Frederique Constant has combined the electronic magic of smartwatches with traditional Swiss watchmaking in a revolutionary hybrid. Charlene Co finds out why the Incredible Hulk thinks it’s a perfect match
Frederique Constant’s extraordinary Hybrid Manufacture just received the highest praise such a watch can get. When Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Incredible Hulk in hit film adaptations of the comic book series, was asked if he thought his character would wear this watch, he replied with a laugh, “Are you kidding me? Bruce Banner would love this. This is the Banner watch. It’s technology; it’s also just pure force.”
He’s right about that one. The Hybrid Manufacture is an entirely new kind of smartwatch in that it combines the true mechanical movement Swiss timepieces are famous for with modern attributes such as featured fitness trackers in one perfectly made package. The 42mm case has a dial that looks like that of a typical high-end Swiss watch, with an analogue display and standard timekeeping functions, and a luxurious leather strap. It also has a an integrated digital, battery-powered module. But this is no standard analogue timepiece. Smart functions have brought it hurtling into the 21st century like the Hulk himself. The Hybrid Manufacture has all the usual digital watch attributes—activity tracking, sleep tracking, fitness coaching and more—plus some watch-specific features like analytics for the mechanical movement. Think rate, amplitude, beat error and a world timer for those of us who work in multiple time zones. Helpfully, these can all be controlled and changed via an easily navigated iphone app. Hence the Hulk’s keen interest in this new timepiece. “I think it’s a really remarkable piece of technology,” says Ruffalo. “It’s the hybridisation, it’s the marriage of modern tech, a smart watch, with real classic old watchmaking tradition. And we were just going over it. Frederique Constant is really the first one to do this. It gives and captures an enormous amount of information, but you don’t have a smartphone on your body.”
For too long, clients have been forced to choose between the timeless beauty, nostalgia and pure craftsmanship of an analogue watch, and the sheer convenience of wearing a digital one that can link our every movement to the technology we rely on so heavily. And thankfully for the watchmaking world’s ego, this groundbreaking design was created far from Silicon Valley.
“It was important not to leave it to the black box manufacturers in California or China to develop electronics,” says Peter Stas, the CEO of Frederique Constant. “Here we put this smartwatch function into a beautiful typical Swiss mechanical watch.”
And Frederique Constant is nothing if not a perfect example of admirable European artistic heritage. Based in Plan-lesouates, Geneva, the company is involved in all stages of watch production, from initial design to final assembly and quality control. Frederique Constant develops, manufactures and assembles in-house calibres, of which it has created 24 versions since 2004. Each watch is made by hand with the latest equipment and extensive controls to ensure maximum quality and durability. However, the company is firm in its focus on innovation and its determination to excel in not only creativity but also exceptional value. Its 32,000-square-foot facility in Geneva is ultra-modern and offers the best environment for its passionate watchmakers to change the world.
“We call this a revolution in the Swiss watch industry. It’s not an innovation; it is new, it is invented,” says Stas. “What we have introduced is a mechanical product. It was like a normal calibre I’m wearing here. But if you turn it around, at the back side you can see it’s an oscillating mass that is powering the calibre. On the front side you see certain electronics in strange shapes. So there are a lot of electronic components integrated into a mechanical calibre.”
It has been accepted that smartwatches are not just another fleeting trend. As we become even more reliant on our smartphones, watchmakers will need to progress at the same speed as Apple and Samsung. A few years ago, the idea of a mechanical, beautifully crafted wristwatch that also offers activity tracking, sleep monitoring, analytics of the mechanical calibre, a world timer and a dynamic coach would have had you laughed out of Baselworld. Today, it feels like the thrilling but necessary next step. And this sense of anticipation was electric at the recent launch of the Hybrid Manufacture at New York’s exclusive Carpenters Workshop Gallery, where journalists, watch lovers and VIPS witnessed the unveiling of the revolutionary piece.
Naturally Ruffalo was also there, Hybrid Manufacture glinting on his wrist, having left his iphone at home. “I think people love getting a little break from their smartphone while still having all that technology available to them,” he says. “And a watch that is beautiful, looks like a traditional watch, that’s something that’s really remarkable.”
We couldn’t agree more.