For over 15 years, connoisseurs of beautiful engineering have honoured the union of automobiles and watchmaking with the limited Vintage Rally series, created by Frederique Constant in tribute to the legendary Austin-Healey. Contributing to this legacy are three new models in retro styles that are every bit as sleek as they are stylish.
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.
The similarities with watchmaking include: an appreciation of beautiful engineering, precision, timeless design, the combination of leather and metal, comfort, and above all, a certain 'art de vivre'. The Vintage Rally by Frederique Constant represents all that... and plenty more besides.
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.
Good company on the road
If the Vintage Rally collection has seen many wonderful breakaways in its time, 2021 is one of the few years to produce not just one, but three editions of the same vintage. 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 Healeys 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 seconds 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.
Finally, 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.
The extra kilometre...
The second version of the new Vintage Rally Healey Automatic Small Seconds has gone the opposite way aesthetically, in all grey. Modern and understated, the dial and strap are both mid-grey. The piece is characterised by 50 shades of grey, its steel case, leather strap, dial, index hour markers and hands included. Every aspect of its exterior takes on a reflection of its own, as you’ll discover on making your own way along winding roads on a sunny day...
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 three 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 miniature replica of the NOJ393.