“Art de Vivre”, the literal translation from French to English would be Art of Living. Not the Sri Sri Ravi Shankar one, but it’s good enough for us watch enthusiasts, when Frederique Constant brings about two new Vintage Rally watches celebrating the ‘art of living’ of gentlemen drivers.
Gearheads have always swooned over fine engineering, whether it be automobiles or watchmaking. The two new models, in retro-style, are Frederique Constant’s tribute to the legendary Austin-Healey. For those of you who are more Horologically inclined, just like us, Austin-Healey was a British sports car maker established in 1952 through a joint venture between the Austin division of the British Motor Corporation and the Donald Healey Motor Company, a renowned automotive engineering and design firm. It’s become something of a ritual that fans of the Geneva-based Maison have come to expect like clockwork; this year, Frederique Constant is offering new versions of its iconic Vintage Rally collection, the only one it has ever designed for car collectors. This collection is based on a close collaboration with Austin-Healey, the two brands having joined forces back in 2004. Counting 17 years of fellowship geared around sport and watchmaking, theirs is one of the most enduring associations in the industry, reflective of the unbreakable bond the two maisons share in drawing on tradition to create thoroughly modern designs, especially for those who truly appreciate craftsmanship and elegance.
Authenticated by the original “Healey” logo marked on the dial, these Vintage Rally Healey Automatic Small Seconds are in fittingly short supply, with only 888 pieces of each one available.
The green version is probably the most iconic of all. Extending across the whole dial, this particular shade of British racing green alludes to the legendary colour of the Austin-Healey company. A study in contrast and a return to the roots of one of the most iconic rally car colours, ‘British racing green’ has long been associated with the vintage Austin Healey’s that are especially desirable among collectors now. For this model, Frederique Constant has opted for luminescent silvered applique hour markers with the 6 and the 12 being more generously proportioned – one of the distinguishing features of the Vintage Rally collection.
The piece has an off-centre small second’s hand at 9 o’clock. Its very traditional complication has only surfaced once in almost 20 years. It is counterbalanced at 3 o’clock by a date window. Running around the dial is the flange complete with 60-minute scale, all set within a 40 mm diameter case, a favourite with collectors on account of its timeless quality. The perforated strap has received particular attention; on this ‘racing green’ model, it comes in brown leather. Not found anywhere else on the watch, this colour also recalls the upholstery of the beautiful cars from the 1940s to the 1970s, as well as the gloves worn by gentlemen drivers in their element.
Finally, the last version is supposed to be the most classic, aligned as it is with the fine watchmaking that Frederique Constant has always championed in Geneva. The case is rose gold plated, as are the hour markers, hands and crown. This sunny shade of gold really sets off the midnight blue dial, picked up on the leather strap. Day and night, the classic and classy elegance of the latest Vintage Rally Healey Automatic Small Seconds shines through.
The case backs of these new models have been engraved with a Healey being driven at full throttle; the famous Healey 100S NOJ393 was purchased by a collector for £155 in 1969 and sold for nearly €1 million in December 2011. Each piece comes in a collector’s gift set, complete with a miniature replica of the NOJ393.