Theory: The Frederique Constant Highlife Perpetual Calendar Manufacture is the Genesis G90 of moonphase wristwatches. “How so?” you might ask, suspicious and perhaps a tad offended that a Swiss timepiece is being compared to a Korean sedan—and I get that.

Now hear me out.

We watch snobs get persnickety when it comes to the finer things we love, and positively miffed about comparing mangos to bananas. But if I were to suggest that an upstart four-door is in fact a worthy challenger to German and Japanese flagship sedans costing 1.5 times more, would you believe me? How about if I revealed that the G90 is in some ways superior to the benchmark Mercedes-Benz S-Class—for instance, measuring quieter cabin volume levels at highway speeds? Let that sink in. Then consider that the Korean car’s price can surpass the $100,000 mark, which demarcates it in a curious way against many prevailing (and frankly, outdated) ideas of what an Audi / BMW / Mercedes-Benz flagship competitor should cost. Welcome to the brave new world of emerging luxury.

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Now kindly turn your attentions to Frederique Constant. I first focused on the brand in my Highlife Worldtimer review, which mentions that the watchmaker was founded relatively recently, in 1988. That just happens to be the model year of the infamously awful Hyundai Excel which made headlines amidst an indefensible traffic stop and brazen act of injustice that would change history. Back then, the carmaker was an unfortunate brand within the automotive microcosm, even before the reprehensible incident. Frederique Constant was never so reviled; during the early days they were in fact too anonymous to gain any sort of notoriety at all, especially since they had no in-house movements to speak of and zero history to fall back on.

As with any emerging luxury brand, it took quite a bit of searching and a whole bunch of hard work to gain notice in the watch world. A big forward stride came in 2009, when Frederique Constant revealed its first in-house movement, a leap that significantly stepped-up credibility. Industry muscle was further flexed when Citizen Holdings acquired the brand in 2016, drawing it into a portfolio that includes Alpina, Bulova, Campanola, and Arnold & Son. As with any acquisition, the move traded autonomy and some independent spirit for the financial security and leverage that accompanies allying with a conglomerate.

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FC’s Highlife Perpetual Calendar
is among the more complex offerings in the Manufacture lineup, packaging the in-house FC-775 movement into a stainless case. Four variants include two relatively discreet navy blue-on-steel schemes with steel bands, a white and silver version with an alligator strap, and the subject of my review, a more extroverted rose gold and steel model with a silver dial and a contrasting moonphase window. Like the previously tested Worldtimer, the Perpetual Calendar model uses a 41mm case with an integrated band that meets a 25.5mm lug width. While the closure on the bracelet’s deployant clasp cleverly incorporates the company logo, I wish it didn’t have an overlap requiring a specific closure order; one side must be snapped down first, or else the strap won’t shut.

There’s quite a bit going on here design-wise, with decorative globe-themed etching on the dial and the visual contrast of the gold accents. There’s also a month / leap year indicator at 12 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock, moonphase at 6 o’clock, and day at 9 o’clock with a single crown on the right side, but these elements all play well together thematically. The case simplicity is aided by discreetly embedded pushers: three on the left, and one on the right. Though it may be tempting to actuate the tiny pushers with a ballpoint pen or an everyday found object, please respect this timepiece and use FC’s enclosed pin tool. The sapphire caseback displays the 38-hour reserve movement that incorporates 28 jewels. Like the Highlife Worldtimer, the moonphase features a pleasantly arrayed set of finishes, with Côtes de Genève and perlages textures offsetting the moving mechanical bits.

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As with the Worldtimer, the moonphase wears easily and looks proportionate, even on my slight 6.75-inch wrist. As I’m personally not much of a rose gold fan, I didn’t quite vibe with my loaner’s color scheme; given my druthers, I would have opted for a more monochromatic version. That said, I happened to be evaluating this Frederique Constant while testing a 2023 Genesis G90, which opened up a Pandora’s box of luxury realizations.

Firstly, neither car nor watch are cheap—as equipped, my G90 loaner came in at $100,307, and the Frederique Constant retails at $9,995. And yet both models punch above their weight, competing against household names that command more premium prices. The timepiece achieves its value proposition through conventional means: quality finishes, crisp details, a by-the-books approach to design and layout. The easily swapped straps and included brown rubber alternative are a nice touch, offering the possibility of variety without a several hundred-dollar additional cost. But driving the G90 alludes to a different approach to new money, one that embraces modernity over conventionality. Though available with matte wood interior accents, the model also incorporates novel touches like forged carbon fiber trim inlayed with real metal, and self-closing doors. While the Frederique Constant sticks to the rules and attempts to blend into the high-end watch tropes, the G90 brings a bit of youthful irreverence to the game, taking more chances and poking a bit of fun at the staidness of its tried-and-true competition.

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At the end of the day, the desirability of the Frederique Constant’s Highlife Perpetual Calendar becomes a question of modernity. This nicely finished piece offers a premium, but competitively priced alternative to more mainstream brands, especially within the realm of classically proportioned and conventionally styled timepieces. While those seeking more avant-garde options will likely look elsewhere, Frederique Constant offers the bragging rights of an in-house movement along with its own cohesive style, making it a plucky alternative to the big boys while offering blue chip style.

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