Founded in 1977, Frederique Constant is one of the youngest watchmakers in the business. But in that short time, they’ve launched an impressive number of high-quality watches. The Highlife Collection was one of their first, launched in 1999 when the company was only two years old. The Highlife Collection included a handful of watches with the same novel case and integrated band. This unique, distinctive design earned a lot of prestige, and people have been wondering when an update would be released.
Never let it be said that 2020 was the worst year ever. At the very least, it was a good year for Frederique Constant! Last year, they released an updated version of the entire Highlife Collection, featuring redesigned cases and modern movements. The various watches in the collection are the Frederique Constant Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture, the Frederique Constant Highlife Automatic COSC, and the Frederique Constant Highlife Heart Beat. I’ve had the opportunity to review the Heart Beat, but the technical specifications for the other Highlife Collection watches are the same. The differences are purely cosmetic.
It’s not often I begin a watch review by talking about the strap. In most cases, the strap is an afterthought; if you don’t like it, you just buy a replacement that’s more your style. But the Highlife Collection’s most notable feature is its unique strap. Instead of traditional lugs, the lugs are exceedingly short, and sit tight to the top and bottom of the case. They’re designed for attaching special customized straps that are purpose-built for the Highlife Series. An ordinary watch strap won’t work.
The advantage of this system is that the band conforms more closely to your wrist. If you’ve got wide wrists, you won’t notice much of a difference. But if watches tend to hang off your wrists, you’ll like the closer fit. The Heart Beat comes with a brown calf leather strap attached, and a secondary black rubber strap. Additional black leather and stainless steel straps are available separately.
A Beautiful Case
The Highlife Heart Beat’s case is engineered from stainless steel with a beautiful rose gold plating, it has a round profile. The edges conform perfectly to the sides of the dial, tapering ever so slightly where they meet the lugs. The bezel is little more than a shallow slope where the case meets the dial. Because of the tapered shape, it’s narrower on the sides than it is at the top and the bottom. The diameter is 41mm, which gives it a comfortable, medium wrist presence for most people. The case has a plain, unguarded crown with a simple push/pull design. It’s water-resistant to 50 meters, so it’s suitable for swimming, despite this fact.
The sapphire crystal is scratch-resistant as well as glare-resistant, so visibility is not a problem. It’s slightly domed, which makes the case feel a bit thicker, but it doesn’t distort the dial. There’s also a display case back so you can see the inner workings of the movement.
An Elegant Dial
The movement is also visible on the dial, via a window at the 12 o’clock position that gives the Heart Beat its name. There are no other complications on the dial, such as a subdial or date window. There is a globe pattern embossed in the white background, it’s very subtle but noticeable when you look closely.
The hands are slim and elegant, with a rose gold design that matches the case. The minute and hour hands have lume stripes for improved visibility, white the second hand is long and fine. Matching rose gold applied indexes mark the hour positions, with lume stripes on each. A double index marks the 12 o’clock position, providing a bit of emphasis. There’s a secondary index around the outside of the dial, consisting of 60 tiny black hashes. It also has numbers at the five-minute marks, printed in fine Arabic numerals.
A Chronometer-Grade Movement
The Heart Beat gets its name from the highly-visible movement. But the movement itself isn’t just beautiful; it’s also functional. This watch uses Frederique Constant’s in-house FC-310 movement. Based on the Sellita SW300-1, the FC-310 is Frederique Constant’s first movement to obtain a chronometer certification from the COSC. This doesn’t make it as accurate as a modern digital watch of course, but it’s very respectable for an affordable Swiss automatic.
The 12-o’clock balance wheel is front and center, with the gold rotor visible both at the front and the back of the case. In the back, you’ll also see screws with blue and pink finishes that add a splash of color. The 38-hour power reserve isn’t terribly impressive, but it will get you through a day with time left over for sleep on either end. The 28,800BPH beat rate is very smooth, with a less “ticky” feel than slower movements.
To view all of the FC offerings visit their official website here.