or collectors, this Classic Tourbillon Meteorite Manufacture, of which just 35 handcrafted and numbered pieces will be made, is the ultimate must-have. The cut-out in its dial at 6 o’clock reveals the Manufacture tourbillon created by Frederique Constant just 15 years ago, in 2008. It’s one of the few tourbillons available in a platinum case with a meteorite dial to be currently available on the market.
However, the most important aspects are less immediately visible. Only a closer and more knowledgeable eye will be able to detect something that has never been achieved before on a Frederique Constant watch: the entire hand-finishing of all the components of the movement. This exceptional and unprecedented achievement is the work of two watchmakers specialising in the Maison’s Manufacture and complication movements.
Using traditional instruments and tools, working by hand, they spent weeks on the meticulous finishing of each of the components: a buff file for bevelling, a hammer and punch for hand-punching, and 9-micron sandpaper for charbonnage of the frame (bridge) and the base of the tourbillon cage, reproducing the aspect of the meteorite dial. A single bridge alone requires between two and three days of work.
Beading and graining the flanks was done entirely by hand, and all the components have been decorated on both sides – even those that aren’t visible. And for what can be seen, Frederique Constant has worked on even the tiniest details, including block-polishing the screws. This especially demanding technique involves diamond polishing on a zinc plate. Once polished, the screws take on a dark or steel sheen depending on the light, creating endless and unique contrasts depending on the movement’s orientation. Indeed, the latter has some forty such screws, and it takes some forty minutes to polish and bevel each of them by hand.
Once the timepiece is assembled and finished, each of its components is checked according to the highest quality criteria, in line with Haute Horlogerie standards. This process puts Frederique Constant on a par with independent workshops: a significant step change in the quality of the Manufacture that paves the way for future developments.
The meteorite dial is a precious testament to exceptional craftsmanship: a fragment of space that fell to Earth in a happy and rare occurrence in Gibeon, Namibia offers a perfect illustration of the relationship between humankind, the universe, and the astronomy of which watchmaking is a direct offshoot. At the same time, this piece of celestial history is also the subject of a veritable exploit in terms of craftsmanship: chiselling a meteorite dial, full of metals, requires exceptional skills.
That’s because the precious material breaks and crumbles; its high iron content means it may have suffered serious deterioration, mainly corrosion. That in turn means extreme dexterity is called for in order to cut out a perfectly flat, smooth disc without a single flake falling off and damaging the movement beneath it. The meteorite dial – just 0.5mm thick – is also protected by a coat of ruthenium, enhancing its natural grey glints and shielding the surface from oxidation. All this hard work has been well worth it, nonetheless: since the material is natural, each meteorite dial is different from any other. In other words, this is not so much a limited edition of 35 pieces as a set of 35 unique pieces.
To ensure visual coherence with the colour of the meteorite dial, the movement also sports a ruthenium finish. This is very rare for Frederique Constant, and indeed in the watchmaking industry as a whole – all the more reason for adopting it here. Each engraving, including the timepiece’s individual number (on the tourbillon cage and also on the caseback) is rhodium-plated to ensure the characters stand out clearly. The oscillating weight is made of brass with a tungsten section around the rim. This material has been selected for its density, which is greater than that of 18-carat gold, providing greater inertia when in motion and thus enabling the barrel spring to be wound more quickly. All the parts of the oscillating weight are also coated with ruthenium.
The Classic Tourbillon Meteorite Manufacture comes in a 39mm platinum case. For the first time in its history, Frederique Constant has combined a meteorite dial with this precious metal.
Unveiled in 2008, the Manufacture FC-980 tourbillon movement – developed in-house and fitted with a silicon escapement wheel and anchor – can be seen from the rear of the piece. It boasts a 38-hour power reserve.
Bringing a tourbillon to life requires a high degree of watchmaking skill. Originally designed to improve timekeeping performance, tourbillons are now valued for the mechanical ballet they perform – centre stage here – to the delight of spectators.
The architecture of the piece provides collectors with a breath-taking view of the escapement wheel linked to the anchor pallet, the balance wheel rocking back and forth, and the concentric beat of the hairspring. A hand located above the tourbillon cage indicates the passing seconds. It’s also worth noting that Frederique Constant was one of the first watchmakers to adopt silicon in order to make the most of the many benefits it offers. Here, it has been used for the escapement wheel and anchor. The combined weight of these purple-hued parts and the rest of the escapement, regulating organs and tourbillon cage is just 0.59g, so very little energy is required to get them moving.
Limited to 35 pieces
Hours, Minutes, 60 Seconds tourbillon
FC-980 in-house caliber, automatic
Chamfering (anglage), hammering (martelage), circular graining (perlage & cerclage), flanks drawing (étirage des flancs), mirror polishing (poli miroir) decorations, all performed in-house
Silicon escapement wheel and anchor
38-hour power reserve, 28’800 alt/h, 33 jewels
Polished platinum 3-part case
Diameter of 39 mm
Height of 10,99 mm
Scratch-resistant and anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal
See-through case back
Water-resistant up to 3 ATM/30m/100ft
Grey meteorite dial
Applied diamond cut indexes
Hand-polished silver colour hour and minute hands
Heart Beat opening at 6 o’clock with 60 seconds tourbillon, silver colour second hand
Black alligator leather strap with matt finishing