Hands-on – Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture “Panda”

 

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The Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture got a lot of attention when it appeared in 2017. Not only did it integrate a manufacture calibre with a flyback module developed by the brand, but its price tag of just under EUR 4,000 also blew competitors out of the water. For 2020, Frederique Constant launches two new versions with contrasting two-tone dials: a rose gold-plated model with a chocolate dial and another in steel with a navy blue dial.

When Frederique Constant’s Flyback Chronograph made its debut at the now-extinct Baselworld watch fair in 2017, it was received with very positive reviews. As always at Frederique Constant, the watch was classic in flavour and complete with Roman numerals and Breguet-style hands on the first models.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

The flyback function on a chronograph was developed in the 1930s and allowed the chronograph to start, stop and be reset to zero with a single press of a single pusher instead of three successive steps required on ‘regular’ chronographs. However, behind this ingenious idea, especially relevant for the measurement of successive times in sporting events (races, for example) lies an extremely complex mechanical reality. While the stop, reset and start functions of a chronograph are controlled by pressing two push-pieces in sequence, in flyback mode, a single press of the push-pieces engages all three operations simultaneously.

Simpler and smoother

A traditional flyback mechanism relies on a set of column-wheels that act like clutches. The patented construction of the FC-760 calibre dispenses with this system and replaces the standard column wheel with a star-shaped wheel.  Fewer components and fewer operations translate into a simpler, smoother, thinner, more reliable and ultimately less expensive movement. The pusher at 4 o’clock declutches the chronograph’s movement and resets it. Once the pusher is released, the movement and the chronograph re-engage and the chronograph restarts. Six years of R&D are behind the movement and to give you an idea of the economy practised to reduce the amount of components; the flyback module has just 96 of the movement’s 233 parts.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

A sapphire caseback reveals the automatic modular in-house movement. FC-760 beats at 28,800vph with 38 hours of power reserves and displays pleasing finishes with Geneva stripes on the bridge and openworked rotor and perlage on the base plate.

Panda-style dial

As mentioned, there are two new editions of the Flyback Chronograph, the one photographed for this article in steel with a navy blue dial and contrasting silvered counters and a gold plated model with brown dial. Often referred to as a ‘Panda’ dial, the two-tone blue and silver model is, in my opinion, the most attractive and sporty version in the collection today. Instead of the classic Roman numerals and Breguet hands of the first-generation Flybacks, this third-generation edition embraces a sportier spirit with baton indices, alpha hands and a tachymetre scale.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

The fact that the indices are faceted and applied reveals the effort the brand is making to offer a high-quality product. The silvered tri-compax counters at 3 o’clock (30-min chrono counter), 6 o’clock (date display by hand) and 9 o’clock (running seconds), along with the silvered tachymeter scale on the stainless steel model with a navy blue background, really stand out and improve legibility. The sub-dials are decorated with a stamped circular guilloché pattern and the hour and minute hands are treated with white Super-LumiNova.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

The 42mm stainless steel case has a mix of brushed and polished surfaces with an elegant polished bevelled edge along the lugs. The watch wears well thanks in part to its restrained height and curved case that adapts to the contours of the wrist.

Price

Presented with a matching blue alligator strap with a deployment clasp, the steel model retails for EUR 3,990 – an unbeatable price for a manufacture flyback chronograph.

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

Frederique Constant Flyback Chronograph Manufacture Panda Navy

More information at frederiqueconstant.com.

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