A name, a philosophy

In Photo: The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture, which fuses smartwatch technology with a mechanical movement

Frederique Constant’s global positioning as a Swiss watch manufacturer is driven by two fundamental disciplines: combining the watchmaking tradition with new technologies, and making this luxury accessible to different sectors in the market.

“The purpose of Frederique Constant is to let more people enjoy luxury. That has been the mission of the brand since the beginning, and that is the philosophy that we want to keep,” said International Sales Director Williams Besse at the launch of the brand’s second boutique in the country at The Podium.

“We pertain to that category in terms of price point. We are the least expensive manufacturer that you can find in the watch industry because we have our own manufacture movement,” Besse said. To date, it offers 15 manufacture (in-house) movements in addition to their mainstream line of ETA-powered watches. The high-end FC-9xx caliber, introduced in 2001, was joined by Tourbillon in 2008 and a mainstream FC-7xx caliber range in 2009.

Manufacture is a term originally used by the Swiss industry to differentiate between “a company that manufactures a watch almost in its entirety as opposed to finishing shops which only assemble and time the watch and fit the hands and movement,” this according to Dictionnaire professionnel illustree de l’horlogerie.

In keeping up with the times, the Frederique Constant and Alpina brands introduced the horological smartwatch in 2015, the first Swiss-made connected watches, of which the brand sold 50,000 and which account for 12 percent of Frederique Constant’s sales. This year, it unveiled the world’s first mechanical smartwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture that fuses smartwatch technology with a mechanical movement.

The Hybrid Manufacture has the central functions of a smartwatch such as activity tracking, sleep monitoring and dynamic coaching, as well as a world timer. The unique new addition to the Hybrid Manufacture is what Frederique Constant calls a “diagnostic tool,” called Calibre Analytics. It measures and analyzes parameters of the movement’s performance and health, which includes rate, amplitude and beat error of the watch. All information can be controlled and accessed via the accompanying smartphone application. Every Hybrid Manufacture also comes with its own automatic winder which serves as a storage box that winds your watch and at the same time charges the battery for its smart functions.

On the other hand, the executive said in retrospect that while the advent of smartwatches has opened up a lucrative segment in market—the industry is now worth 19 billion Swiss francs, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry—class and heritage are the primary attributes that people still look for in a brand, and this is where the company draws inspiration for its designs and where it realigns production.

In terms of sales volume, Besse said the brand is expected to continue growing at an annual rate of 25 percent. “Our main market remains in Europe, but our Asian market is growing really fast, especially here in the Philippines.”

“Our Asian market takes up 28 percent of our business. In China, the market has been shaking up a bit, a lot of new businesses are developing, especially in the e-market and e-commerce segments. Our key markets include South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong,” Besse said. “The representation that we have in the Philippines is one of the best in Asia. We’re working on very selective point-of-sales in Manila, Cebu and Davao. We had a good year in 2017. We doubled our business, which is very impressive, and we hope that we’re going to keep on going like this.”

“What we lack in age, we definitely don’t lack in innovation. We’ve been adapting and growing since the beginning,” Besse added.

Frederique Constant was established in 1988 by Dutch entrepreneur Peter Stas and his wife, Aletta Stas-Bax. The name is derived from the names of their great-grandparents: Frédérique Schreiner and Constant Stas.

In 2002 it acquired Alpina Watches, a manufacturer of Swiss sports watches founded in 1883. Over the years, Frederique Constant has been able to establish partnerships with its wealth of notable ambassadors, including Eva Longoria, global charity brand ambassador Gwyneth Paltrow and award-winning actor Mark Ruffalo.

Frederique Constant’s newly opened store is located at the ground level of The Podium in Ortigas Center. The Geneva-heaquartered brand is distributed in the Philippines by the Jacinto-owned Timeline Group.

 

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Pauline Gutierrez first started as a Lifestyle intern and is currently a section contributor in the BusinessMirror. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism degree obtained at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.