to the FC Slimline Monolithic but visually, it replaces the stamped guilloche pattern for blue Côte de Genève that in my opinion look far better. I am personally partial to dial’s with Geneva Stripes ever since I got my Heuer Monaco LE 1969-79 in 2019; the way these catch the light and change shades, it’s poetry in motion on your wrist.
The dial is fairly nuanced but is not cluttered, allowing for this technology to ‘breathe’ and take centre-stage. On the periphery is a silvery-white ring with black printed seconds graduation and appliqué rose gold plated indexes with white luminous treatment.
The main dial like we said features that striking vertical Côte de Genève with a blue atomic layer deposition. In the centre, the hand-polished rose gold-plated hour and minute hands with white luminous treatment churn the essence of time. At 12, a silvery-white counter reveals an analogue date with a red hand, and finally, at 6 the open heart shows the oscillator that replaces a standard assortment with 3 components spread over one layer only.
Inside the brushed and polished 41mm x 12.65mm 18K pink gold Highlife case, this striking use of silvery-white, blue and red captures the attention, lending a certain youthful yet elegant vibe to the new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021. I also appreciate that this blue has been extended to the finely angled and circular-grained movement, being present on the rotor.
In regards to the cushion-shaped case, I reckon it’s a much better choice for this release given it’s a much modern and sporty case design within the brand’s catalogue.
It is water-resistant to 30m and features a navy blue alligator leather strap with nubuck finishing along with a complimentary navy blue rubber strap. Talking about complimentary, the brand is also offering the bid winner a private tour of its Manufacture in Geneva as well as an exclusive interview with Frederique Constant’s Technical Director and Master Watchmaker Pim Koeslag, who developed this unique timepiece.
In regards to the charity, 54 brands are participating this year for the 9th edition — the first one was in 2005 — of the biennial charity auction Only Watch, whose aim is to raise funds for research against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The auction in collaboration with Christie’s is on 6 November 2021, at 2pm (Geneva time), at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues.
The reference FC-810OW4NH9 features the 9.8mm diameter x 0.3mm ultra-thin silicon monolithic oscillator replaces 26 components of a standard assortment with a single component fitted with two regulation weights that will allow other watchmakers to also fine-tune the frequency and regulate the flexure oscillator. This revolutionary design combines 40Hz frequency with a low amplitude of 6° versus that of ~300° of a regular balance wheel.
The calibre FC-810 Manufacture used features 130 components and 19 jewels and provides an impressive 80-hour power reserve. It features decent decorations including circular satin-finishing and circular Côtes de Genève decorations.
That’s All Folks!
The new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021 is special in many ways, but the tech takes the lead.
This monolithic silicon oscillator is unlike a traditional spring balance escapement, as this new oscillator made of monocrystalline silicon needs no lubrication, is resilient to oscillations in temperature, less sensitive to gravity, generates lower friction and wear on the parts, and is completely insensitive to magnetic fields.
The Frederique Constant Slimline Monolithic Manufacture ref. FC-810MC3S9 launched in March in 18k polished rose gold retails for 25’500 AUD and is limited to 81-pieces. If the new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021 was a regular production (or a limited edition watch), it would have come with an RRP of 29’995€.
But the piece unique is estimated to go at the auction for CHF 28’000 – 35’000.
Now for this potentially similar amount, one gets not only the complimentary strap and tour and whatnot but also the opportunity to own a unique piece powered by unique technology, all for a good cause. Talk about a win-win situation.
The new FC Only Watch 2021 is the perfect marriage of old watchmaking ideals and new technologies; it is the perfect bridge for this generation gap if you may, that sees so many brands still waiting to embrace new technologies — even the simple idea of quick release straps such as the one featured in this FC Only Watch — and while we are on this topic, sustainable practices like Chopard and Panerai have done in the recent times.
To find out more about the new Frederique Constant Highlife Monolithic Only Watch 2021 and other auction timepieces, please head to the ONLY WATCH 2021 collection website here. All images unless otherwise specified are © 2021 FREDERIQUE CONSTANT, GENÈVE. All basic information Copyright © Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies. Make sure to check out our reviews of Watches & Wonders 2021 releases here.