“Collection Extracts” is a series examining watches from our personal collections; watches that we own and love, and our personal history and relationship with them.
In the fall of 2018 I was a budding watch collector, fresh off a fun summer with an SKX009 and the happy owner of a Steinhart Ocean 39. Everything was new, the air was intoxicating, and I knew so little about any of it. The process of reading and learning and, sure, hunting was addicting.
At the time my watch collection consisted of exactly two watches; my vintage Seiko 6309-8239 (essentially a non-5 branded three hand Seiko 5), and my Steinhart. Although the Seiko filled the dress spot well enough, I had a hankering for something different in that category. I loved watches with white dials (and still do), and my interest was piqued by a complication I’d recently been reading about: the moonphase.
Moonphase complications have been both loved and disparaged by watch enthusiasts for years. They’re unquestionably frivolous, of dubious practicality, and anything but “toolish”; unpalatable in an era of sports watch obsession. And if the watch bearing one wasn’t considered “dressy” before, a moonphase complication will seal that fate.
On the other hand a moonphase is potentially one of the most beautiful things you can put on a watch. The night sky has no shortage of potential for attractive depiction, and the contrast of the night-dark subdial with a white main dial is striking. While perhaps not very useful, it’s nonetheless pleasing and interesting to me to know the phase of the moon and stay slightly aware of the lunar calendar. A longtime mild interest in astronomy fuels that feeling as well.
My budget, unfortunately, turned out to be well below the asking price of most modern mechanical moonphase watches. Also I was (and continue to be) a picky watch collector. I wanted something dressy, with Roman numerals and a white dial. In addition, I really disliked the way most dials were laid out such that the subdial(s) cut into the numerals. I wanted a clean dial with no visual clutter or cramped layout.
As it turned out there weren’t many watches that fit these criteria, but the good thing was there was one: the Frederique Constant Classics Moonphase, model number FC-260WR5B6.
The Watch Itself
The minute I saw this watch I knew it was the right one. It’s a quartz model, part of FC’s Classics lineup, and more traditional than their other moonphase watches in that line, with printed, traditionally serifed Roman numerals.
I ordered the watch immediately- it was a little more expensive than a knee-jerk reaction to “quartz” might think appropriate- but I thankfully had not (and still haven’t) entered into a phase of quartz snobbery.
Upon its arrival I was utterly smitten, and continue to be. The watch is well-sized, especially for a brand known for their unfortunately large dress watches. The case is fully polished, and is 40mm in diameter, a svelte 9.5mm thick, 46mm lug-to-lug, and has a 20mm lug width. For a dress watch this is admittedly on the large end. Certainly if it were any larger it’d start to look and probably wear oddly, and I have balked many times at similarly styled watches a mere millimeter or two larger. For this watch, the size feels appropriate, especially considering the layout of the dial.
The dial is a smooth, very slightly metallic white- not silver, and there’s a big aesthetic difference there. The Roman numerals are printed in crisp black, along with a minute track just to the outside.
The watch has three slightly more metallic subdials laid out in the traditional fashion. The left subdial displays the day of the week, and the right subdial the day of the month. The moonphase display is at 6:00, and is deep night sky blue with a golden moon surrounded by stylized stars. It’s very simply printed, and there’s nothing unusual about it as moonphases go- it’s just a very well-executed, traditional-looking moonphase complication.
The sapphire crystal is very slightly domed- just enough to avoid a flat look, but not enough to cause any distortion; a look that suits the watch perfectly. A signed crown and small, inset button to adjust the day and date subdials complete the package.
Frederique Constant rebrands the movement as FC-260, but in reality it’s a Ronda 706.1 5- jewel quartz movement. Ronda makes generally impeccable Swiss quartz movements, and this one has performed perfectly. A moonphase watch is likely a dress watch, and as such usually doesn’t get the daily wear needed to keep a mechanical watch wound and running. As moonphase complications are notoriously laborious to reset, I think a quartz movement is absolutely perfect for this type of watch. In addition, this watch has no seconds hand and therefore no imperfect motor-driven action to fret about.
Now for the best part, feelings. I love this watch. When I got it, it completely satisfied my desire for a classic dress watch. It fit my 7” wrist well, and once set, just always worked.
As I’ve come to own and experience more watches, my taste in dress watch sizing has become more conservative; the other dress watches in my collection are 37, 34, and 32mm in diameter. 40 has come to mean a large size for a dress watch, for me. However this watch has continued to get regular wear, and I feel the size befits the more complicated dial layout better than if it were all crammed in a more traditionally sized case.
Another aspect of this watch that I did not anticipate when I bought it is how well it works with everyday wear. I’m a big fan of the Cartier Santos, a very simple, very dressy-looking watch- white dial, Roman numerals, unlumed, dark handset. Yet what I like about the Santos is that it is actually a fairly rugged, capable watch- stainless steel, sapphire, and a solid 100 meters of water resistance. It’s a perfect elegant do-anything watch- a watch that protects that old school charm with durable materials and solid watchmaking.
This Frederique Constant gives me a lot of the same feelings- it’s solid stainless steel, a quartz movement that can take anything, sapphire crystal and decent water resistance buttressed by no-nonsense, modern watchmaking techniques and materials. I absolutely love putting this watch on a Barton Silicone Elite or smooth FKM rubber strap in the summer; it’s a bit daring as watch strap pairings go, but one that I think works extremely well. On these straps it goes from dressy and perhaps a little fussy to elegant and relaxed.
It’s not my favorite on bracelet, but it’s great for a change. I usually favor a Milanese mesh or a beads-of-rice.
For casual wear in the fall, a brown Horween Chromexcel strap is perfect- a little worn, and little variation to the leather, all giving the watch a comfortable, cozy appearance.
For a bit of extra flair, try white python!
And for when you want to go full dress, it looks undeniably good on classic black crocodile or alligator.
This watch is mid-upper-range in expense for my collection, and as such the thought of selling it has crossed my mind already when tempted by some new piece. I’ve not yet pulled the trigger, though, and truthfully I don’t think this one will ever leave. It scratches a little bit of my Santos itch, is surprisingly versatile, and is just such a solid, no-nonsense execution of one of my favorite complications. Most importantly, every time I put it on a new strap and try out the look it puts a smile on my face.
At this point (with the exception of the vintage Seiko I inherited) it’s the watch in the collection that’s been around the longest. I think it’ll be around a lot longer.
Check out more moonphase watch reviews here
Check out the Frederique Constant website