If you can't decide between an upmarket luxury watch and a smartwatch, Swiss watchmaker Frederique Constant is splitting the difference with its new Hybrid Manufacture. Unlike previous attempts to combine the digital and conventional in a wristwatch, the Hybrid Manufacture places an emphasis on classical watchmaking principles by integrating digital circuitry directly with the mechanical movement.
When the first quartz wristwatches were marketed in 1969, Switzerland was the dominant watch manufacturer holding solidly to 50 percent of the world market in all price ranges. Though a Swiss consortium and Seiko were behind the development of the quartz watch technology so familiar today, only a handful of Swiss firms took more than a mild interest in making and selling the new timepieces.
The sad result of this was that the watch market was flooded with increasingly sophisticated, accurate, and (above all) dirt cheap quartz watches from the United States, Hong Kong, and Japan, which precipitated what was called the "quartz crisis." By 1983, the Swiss watch industry had imploded with companies closing and consolidating at an alarming rate, and the survivors only holding on thanks to massive government subsidies.
Eventually, the Swiss managed to pull through by inventing the inexpensive fashion watch market and investing hard in very high-end luxury watches costing well into six figures. Now, smartwatches are on the scene and though the jury is still out as to whether they'll really catch on, some watchmakers are keen to avoid making the same mistake of underestimating a new potential threat.
There have been a number of attempts to blend the mechanical and smartwatch, but these have been more like smartwatches with some mechanics thrown in or clumsy add-ons. The Hybrid Manufacture takes a new tack. Outside, it looks like a fairly conventional watch with the basic functions of recording hours, minutes, seconds, and date, but inside Frederique Constant's FC-750 caliber includes an electronic module specially shielded to prevent magnetic interference between the electronic and the mechanical.
The electronics are connected to the Hybrid app via a Bluetooth transceiver activated by the watch's pusher. This acts as the control and readout for they watch's smart functions that include activity tracking, sleep monitoring, analytics to keep the mechanical movement accurate, a world time function, dynamic coach, and battery monitor. The analytics function is automatic and at 4:00 am each day it analyzes the watch's oscillations to measure its rate, amplitude, and beat error, which are displayed as graphs on the app or as an alert if it detects a fault.
The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture FC-750 automatic.28,800 vph caliber has Perlage & Circular Côtes de Genève decoration on the movement, 33 jewels, and a 42-hour power reserve. The rechargeable electronics module has a seven-day battery life. It's packed in a 42-mm case available in polished two- or three-part stainless steel or three-part rose gold with a convex sapphire case and see-through back water resistant to 5 ATM (50 m, 164 ft). The silver, navy, or dark grey dial with guilloché decorations and black printed indexes has black, white, or silver hands. It's all topped off with a black, dark brown, blue, or dark grey alligator strap.
To keep everything running, the Hybrid Manufacture comes with a wooden winder box with a built-in removable charger for the electronics.
The Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture is available in reference FC-750MC4H6, FC-750MC4H4, FC-750MCN4H6, and FC-750DG4H6, with the latter in a limited edition of 888 units. The price is between US$3,495 to US$3,795, depending on the option chosen.Source:
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