A new version of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud’s iconic, inaugural FB 1 chronometer is now available, sporting a subtle, contemporary look and featuring a unique combination of platinum, grey ceramic, and a translucent blue dial; only five such pieces will be made.
Step by step, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud is producing all-new variations to its collections as it adds carefully thought-out touches to its timepieces. The new FB 1.3-1 “Sapphire Blue” model is no exception. Comprising just 5 numbered watches, this edition offers a new chromatic harmony, structured around an intense, silky translucent blue dial. Its understated sheen pervades every line and detail of the 44 x 13 mm 950 platinum case, featuring mounted grey ceramic lugs.
The inner workings are also redolent with the magic of this new finishing. Seasoned collectors will appreciate all the detailing that characterises the exclusive nature of this limited edition: the timepiece has been fitted with the FB-T.FC-2 calibre, featuring chamfered sapphire crystal half-bridges. The arrow-shaped tourbillon bridge is blue-tinted – a finishing achieved by means of Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD), a process in which thin films are laid down in a vacuum, ensuring high performance over time and preserving all the finesse and details of the finishes. In addition to this colouring, the new blue dial is decorated with fine lines echoing the blue-tinted hours and minutes hands – as well as the indicator hand for the 53-hour power reserve, located at 9 o’clock.
As can be expected, the chronometric properties of the FB 1.3-1 “Sapphire Blue” movement are outstanding. Drawing inspiration from marine chronometers, of which Ferdinand Berthoud was one of the most legendary clockmaker, the FB-T.FC-2 calibre is regulated by a centre seconds tourbillon and a fusee and chain constant force mechanism. The barrel and inverted fusee are suspended, and in a patented arrangement, are held in place on just one side. As is usual with fusee and chain mechanisms, the barrel is fitted with a Maltese Cross stop system. This limits the number of winding turns of the mainspring to half a dozen or so, ensuring that only the most stable part of the spring is used; this technique increases the timepiece’s accuracy, as certified by the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC).
The architecture of the FB-T.FC-2 calibre is unique in contemporary watchmaking. The manual wind movement features 15 bridges and 3 half-bridges in chamfered sapphire crystal, held in place by polished titanium pillars supporting the mechanical components. This structure, characteristic of eighteenth-century marine chronometers, allows the four portholes of the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1.3-1 chronometer to reveal the innards of the watch. The same stylistic requirement has been applied to the design of all the components, and more especially to ensure the symmetrical visual balance of the movement’s main assemblies.
The power reserve indication mechanism on the FB 1.3-1 model is very sophisticated. A truncated cone travels up and down an endless screw connected to the barrel. At the tip of this suspended cone sits a feeler spindle: an arm with a jewel on the end, its position on the cone indicating how wound up the watch is. This feeler spindle is in turn linked to the power reserve hand; the corresponding graduations are engraved on the mainplate and viewed through an opening in the dial. This audacious mechanism, showcased by its sapphire crystal bridges, allows the movement’s power reserve to be indicated with great precision.
The FB 1.3-1 chronometer has also been fitted with a hand-stitched, rolled-edged alligator leather strap, made from a single piece of leather, together with a two-strand adjustable-length PT950 platinum folding safety clasp.
Irrespective of their position and function, all the components have been fully hand-finished using traditional tools in Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud’s workshops. To ensure a highly detailed inspection of the finishings, a 6x magnifying glass is used to carry out quality control. At that level of magnification, no detail, however minuscule, can go unnoticed – and no error, flaw, or imperfection is tolerated. Therein lies the ethos of watchmaking excellence so dear to the heart of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, purveyor of chronometers for explorers.
Back in 2016, just one year after the inauguration of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, the Chronometer FB 1.1 model was awarded the Aiguille d’Or, the highest distinction in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Three years on, after two editions in which the firm chose not to take part, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has once again won a prize at the event, this time in the ‘Chronometry’ category with its FB 1R.6-1 model, a carburised steel regulator-type timepiece. The award recognises the firm’s ongoing perseverance in innovation, true to the values of Ferdinand Berthoud, Watchmaker-Mechanic by appointment to the King and to the Navy of France in the eighteenth century.
“This distinction is a confirmation of our strategy to date,” says Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. “Right from the outset of this adventure in 2015, we decided to focus on designing contemporary timepieces that also honoured the work of Ferdinand Berthoud, whose main calling was the quest for accuracy. As a result, chronometric performance has been a key criterion in terms of deciding which developments to pursue; we are especially proud of the efficiency of our tourbillon movement with fusee-and-chain transmission system, providing constant force; the members of the jury were particularly impressed by this. Receiving this award today for our FB 1R.6-1 carburised steel regulator model is an encouragement for us to continue on the same course.”
