Celebrating the launch of the brand’s latest Ladies Automatic collection, created in collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow, the CEO of Swiss watch company Frédérique Constant sits down with Global Blue to talk about celebrity endorsement, smartwatches, and why the appeal of a classic timepiece will always be timeless
When Peter and Aletta Stas founded Frédérique Constant in 1988, they made watches for people like themselves. ‘I think we started when we were thirty-somethings and we couldn’t really afford luxury watches, so we created those first watches for ourselves and we’ve always kept with that idea,’ explains Peter Stas.
Since then, Stas and his wife have become one of the most successful horological duos in the world, and this month they celebrate the launch of their latest Ladies Automatic watch collection, in collaboration with Frédérique Constant’s global brand ambassador Gwyneth Paltrow.
‘When we first launched the Ladies Automatic collection 10 years ago it was a big success, and a big seller for us. So now we felt it was time to do an update,’ explains Stas. Aletta Stas led the way, working on the updated collection for more than a year and half with the Frédérique Constant team in Geneva.
‘The old model had a 34mm case and the new one is 36mm, so it’s a little bit bigger,’ says Stas. ‘Also the bezel is a little bit wider, and the dial is now a sunray dial. The slightly larger case, the wider, slightly more masculine bezel and the slightly shinier dial have given the whole watch a bolder design, which is what she was looking for. It’s still a very classical piece, but at the same time it’s a very contemporary piece.’
As is the case with most launches today, the new collection does not come without a celebrity endorsement. However, the choice of Gwyneth Paltrow, who has worked with the brand since 2016, seems more genuine than most; $50 from each watch sold will be donated to Donors Choose, Paltrow’s charity of choice, which helps fund classroom projects for underprivileged children across the United States, and Frédérique Constant also supported the charity with an initial $50,000 donation.
Stas refers to the collaboration and the resulting charitable donations as ‘the logical choice’, explaining that ‘we were looking for someone who is genuine and natural because that is how we started and how we are, and being genuine really is one of the core values of the brand. Since 2007 we’ve been doing all these charitable activities, and with Gwyneth that’s been a real match, so it works on multiple levels.’
Mark Ruffalo, another famous face who has worked with the brand, launched the Frédérique Constant Hybrid 3.0 watch with Stas in New York earlier this year. The third iteration of the brand’s take on a smart and classic hybrid watch, it’s an innovative mix of technology and tradition that seems to be heralding a new age of quietly smart timepieces.
‘We saw what was happening with smartwatches and we really wanted to do that,’ explains Stas. ‘After 25 years in watches, I saw this new wave coming in 2012/13 and that’s when we started to experiment with what could be done.’ The result is a traditionally styled watch that contains all the technology you would expect from a smartwatch, including activity tracking and sleep tracking – hidden behind a beautiful, classic watch face.
When creating a luxury smartwatch, why not decide on a screen over a dial? Style, it seems, is the driving factor at Frédérique Constant. ‘I’ve spoken to many of our customers who have an Apple Watch, but in the evening they put the Apple Watch away and put on a classic watch, and the biggest critique of the Apple Watch is that they are all the same,’ observes Stas. ‘We still have a dial with hands. The dial is a beautiful object that people like to wear and the smarts are behind the dial. Making beautiful products is still our number one priority. Everyone has different clothing, so why would they want to wear the same watch?’
This begs the question – are hybrid models the future of the luxury watch industry? ‘Frankly this is where I am really developing myself,’ says Stas. ‘I see that in the interaction with customers and users, this is where the biggest steps are now being made.’
It’s this interaction and direct communication that is seeing wristwear evolve from a stylish accessory into a lifestyle essential, and Stas and his team see this as the next step for both smartwatches and hybrids. ‘You can really interact in the moment with the user – for example, telling them to move a little bit more, or that they seem to be stressed, because we can measure heart rate in that moment, so we can suggest doing a Zen or breathing exercise – just simple ways that they can improve their day. This is something you can only do if you have smart technology.’
Through its technological innovation, Frédérique Constant is proving that it’s at the forefront of contemporary, luxury watches, but the most important factor, in Stas’s opinion, is beautiful pieces. ‘The design should really radiate luxury and we see very clearly our biggest unique selling point in the field is that we can create beautiful watches.’