What is the essence of elegance? We compare three dress watches — the Frédérique Constant Manufacture Classic, Longines Master Collection, and Montblanc Star Classique Date Automatique — that offer three very different answers. Read on for results, specs, and prices, along with original photos by OK-Photography.
Elegance is hard to define. It is a presence, a way of life. A design might be seen as elegant because it combines many functions within a small space. An object like a watch might be considered elegant when it’s reduced to its essential elements. Coco Chanel said, “Elegance is refusal.” And Webster’s Dictionary defines elegance as “dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style.”
Frédérique Constant recognizes the appeal of a guilloché finish and printed Roman numerals on the dial with its Manufacture Classic. So does Montblanc with its Star Classique Date Automatic: e dial is decorated with a traditional flinqué guilloché pattern. And the three Arabic numerals and the hour markers are smaller and more delicate than on the other models in the collection. The Longines Master Collection was first introduced in 2005 and is an excellent example of elegance. The watch we reviewed from the collection is graced with Arabic numerals, blued leaf-shaped hands and a “barley corn” finish on the dial.
The Montblanc has leaf-shaped hands, too, but in rose gold to match the dial’s numerals and applied markers. The Montblanc logo is placed on the short end of the seconds hand. The extended day-of-the-week/date window and the clipped numeral 3 on the dial of the Longines detract from its otherwise balanced appearance. And Frédérique Constant takes a more refined approach by deleting the Roman numerals at the bottom of the dial (V, VI and VII) in favor of a subdial for the date. Breguet hands and Roman numerals give this watch a retro look, but the variety of finishes and indicators on the dial feels a bit convoluted.
All three watches are equally legible thanks to the simplicity of their functions, at least during the day. It’s a point of contention whether luminous material detracts from the elegance of a watch, but it must be noted that none of our three watches is legible at night – which is not at all elegant considering their reduced functionality.
The small but elegant onion-shaped crown on Montblanc’s watch is highly functional. It’s also a good fit with the watch’s thin two-color case. And it’s easy to grasp and use for each of its operating functions. When viewed from the side, the Montblanc’s three-part case looks some- what like a UFO – narrowing toward the sap- phire caseback, making the watch appear thinner than it already is, and contributing to its snug and comfortable fit on the wrist. The steeply sloping lugs also add to the watch’s wearing comfort. A black alligator strap with a simple pronged buckle completes the ensemble.
Longines and Frédérique Constant use folding clasps to fasten their leather straps. The two- tone appearance of the Longines’s double fold- ing clasp gives it an unconventional look. When closed, the gold-plated section is visible. The case is made of 18-karat gold, which is silky and smooth but architecturally not as interesting as Montblanc’s case, and the Longines’s fluted crown is not as easy to grasp and turn as the onion-shaped Montblanc one.
Frédérique Constant’s watch also has an onion-shaped crown, and it is much larger, in keeping with the overall dimensions of the watch. But this doesn’t mean it’s easier to use – in fact, we found it to be quite the opposite. The watch’s three-part case is gold plated, which results in a more economical price compared with the Longines and Montblanc models. And the fact that the Frédérique Constant contains an in-house movement makes the price hard to beat.
A threaded caseback with a sapphire window permits a view of the comparably larger Frédérique Constant movement FC-710. e company’s second in-house caliber was designed as a base movement for affordable timepieces and has been the entry level for the Manufacture Collection since 2012. It has a lot to offer: When you look through the caseback window you see a variety of decorative finishes and blued screws as well as an interesting bridge structure over the balance. Its rate results are also very good. Caliber FC-710 showed the best and most balanced results in this test, both on average and in the various positions.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Sellita-based Montblanc Caliber MB 24.09. While the watch diverged very little from its average rate when fully wound, it showed remarkable differences in the various positions, and it lost as the power reserve diminished, as well as when the watch is worn on the wrist. Yet the finely decorated watch movement makes a noble impression behind the pressure-fit caseback.
The ETA-based Longines Caliber L636.5 boasts various decorative finishes and a gold oscillator. The watch gained 6.3 seconds per day when fully wound, and 5.2 seconds after 24 hours of running time: balanced results, though still not as good as the in-house movement from Frédérique Constant.
With its generous size, the Manufacture Classic is not the most elegant watch in this com- parison, but it does offer a threaded caseback, water resistance to 50 meters, a folding clasp and an in-house movement with good rate results, and therefore, an elegant price-performance package.
