Some companies go about their business knowing exactly what the future holds. Frédéric Constant is one such brand. Year after year, it confirms it has mastered development, and commands a well-oiled production tool which in 2004 gave the company’s first manufacture movement. Since then, it has continued to perfect its mechanisms, not least by incorporating a silicon escapement.
“I joined the firm ten years ago as a watchmaker and developer,” says Pim Koeslag, speaking at the Geneva Time Exhibition which was held alongside the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. “We’ve steadily upgraded with increasingly complicated proprietary movements, beginning with a tourbillon in 2008 followed by a tourbillon minute-repeater. But we knew this didn’t match the philosophy at Frédéric Constant nor at Alpina, another of the group’s brands which is clearly positioned at the middle of the pyramid, with an average price of CHF 2,000 (USD 2,175 / EUR 1,650) and entry level at CHF 450 (USD 490 / EUR 370). This led us to hatch the idea for a new brand, which I co-founded.”
The obvious choice
Ateliers deMonaco took off in 2009, and in a totally different direction to recent years’ trends. At a time when Swiss Made remains one of the most sought-after values in watchmaking, now attracting massive injections of Chinese capital, the new brand set up its workshops in the Principality of Monaco, working exclusively with Swiss-made components, for the most part supplied by Frédéric Constant. “When we began to discuss this project, and specifically the positioning of a high-end brand, we realised how overcrowded Geneva was becoming, with the constant arrival of new names. It soon became clear we would have to look for a base elsewhere. Monaco was the obvious choice. Very few places have this degree of world renown.”
The new company makes the perfect landing pad for the group’s most complex pieces, beginning with a Tourbillon Minute Repeater. It was soon joined by a three-hander whose case is assembled from a full 33 parts, the minimum requirement for a level of finish on a par with this high-end positioning. The rotor is engraved with the Principality of Monaco coat of arms in two colours. Equipped with a manufacture movement, this is the brand’s entry-level model at EUR 14,800 (USD 19,480 / CHF 17,900). Says Pim Koeslag, “We’re not under the same pressure as an independent watchmaker might be. That we have the financial backing of the group means we can progress at our own speed and really follow our hearts. So far results have been more than positive.”
A perpetual calendar with function selector
Not one to rest on its laurels, this year Ateliers deMonaco presents a perpetual calendar – an in-house development, needless to say – with a highly legible display. Information is shown in large windows and changes instantaneously at midnight. A function selector in the crown replaces the traditional pushers. “This simplicity of use belies the heightened complexity of the movement in that the selector acts inside the movement rather than outside, as is usually the case with a perpetual calendar,” Pim Koeslag explains. “The selector follows a logical sequence of date, day, month, week and neutral to make adjusting even easier.” Throw in the Grand Tourbillon Carré d’Or with its titanium case, onyx and mother-of-pearl dial, sapphire bridge and silicon escapement, and there can be no doubt that Ateliers deMonaco is intent on proving there is more to time measurement than Swiss-Made.