Precision: Austin-Healey's Swiss connection
A new limited watch is a reminder of the ethos of Frederique Constant, and represents its founder’s love of Austin-Healey
The name of Frederique Constant might not spring to mind in the world of Swiss watch makers, but the brand has a connection to motoring.
Created in 1988 by husband and wife duo Peter and Aletta Stas, it set out to create watches in the so-called ‘affordable luxury’ bracket, but it rose to prominence when mechanical wristwear interest grew at the start of the millennium as the internet boosted small brands.
Despite the entry-level price tags on most Frederique Constant models, the firm has never shied from innovation and experimentation. It was among the first to use silicon for the production of escape wheels, and it developed an impressive range of 29 in-house movements at its Geneva base, including a patented world time mechanism.
Frederique Constant remained in the ownership of the Stas family until 2016 when it was surprisingly acquired by Japan’s giant Citizen Holdings group, along with stablemates Alpina and high-end maker Ateliers deMonaco.
Regardless, Frederique Constant has kept its long-term partnerships, one of which is with Austin-Healey, a tie-up established as a result of Peter Stas’s love of the marque.
Frederique Constant became the official timing partner of worldwide Healey events in 2004, appearing at the European Healey meeting in St Moritz, the Healey Le Mans Challenge, the Healey Challenge Heidelberg and the International Austin-Healey Challenge organised by the Austin-Healey Clubs of America and Canada to name but a few.
Special edition watches such as the Healey models have long been part of the line-up. The latest is this three-hand automatic, dedicated to one of the most famous Healeys: the 100S registration NOJ 393, the works special test car that sold in ‘barn find’ condition for a record £843,000 with Bonhams in 2011. Then fully restored to its 1955 Le Mans spec, the car is unlikely to return to market soon – but if you buy one of these new watches you will get a scale model of NOJ…
Two versions of the 40mm watches are available: one with a rose gold plated case, a silver dial and a brown chapter ring, the other with a steel case and a racing green dial with silver chapter ring. Both feature backs engraved with an image of NOJ 393. Each version is limited to just 2888 examples.
Frederique Constant Vintage Rally Healey Automatic, £1295
(Only available in steel in UK markets)
Briston has impressed inside seven years thanks to its retro-style watches with unusual, cushion-shaped cases in either steel or acetate, the latter creating a tortoiseshell look. The Clubmaster line has been enhanced with new World Time models powered by Sellita automatic movements. With 24 cities marked on the moving inner bezel, it’s simple to align location and time on the 24-hour ring, with black and white representing night and day. The GMT hand can show the time elsewhere.
Briston Clubmaster Traveller, £1200
In 1969, the Monaco’s real claim to fame should have been that it was the first waterproof, square-cased, self-winding chronograph but, as Motor Sport readers know, its finest hour came when Steve McQueen wore one of the original blue-dial versions for Le Mans. Almost 50 years on, and after TAG’s marketing, the Monaco is a ‘cult watch’. This all-new red and silver edition marks the brand’s appointment as the timing partner of the Monaco Historic GP. 1000 will be made.