Only Watch 2023:  Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw bring a unique cosmic creation into existence

Only Watch 2023:
Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw bring a unique
cosmic creation into existence

Jul 2023

A friendship spanning 25 years, human endeavour, the summit of high-flying watchmaking expertise and an unprecedented blend of talents have all come together in the Tourbillon Planétarium Only Watch 2023 for the charity timepiece auction. This single piece features a Frederique Constant tourbillon and the brand’s remarkable manual finishings alongside Christiaan van der Klaauw’s planetarium – the smallest in the world and the first ever produced for a wristwatch. The superlative creation has been hand-finished throughout, housed in a platinum case with a diameter of just 42mm. For the first time ever, it unites the Dutch firm’s planetarium with the Geneva tourbillon, both suitably clad for the occasion with an aventurine dial.

Frederique Constant

For 35 years now, Frederique Constant has been embodying its mantra of traditional, luxury Swiss Made watchmaking at a fair price, an equation that had been deemed impossible to solve until the Firm’s founders Aletta and Peter Stas did just that. Their vision has been brought to life with the help of dozens of watchmakers, designers, and craftsmen working together in Geneva at Manufacture Frederique Constant.

Niels Eggerding was one of the pillars of this ascent. Working his way up the ranks from Head of Sales to Managing Director before becoming CEO of the Frederique Constant Group, he has gradually established the maison’s international reputation and its status as an acclaimed watchmaking house. For nearly a quarter of a century, Pim Koeslag worked by his side as one of the technical brains that have given birth to over 30 Manufacture calibers, the first of which was released in 2004.

A very fruitful transition

A few months ago, Pim Koeslag moved over to take the helm at Christiaan van der Klaauw. Like him, Aletta and Peter Stas, and indeed Niels Eggerding, the firm is Dutch. In a demonstration of the longstanding friendship between Switzerland and the Netherlands, the two watchmaking houses have made the most of the handover to pool their knowhow. Not for a collection, but for a unique piece to benefit a cause dear to Frederique Constant: Only Watch. This auction has been held every two years since 2003 under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco, with all profits going to Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies, a charity devoted to research into muscular dystrophy; Frederique Constant has been supporting the initiative since 2005.

How many firsts?

The exceptional collaboration has resulted in an exceptional piece, with the Tourbillon Planétarium Only Watch 2023 boasting more than one first. It’s the first Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon to have a planetarium – and the first Christiaan van der Klaauw piece of this type to feature a tourbillon. It’s also the first time that a Manufacture Frederique Constant timepiece has had an aventurine dial – or indeed a 42-millimetre platinum case, designed especially for the model in question. And too, it’s the first time since the firm’s inception that a Frederique Constant has included a combined month and date display using hands on a single counter. In all, that makes five firsts in one watch – only one of which will ever be made. That itself is unprecedented in Frederique Constant’s history.

Frederique Constant

The height of complications and finishes

The Manufacture Tourbillon at six o’clock has been designed, assembled and finished by Frederique Constant in its Geneva manufactory, integrated into a movement that’s been hand-finished throughout. Using traditional tools and instruments, two watchmakers spent weeks on the meticulous finishings of each component: a buff file for bevelling, a hammer and punch for hand-punching, and so on. A single bridge required two or three days’ work.

Beading and graining the flanks was done entirely by hand, and all the components have been decorated on both sides – even those that aren’t visible. And for what can be seen, Frederique Constant has worked on even the tiniest details, including the block-polished, chamfered screws. The especially demanding technique in question involves diamond polishing a on a zinc plate.

Once polished, the screws take on a dark or steel sheen depending on the light, creating endless and unique contrasts depending on the dial’s orientation. The movement has some forty such screws, and it takes some forty minutes to polish and bevel each of them by hand.

An unprecedented composition with unprecedented balance

On the dial side, the two complications brought together here for the first time are supplemented by two counters located on either side, resulting in perfect visual harmony: the day/month pair at 9 o’clock and the respective emblems of Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw at 3 o’clock, encircled by the inscription “Only Watch Pièce Unique”. The wording on the tourbillon’s circular surround proudly announces the partnership in full: “Frederique Constant X Christiaan van der Klaauw”.

For the caseback, Frederique Constant has created a specific decoration for the automatic bridge (or frame): a miniature artistic engraving, done by hand in a more figurative and abstract spirit. Symbolically, the Sun takes its place at the centre of the composition – and thus of the oscillating weight. Around it, shooting stars and planets wheel through the heavens in delightful, organised cosmic chaos – perfect for a collector in touch with their inner child and still (a little) starry-eyed.

Frederique Constant