Frederique Constant smartwatch partner strikes out alone

Philippe Fraboulet, the new CEO of MMT.

Swiss technology company MMT, which developed the smartwatch movements and apps for Frederique Constant horological smartwatches, has been cut loose to operate as a standalone company.

The company was created as a business unit within Frederique Constant’s Geneva manufacture two years ago, but was not part of the deal when Citizen bought the Frederique Constant and Alpina watch brands.

MMT remained in the ownership of Frederique Constant CEO Peter Stas and his wife within the Union Hologere holding company from which Citizen bought the watch brands.

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Since the acquisition, Frederique Constant has operated as a wholly owned business of Citizen, with Mr Stas remaining as CEO and MMT as a third party supplier of smartwatch movements.

The fact that MMT is still ultimately owned by the Stas family is a convenient connection with the perk that Frederique Constant gets first dibs on new smartwatch technology as it emerges.

MMT is also free to continue supplying to all other watch brands that like its technology, a freedom that Mr Stas hopes will lead to considerably more watchmakers adopting the MMT suite of firmware, apps, and cloud-based software distribution for wearables.

MMT’s first smartwatch module, the MMT 285 is about to be superseded by two new units: the 281 is considerably smaller, allowing watchmakers to create 33mm ladies watches around it; and the 282, which will be used in 42mm men’s watches.

Both movements, combined with upgrades and additions to the apps they connect to, will allow Frederique Constant to create a brand new collection of Horological Smartwatches that are expected to be launched in October.

No specific watch designs were demonstrated at a press conference attended by WatchPro in Geneva today, but there were images showing how they are likely to look and behave.

Gone is the activity tracker dial at 6 o’clock. It is replaced by a system where information such as how many steps the wearer has taken is shown using the hour and minute hands. For example, if a daily target is 10,000 steps, the watch’s hands will show what percentage of those steps have been achieved if you hold down the crown. The hands move from telling you the time to telling you how many steps, and then they spring back to telling you the time again after a couple of seconds.

MMT and Frederique Constant both believe that smartwatches with screens, most notably from Apple and Samsung, are not delivering a compelling experience because they lack the elegance of Swiss watches, and they need to be charged every day.

Because they don’t need to power a screen, the battery feeding MMT’s new movements will work continuously for up to four years, said the company’s new CEO Philippe Fraboulet (pictured above).

The new MMT movements last longer, perform more functions (including a new vibrate feature for incoming alert notifications), and cost a few hundred Swiss francs less than the first module, according to Mr Stas.

That cost saving will feed through the prices of the next generation of Frederique Constant smartwatches, which is expected to retail between CHF 695-995, depending on the design and finish.

Even this price, Mr Stas admits, is higher than he would like. “Price sensitivity is clearly there,” he said. “The price to target is CHF 400-500.”

A full interview with Peter Stas and Philippe Fraboulet will appear in the October edition of WatchPro magazine.

 

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