Frédérique Constant Classics Automatic GMT

Since its establishment in 1988, Swiss manufacturer Frédérique Constant has produced tastefully conservative timepieces at reasonable prices. The FC-350 Classics Automatic GMT is one of the latest, featuring a meticulously detailed dial and a manufacture movement for less than 2000 CHF. They provided a silver case, black strap (model FC-350MC5B6) press loaner for this review.

At 42mm wide and over 12mm thick, the GMT's three-part case is large for a traditional dress watch but right in line with modern fashion. Curved sides and tapered lugs that drop below the case back help to minimize its size. A domed sapphire crystal maintains the smooth silhouette. A rear display window shows off the neatly decorated FC-350 movement within. It has 26 jewels, a 38-hour power reserve, a date complication, and 28.8k bph vibration rate, which leads me to believe it is probably based on the Sellita SW200 three-hand movement. The GMT module, however, is a Frédérique Constant design. Indeed, it is worth noting that the brand manufactures its watches at its sizable facility in Plan-les-Ouates, Switzerland.

They say first impressions are everything and this watch presents itself beautifully. The silver dial has three distinct sections, each with its own texture and index. The broad, outermost section has a sunray brushing and contains the minute track fenced off from the tall, radially arranged Roman hour makers by an embossed ring of tiny beads. This gives way to a narrow ring with no discernable grain containing the Arabic 24-hour markers. The center section bears the brand name and other dial text, printed in a fine sans-serif typeface on a gullioché surface. It is all just black on silver, but the variations in texture reflect differently, creating marvelous depth and dimension as the light plays off of the different surfaces. The beading is just the cherry on top. It's pretty enough in pictures, but it's stunning in person.

Black Breguet hands and a red-tipped GMT hand top it off. There is no lume, but this is to be expected on a dress watch. What I did not expect was a 5mm crown. The signed head and deep fluting are appealing in and of themselves, but the whole thing strikes me as being more appropriate for a sports watch than a dress watch. I can see where a world traveler might appreciate a larger crown on a GMT as he resets the watch to local time from zone to zone, but I do believe a flatter crown could have been more attractive without giving up much grip.

The watch comes on a black crocodile print calfskin strap that is lightly padded and tapers to signed buckle. I found it to be well made if a tad stiff out of the box. My real gripe is its 21mm lug width as odd-sized straps are a minority in the watch world, but I suspect the vast majority of owners will be perfectly content to keep it on the factory strap and replace it with the very same when it inevitably wears out.

The Classics GMT is an excellent choice for the professional office-dweller or business traveler. I could happily wear with a suit and tie all day all week then loafers and chinos for a weekend night out. It is decidedly handsome and 50m water resistance gives it some real-world utility often lacking in dress pieces. Being slight of build, I'm best wearing dress watches 40mm or smaller, but even on my 6.5" wrist, this watch was quite comfortable, not appearing overly large or bulky, and disappearing under my buttoned cuff when necessary. Not that I wanted to see it go. I really could not get enough of the subtle interplay of surface textures on its dial. It is a lovely piece.

The Classics Automatic GMT FC-350MC5B6 sells for $1,695 USD, while its gold case, brown strap sibling (FC-350MC5B4) goes for $1,895 USD. Whichever you choose, it is an excellent price for in-house manufacture. You can buy directly from Frédérique Constant or its authorized dealers. ⬩

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