Frederique Constant is a relatively young watch brand. Although the name has been around for much longer, the 'current' brand was established in 1988. Since then, they've seen impressive growth with watch sales reaching around 80,000 in 2007 and a very impressive 120,000 last year.
Their current collection features thirteen model lines ranging from very high-end tourbillon models to affordable quartz watches. Frederique Constant's main focus seems to lie somewhere in between, with a wide selection of what I suppose are 'achievable luxury watches', for lack of a better term.
The watch up for this review is part of the Slimline range. With a beautiful and thought provoking name like "FC-345X5S5/6", it's bound to be good.
Like pretty much all of FC's watches, the looks can best be described as 'classic' or 'reserved'. The dial is lined with roman numerals and the middle part features a guilloche pattern. This particular model has a stainless steel case and there's also a gold plated model available for a modest surcharge. The case is pretty slim (as is to be expected from a Slimline model), but not too flat and actually very comfortable to wear. The combination of a slim case, but a somewhat large diameter (around 40 mm) is actually a great compromise for people who like big watches, but also want something that can be worn comfortably with a suit.
There's enough going on on the dial for the watch to be interesting to look at, but not so much that it becomes distracting. Overall, I think Frederique Constant achieved a nice balance between legibility and looks.
Inside is a stock ETA automatic movement (FC do make their own in-house movements for higher-end models), that can be seen through the sapphire crystal display back. The rotor features Côtes de Geneve engraving, which is a nice touch. Another cool feature is the fact that the seconds hand has been placed on a small dial, situated at six o' clock.
This particular model retails for around a thousand dollars, which is a very fair price, considering the amount of watch you get. This model doesn't offer fancy complications (just date, hours, minutes and seconds) or particularly striking design, but it's a no-nonsence, good looking watch with a reliable movement. I also like the little details on this watch, like the Frederique Constant logo on the strap buckle and the aforementioned Geneva striping. This attention to detail doesn't carry over to the strap, though. It's made from a material called 'Crococalf'. Unfortunately, this isn't the hide of some bizarre cow-crocodile hybrid, but rather regular calfskin leather, made to look like alligator. Since there's nothing wrong with a calfskin strap, I fail to see why Frederique Constant felt the need to use a material like this. Especially as it feels a bit flimsy and nothing like real alligator or crocodile leather.
So there we are. The FC-345X5S5 is a well appointed timepiece, with a few features that you'll be hard-pressed to find in other watches in the same price range. The main letdown is - without a doubt - the strap. In fact, should you decide to get this watch, my suggestion would be to get a replacement. Might I suggest plain calfskin?