As a relatively new Swiss brand, Frederique Constant is making a solid impression among watch aficionados. Founded in 1988 by Peter Stas and Aletta Bax (the brand name is derived from the duo’s respective middle names) with the primary goal of producing mechanical timepieces made in Switzerland at an affordable price point, the new Runabout Chronograph Automatic fully embodies this spirit.
The timepiece pays homage to the 1920s Runabout yachts — boats made of highly polished wood and chrome that accommodated four to eight people and were fairly adept at moving on the water. Frederique Constant, in a partnership with the Riva Historical Society to preserve classic runabouts and as a tribute to Carlo Riva, long heralded as the manufacturer of the quintessential European runabout, devised these limited edition watches as a way to raise awareness (and funds).
For those who seek the clean, uncluttered look of Vacheron Constantin, Breguet, and IWC, but at an approachable price, the Runabout is hard to beat. The 42mm dial is classic to a tee, from its proportions and symmetry to its depth and texture. It features a strikingly elegant guilloche pattern at the center of the dial, and moving outward, the pattern meets a smooth surface on which the polished Arabic numerals lie. At 12 and 6 o’clock are the chronograph minute and hour counters, each with a subtle circular graining on their subdials.
Turn the watch over and, through the sapphire see-through case back, is the caliber FC-393 25-jewel movement with custom gold-plated rotor. The watch is water resistant to 50 meters, and with a 46-hour power reserve, it also comes in a steel version accompanied by a blue CrocoCalf strap with deployant buckle.
Limited to only 2,888, each is packaged in a special wooden gift box that comes complete with a branded Runabout boat miniature that's almost as sought-after as the watch itself.
Earlier this month, Frederique Constant, as the official timekeeper of the 42nd Concours d’Elegance at Obexer’s Boat Company in Lake Tahoe — a celebration of handcrafted boats and the world’s largest gathering of truly stunning barrelbacks — awarded Runabouts to the winners of the Best in Marque Class and Best in Show category. Now in its fourth year as a sponsor, the Runabout Chrono perfectly complemented the watchmaker’s core challenge to “Live Your Passion.”
At this price, without going vintage, it’s one of the few watches in its class with an in-house, Swiss-made calibre and sturdy finishing across the dial, case, and movement. [Starting at $3,395; frederique-constant.com]