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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.

Other than activity tracking, get-active alerts, and the alarm feature, the only other smart features are related to pure timekeeping. Because the watch syncs with your smartphone, you never need to reset its hands as you skip through time zones. The same goes for its calendar function: The red date-marking hand will always be accurate, and never requires manual adjustment.

And here's an interesting value-add: Because all your MotionX data syncs in the cloud, it can be pushed and pulled among different MMT watches if you decide to purchase more than one model. For example, if you wear the Mondaine Helvetica Smart at work during the day, and then slip on the Frederique Constant for a night of brandy and baccarat, the Frederique Constant will pick up the Mondaine's step data, and then add to that data as you cavort throughout the night.

Where's your smartwatch?

At the top of this review (and once again here), I've put the term "horological smartwatch" in quotes for a deliberate reason: It's the term Fullpower and Frederique Constant use in their marketing materials, but I personally don't feel the watch deserves full smartwatch status. Lacking so many features we've come to expect from smartwatches (smartphone notifications chief among them), I think the timepiece is better described as a beautiful Swiss watch with smart features. A full-fledged smartwatch, it is not.

All that said, it's still a winning, lustworthy watch. For years, I've worn Jawbone's activity trackers precisely because they're small and innocuous, and don't look like watches. For this reason alone, they've paired nicely, from an aesthetic sense, with my own Swiss watch, a TAG Heuer Formula 1. But now, in the Frederique Constant, we have a watch that puts the Up's MotionX algorithms inside a great-looking analog package.

Two birds, one stone.

Add in the promise of a two-year battery life, and you have a smart timepiece that checks off a lot of important boxes. Obviously, feature for feature, it will never compete with an Android Wear watch or an Apple Watch. But if we're being sensible, this Swiss watch belongs in an entirely different category. 

This Frederique Constant model is quite expensive, and is probably too butch for most women. But remember: It's part of a larger "horological smartwatch" family. Alpina, which is owned by Frederique Constant, makes eight models, including four smaller models for women (one is encrusted with diamonds). And Mondaine's pop-art-styled Helvetica Smart, currently priced at $795, is both cheaper and relatively gender-neutral.

And all of these watches look like watches, damn it, not cheap gadgetware. Indeed, when one friend saw me wearing the Frederique Constant, he asked why I had given up on smartwatches for a fancy analog watch. That single comment pretty much says it all.

 

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