FIERCE FU­SION

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

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style | Watches -

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.

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