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Frederique Constant smartwatch review: Time-tested activity tracking in a beautiful Swiss watch

Jon Phillips | Aug. 7, 2015
Fanny packs. Dad jeans. Bright yellow mock turtlenecks purchased at the Gap circa 1991, and still worn defiantly, inexplicably, today. If you wear any of these items, feel free to accessorize your outfit with a touchscreen smartwatch. You're already style-compromised, and the smartwatch can't do any more damage.

frederique constant on wrist
Herringbone looks much better when paired next to analog hardware. Credit: Rob Schultz

Fanny packs. Dad jeans. Bright yellow mock turtlenecks purchased at the Gap circa 1991, and still worn defiantly, inexplicably, today. If you wear any of these items, feel free to accessorize your outfit with a touchscreen smartwatch. You're already style-compromised, and the smartwatch can't do any more damage.

But if your fashion tastes are a bit more--oh, I don't know... discerning--then consider the new "horological smartwatch" from Frederique Constant. It's a legitimate Swiss-made watch with a built-in accelerometer for step- and sleep-tracking. Like the other watches based on MMT's smartwatch platform, it marries sophisticated aesthetics with the same MotionX algorithms you'll find in a number of big-name activity-tracking wristbands. And battery life is rated for a full two years.

That's 729 more days of battery life than today's typical touchscreen smartwatch. That's a really big deal.

The MMT watches don't provide smartphone notifications like smartwatches from Apple, Pebble and all of Google's Android Wear partners. And that's also a really big deal. But the $995 Frederique Constant model I've been testing for the past week is packed with retro-mechanical intrigue. It doesn't look like a toy, gadget or sci-fi movie prop. And its look aligns with my fashion sense, which errs toward heritage brands like Gustin and Billy Reid, not Daft Punk's House of Cyborg Apparel.

Or the Gap of the early 90s.

The best smartwatches from the big consumer electronics companies have their place. But there's just no replacement for the delicate moving hands, polished raised indices, and convex sapphire crystal of a traditional Swiss wristwatch.  

A curiously graphical complication

The Frederique Constant model I reviewed came with a black watchface and wristband made of "crococalf"--that's real cowhide with a crocodile skin imprint. The company's smartwatch line-up also includes near-identical models with white faces and stainless steel bracelets. All of these watches have stainless steel cases that are water-resistant down to 5 ATM. There's also a $1,295 chart-topping edition with rose gold plating on the case, hands, and indices.

Yes, this is expensive hardware. But do keep in mind these are real Swiss watches imbued with four motors for moving hands, along with the MotionX smart features. The watches are hand-assembled at the Frederique Constant factory in Plan-Les-Quates, Switzerland. That's a long way away from Guangdong Province, both geographically and philosophically.

To the untrained eye, the dial at the bottom of the watchface looks like any other curiously graphical complication you might find on other analog watches. But while the shorter red hand points to the current date, the longer silvered hand points toward progress in reaching an activity goal.

 

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