From this point of view, the Montblanc Star Classique Date Automatic does not have the most to offer. With gold making an appearance solely on its bezel, it is still relatively expensive when compared to the rose-gold Longines; and even in stainless steel, it is more expensive than the Frédérique Constant, despite the fact that it is powered by a standard movement that runs somewhat unevenly. But with respect to out- ward elegance, it is miles ahead. In this regard, the Longines Master Collection watch falls behind the Montblanc, and technically speaking, behind the Frédérique Constant. But its gold case justifies its rather high price. All in all, our comparative review shows that elegance can come from different places and reflect a variety of tastes.
SPECS: Frédérique Constant Manufacture Classic
Manufacturer: Frédérique Constant SA, Chemin du Champs des Filles 32, 1228 Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland Reference number: FC-710MC4H4 Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, indicator date Movement: FC-710 based on in-house FC-700, automatic, 28,800 vph, 42-hour power reserve, gold-plated brass balance, Nivarox balance spring, two-part fine regulator with eccentric (Etachron), Incabloc shock absorption, 26 jewels, diameter = 30.5 mm, height = 6.25 mm Case: Stainless steel, rose-gold plated, curved sapphire crystal, sapphire caseback, water resistant to 50 m Strap and clasp: Brown embossed calfskin, one-sided folding clasp made of gold-plated stainless steel Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours, Fully wound / after 24 hours): Dial up: +1.6 / +1.9 Dial down: +3.3 / +3.9 Crown up: +7.3 / +9.5 Crown down: -0.7 / -1.3 Crown left: +6.6 / +5.2 Greatest deviation: 8.0 / 10.8 Average deviation: +3.6 / +3.8 Average amplitude: Flat positions: 337° / 295° Hanging positions: 316° / 270° Dimensions: Diameter = 41.89 mm, height = 11.98 mm, weight = 98 g Variations: With stainless-steel case and silver or black dial ($2,495); with stainless-steel case and silver guilloché dial ($2,795) Price: $3,095
SPECS: Montblanc Star Classique Date Automatic
Manufacturer: Montblanc Montre SA, Chemin des Tourelles, 2400, Le Locle, Switzerland Reference number: 113824 Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date Movement: MB 4810/409 based on Sellita SW 300-1, automatic, 28,800 vph, 42-hour power reserve, gold-plated brass balance, Nivarox balance spring, two-part fine regulator with eccentric (Etachron), Incabloc shock absorption, 25 jewels, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 3.6 mm Case: Stainless steel with rose-gold bezel, curved sapphire crystal with non- reflective coating, sapphire caseback, water resistant to 30 m Strap and clasp: Black alligator with stainless-steel pronged buckle Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours, Fully wound / after 24 hours): Dial up: +4.4 / -1.4 Dial down: +1.5 / -2.9 Crown up: -6.9 / -15.4 Crown down: +2.0 / -11.8 Crown left: +2.0 / -7.9 Greatest deviation: 11.3 / 14.0 Average deviation: +0.6/ -7.9 Average amplitude: Flat positions: 307° / 280° Hanging positions: 277° / 239° Dimensions: Diameter = 38.97 mm, height = 9.01 mm, weight = 56 grams Variations: With stainless-steel case ($3,035) Price: $4,400
SPECS: Longines Master Collection
Manufacturer: Longines Watch Co., Francillon Ltd., Les Longines, 2610 Saint- Imier, Switzerland Reference number: L27558783 Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, day of the week Movement: L636.5 based on ETA 2836-2, automatic, 28,800 vph, 38-hour power reserve, gold-plated brass balance, Nivarox balance spring, two-part fine regulator with eccentric (Etachron), Kif shock absorption, 25 jewels, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 5.1 mm Case: Rose gold, curved sapphire crystal, sapphire caseback, water resistant to30m Strap and clasp: Brown alligator, double-sided folding clasp made of partially gold-plated stainless steel Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours, Fully wound / after 24 hours): Dial up: +7.4 / +4.3 Dial down: +7.4 / +7.4 Crown up: +6.4 / +3.1 Crown down: +6.6 / +8.5 Crown left: +3.6 / +2.6 Greatest deviation: 3.8 / 5.9 Average deviation: +6.3 / +5.2 Average amplitude: Flat positions: 302° / 255° Hanging positions: 283° / 234° Dimensions: Diameter = 38.42 mm, height = 10.87 mm, weight = 88 grams Variations: With stainless-steel, two-tone or yellow-gold case, with or without diamonds; with date, power reserve, GMT, moon-phase, retro, 24 hours or small seconds displays ($2,050 to $10,250) Price: $6,875