The Chronograph That Leaves a Wake

Frederique Constant’s new tribute to boat builder Carlo Riva is worthy of the Italian master.

The supercars on display at the Concours d’Elegance in Monterey made headlines—and deservedly so—but sometimes all that pricey chrome and rubber distracts from gold and leather. One of the more memorably debuts at the Tahoe Concourse d’Elegance, the automotive event’s marine little sister, was the new Automatic Collection Runabout Chronograph from Frederique Constant, the boat-loving Swiss brand. The watch, simple but classic with two sub dials, a geometrically detailed face and a streamlined case, is a tribute to Italian boatbuilder Carlo Riva, whose wooden masterpieces have zoomed across Lake Como since the fifties.

The flag of the Riva Historical Society, a pendant inscribed with the master builder’s signature, is etched into the back of the case, which recalls the simple dials Riva built into his boats’ wooden consoles. The arabic numerals seem to specifically reference speedometers and the dark leather straps are, well, dark leather straps. It’s a watch, not a boat.

The new runabout is also not Constant’s first attempt to capture the Riva aesthetic. The brand previously released a moonphase Runabout and a stripped-down automatic. The new watch isn’t notable because it represents a departure for the brand, but because it is the most refined timepiece to emerge from a worthy line. The case’s sharper edges and the extraordinary detailing on the sub dials, which appear to ripple, make it seem both modern and traditional, something Carlo Riva always admired. 

The new Runabout is an unabashed maritime watch, which might not suit the Concours car buffs, but works fine for us. Sometimes the most impressive motors are under the hull rather than under the hood. Sometimes they’re small enough for your wrist.