We recently featured a short list of recommended world-time watches, all possessing in-house movements, and today we’re taking a closer look at one of those watches, Frederique Constant’s Worldtimer Manufacture. The Worldtimer, officially released this year at Baselworld, is the second watch from Frederique Constant that we’ve reviewed, the first being the stunning Slimline Moonphase Manufacture. Without a doubt, the Worldtimer has a lot to live up to. In some ways it does; in others, it proves that the Slimline Moonphase is a tough act to follow.
A polished and proven case
The Worldtimer shares the exact same rounded and polished 42mm stainless steel case as the Slimline Moonphase we reviewed before. While I don’t have a whole lot to say about this case that I haven’t already, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. It’s a beautifully designed and finished case for the money, and while it’s a tad too big for the dress watch that the Slimline Moonphase wants to be, it’s appropriate for a world-time watch. When you turn the watch over, you can see the in-house movement developed by Frederique Constant through the sapphire crystal exhibition case back. More on this later. The case is water resistant to 50m.
A sophisticated and three-dimensional dial with overzealous hands
The dial of the worldtimer shares the same general layout as the Slimline Moonphase, with centrally positioned hands and a subdial for the date at 6 o’clock. Since this is a world-time watch, the dial for the local time is smaller and contained within an adjustable 24-timezone ring bearing the name of cities around the world. The sophisticated contrast that results from a restrained use of color what first pulled me in. Different shades of silver cover most of the dial while dark blue accents provide a little bit of color and, as in the case of the hands, serve as an appropriate foreground color for legibility. The use of color here is reminiscent of that of the holy grail of world-time watches, the Patek Philippe 5130.
Ultimately, it’s the dial’s rich texture and depth that makes this watch so attractive. A closer look at the dial reveals a world map in relief in the center of the dial. Just outside of the luminous applied hour markers is a thin, subtle ridge serving as the border to the local time dial. At 6 o’clock, the date subdial, with its radial texture, forms a bulge at the bottom of the dial. These two connected dials float above the level below that is home to the 24-hour and cities rings.
The layering effect works against you when you need to know the time in any city that is 11-13 hours ahead of your local timezone. For example, if you’re in New York and you need to know the time in Bangkok, Dhaka or Hong Kong, you won’t see these cities on the ring, as the date subdial obscures those cities from view. If you’re not aware of this and you need to know what time it is in Bangkok before making a phone call to someone in that timezone, you’ll search around the dial only to swear that Frederique Constant omitted that timezone. The hours are obstructed, too, but if you know the timezone then it’s much easier to take a guess at the time given the logical ordering of numbers. The time must be between 20:00 and 23:00.
My primary criticism of the dial design is the length of the hands. The portion of the dial dedicated to the current time is smaller than the dial itself, but it’s almost as if the hands didn’t get the memo. All the hands are the proper length for a regular three-hander or if the dial carried an outer chapter ring. The hour hand actually reaches the indices while the minute and seconds hands extend beyond the applied markers to the cities ring. It doesn’t affect legibility, but it’s the sort of design decision that leaves you scratching your head. Using the same case and crown from another watch is fine as long as they fit the aesthetic, but the hands also appear to be reused from other watches and the dial doesn’t support hands of this size. This is unfortunately the type of flaw that you just can’t “unsee,” so it becomes increasingly intolerable with each subsequent look. It’s not rare that hands extend beyond the hour markers in world-time watches, but they typically only do so when there’s a chapter ring, which is not present on this watch. All of the local time elements are contained within the inner dial.
One movement, twenty-four timezones
Inside the Worldtimer is another exclusive manufacture movement from Frederique Constant. It’s caliber FC-718, a 26-jewel automatic movement with 42 hours of power reserve. As we’ve come to expect, the movement is ornately decorated with thick brushing and perlage, and you can see this beauty through the sapphire crystal exhibition case back. You can tell from the dial layout and by looking at the movement that it’s a close relative to the FC-705 that powers the Slimline Moonphase. Frederique Constant has essentially crafted a base caliber, something like the FC-710 found in the Classics Manufacture line, and then added modules for complications, all of which can be operated through the crown. In this case, there’s an added world-time complication. This strategy makes sense from a production standpoint, but the end result is that movements share decoration and dials begin to look alike among different watches.
Operating the world-time function is simple. Pull out the crown to the first position and then turn the crown counterclockwise until your local timezone is at the 12 o’clock position (the same timezone that the main dial is set to). If I’m in the Eastern time zone, I’d turn the crown until the cities wheel displayed “New York” at the top. That’s it. The main dial shows your current local time for New York, and to read the time anywhere else in the world all you do is find the timezone represented by the city and then its time will be displayed by the inner 24-hour ring. If it’s night time, the time will be in the dark blue half of the ring.
On the wrist
One new feature of the Worldtimer is the 5-link polished steel bracelet. The bracelet has a butterfly deployant clasp with a push-button release, and the clasp is lightly engraved with the brand’s moniker. When a bracelet like this appears, I tend to worry that it just can’t wait to get itself tangled in my arm hair and rip it out in patches, but I experienced no such issues. It’s a comfortable wear, thin and light. Overall, it’s a good quality alternative for those who would like a slightly sportier look or prefer steel to leather, but the style of this watch seems more at home on alligator.
A bracelet option does add some versatility to the watch, although it is fully polished and not meant to take any sort of beating, so the extent to which it makes the watch more casual is limited. It’s ideal for everyday wear, especially if your day job consists of working with a global team, and you can always class it up a little bit by swapping out for a 21mm leather strap.
The final word
The Worldtimer Manufacture retails for CHF 3,450, which at the time of this writing amounts to about USD $3,800. There isn’t another world-time watch with the same specifications as this Frederique Constant on the market at this price, a respectable and common compliment for the brand; however, there are respectable alternatives to consider. First, the Baume & Mercier Capeland Worldtimer, which shares the same general aesthetic as the Frederique Constant Worldtimer Manufacture, but at a much higher price ($7,900). NOMOS Glashutte’s Zurich World Timer, at $5,760, is another watch on our world-time list but is considerably more expensive than the watch from Frederique Constant. However, for the premium it has a leg up on the Worldtimer with an impeccable Bauhaus-inspired design and a unique manufacture movement.
Frederique Constant can boast undisputed successes in their cases and base calibers, but when these components are reused in so many watches, you begin to question whether if owning one Frederique Constant means you own them all. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to make so many comparisons of the Worldtimer to the Slimline. I applaud the brand for knowing when they have a winner and sticking with what works, but in a lot of ways this is the same watch as the Slimline. In the major way that it’s different–the dial–it’s beautifully executed with a bothersome design choice that I’m unable to tolerate. It may not be a problem for you, but without an outer chapter ring the hands all seem too lengthy for my taste. In many ways–the fit, finish and comfort–this is a watch that punches above its weight class, but I would personally fall out of love with staring at the dial.