The FB 1R.6-1 Chronometer has won the Chronometry Prize. The only regulator in its category, this classic choice of display meets a chronometric requirement in and of itself: distinguishing the displays of hours, minutes, and seconds to make it easy to read each separately. This was a fundamental concept for Ferdinand Berthoud when making his marine chronometers, which were vital for calculating longitude.
Subjected to two full Fleuritest cycles, the carburised steel regulator’s chronometric performance was outstanding: despite constant alterations in the position of the timepiece – simulating the real conditions for a watch worn on the wrist over the course of a typical day – the test results for this model revealed only tiny discrepancies, amounting in 33 out of 36 cases to less than one second; and in almost half of all cases, the value was actually less than or equal to 0.5 seconds per day.
Ferdinand Berthoud’s eighteenth-century designs truly were “timekeeping devices” in the literal sense of the term: marine chronometers were the only way of “keeping time” during sea voyages, making them the only reference allowing longitude to be calculated. For these measurement instruments, accuracy was thus crucially important. As such, it was a principle dear to the heart of Ferdinand Berthoud – and continues to be the very essence of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud’s contemporary collections.
The Chronometry Watch Prize is awarded to Ferdinand Berthoud, for the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1.
At the 2019 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud presented a new pillar of its FB 1 collection: the Œuvres d’Or. These were two extremely limited five-piece editions, directly inspired by a creation by Ferdinand Berthoud, the Astronomical Pocket Watch No. 3, assembled and adjusted in Paris in 1806.
Today, the Œuvre d’Or collection is enriched by a new limited and numbered edition of five watches (ref. FB 1.2-3), combining a rose gold case with a white gold dial and a movement with three half-bridges in 18-carat rose gold.
The overall appearance of the model remains faithful to its inspiration. These five models are graced with a prestigious hand-crafted finish applied to the dial and movement. The first, which preserves its broad opening, provides a vast field for artistic expression in entirely hand-patinated 18-carat white gold. This patina is achieved by means of a line-engraving technique that requires great manual dexterity. First of all, the gold is finely grained with a burin. The surface is then crafted at length using a tool called a “rocker”, enabling the light to glide across the dial to the rhythm of the shimmering moiré effect thus created. A symbol of the passing of time and of Ferdinand Berthoud’s legacy, this combination of artistic techniques recalls the natural patina of the dial of the astronomical pocket watch No. 3 that inspired the Chronomètre FB 1.
The dial is then hand-engraved with descriptive indications regarding the model, in keeping with 18th and 19th century traditions: “Ferdinand Berthoud – Chronomètre – Val-de-Travers – Suisse”, followed by the individual number of the watch “N° X / 5”. Opposite these inscriptions is the one indicating the movement’s power reserve.
On the case-back side, this collection picks up the “pyramid” motif across the entire surface of its three 18-carat gold half-bridges. This true feat of craftsmanship demonstrates the expertise of the Manufacture’s engravers: the material is incised freehand using a burin wielded with great precision and strict regularity. This pattern first introduced in 2018 is inspired by the base of a clock by Ferdinand Berthoud, kept at the L.U.CEUM in Fleurier.
On the movement side, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has chosen to use its original calibre, chronometer-certified by the COSC. Framed by the emblematic octagonal case with its bevelled edges is the unique pillar-type architecture. This technique of securing bridges to the mainplate lightens the structure of the movement and also provides an integral view of its components and their exceptional hand-crafted finishes.
This 100% in-house movement retains its three essential features. First of all, a suspended fusee-and- chain transmission system. The latter serves to deliver constant force to the escapement, a guarantee of isochronism throughout the running time of the movement, from the first turn of the crown through to complete winding and thus ensuring a total 53-hour power reserve. This construction also helps reduce the thickness of the movement to 7.96 mm, making it one of the thinnest in its class.
Next is the tourbillon with direct-drive seconds in the centre. The tourbillon itself makes it possible to compensate for the variations in rate induced by the different positions to which a wristwatch will be subjected in the course of a day. The direct-drive seconds display is made possible by the correlation between the fourth wheel and the wheel driving the tourbillon carriage, both perfectly identical and visible on the dial side, enabling the seconds to be displayed without any jerking.
Finally, the FB-T.FC-3 calibre is equipped with a power-reserve indicator operating in an atypical manner. It rests on a mobile cone which, in association with the rotation of the cylinder, moves up and down according to the state of wind. A jewel-tipped mobile arm (feeler spindle) takes an extremely accurate measurement, which it then transmits to a hand visible on the dial side.
Four patents have been filed for the unique features of the Ferdinand Berthoud movement.
Interviewed by Pascal Grenacher