“Fool me once, shame on you;
Fool me twice, shame on me.”
This is what seems to be going through the heads of the watch industry right now. After the quartz crisis in the 70s almost wiping out the entire mechanical watch industry, the recent advent of smartwatches and in particular the incredible success of the Apple watch instils the sense of a deja vu.
It is rather ironic then that while the potential threat of the smartwatch industry is taken seriously, the response of most brands is exactly the same as it was for quartz watches back in the day. Offer the rival product yourself but with a fancy name and exorbitant price tag.
To witness a leap of faith however and see some actual innovation we have to turn to Frederique Constant, a brand which has come to be known recently for clawing itself through the highly reserved watch industry. By using a mechanical movement as the basis for the time telling part of the watch and as a power source, as well as adding a digital module FC wants to deliver on the best of two worlds. Through this division of labour, we get the time and date from the mechanical movement, while the module adds all the common activity tracking tools that have become standard in smartwatches. A true novelty here is however that the module can also communicate to you the health of your watch through the app. This will allow you to track the amplitude, movement rate, and beat error and gives an insight as to whether a service is required.
Starting at $3,495 this watch costs significantly more than your average smartwatch. While expensive, it is difficult to judge as to whether it is priced unfairly simply due to there being nothing like it in the market, at least not for now. The only thing that comes close to being comparable, ignoring that we are talking about a concept watch priced five times higher, is the Ressence e-crown. Here the contrast illustrates a relative lack of creativity on the side of Frederique Constant.
At the end of the day though, Frederique Constant has released a respectable watch, with a daring character and some interesting features. I doubt that this timepiece is one which will be remembered in the future, but it may prove an important signpost for the next evolution of the watch market.