This month, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud revealed their first regulator watch – Chronomètre FB-1R.6-1. With its distinctive regulator-type display and scratch-resistant carburised stainless steel case, the Chronomètre FB-1R.6-1 joins the exclusive Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud collection.
CHRONOMÈTRE FERDINAND BERTHOUD REGULATOR FB 1R.6-1
Staying true to the underlying philosophy, the new watch transforms an exceptional timepiece, while maintaining the complications with quality of its construction and production. Its FB-T.FC.R tourbillon calibre (movement) with fusee-and-chain transmission can still be admired through a sapphire crystal case-back and only two lateral portholes. The previous watches had four portholes but in this case – “Less is More!”
Like previous editions of the Chronomètre FB 1, the movement complications are inspired by the scientific instruments represented by Ferdinand Berthoud’s marine chronometers. Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 takes its visual cues from the Marine Chronometer No. 7 made by the master horologist appointed Clockmaker to the French King and Navy.
Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 is a comprehensive horological work, rare and unusual, issued in a 20-piece limited edition for discerning and passionate collectors.
A PHILOSOPHICAL APPROACH
The different versions of the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 (five versions to date) are derived from an innovative horological approach. The design, movement, finishing and horological complications of this chronometer with tourbillon and constant force are highly specific in the service of an uncompromising commitment to excellence.
Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud is driven by the vision of its president, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. He has accumulated an important collection of objects relating to time measurement within the L.U.CEUM museum in Fleurier, including a number of works by Ferdinand Berthoud.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele explained the principles used during the development of FB 1 watch: “We sought to transpose what Ferdinand Berthoud might have created if he was living now. The contemporary translation of his genius consists of drawing inspiration from the master-horologist’s most remarkable accomplishments, in order to offer modern creations, bearing reinterpreted distinctive features and evoking emblematic historical constructions. We have a major responsibility in bringing the legendary Ferdinand Berthoud back to the forefront of the watchmaking scene. Our goal is not to develop nostalgic commemorative models, but instead to offer contemporary watches that will prove worthy of the great name they bear and of the excellence that is legitimately inspires.”
Ferdinand Berthoud’s Marine Chronometer no. 7 housed a number of solutions that improved the function of Longitude watches. Among them was its display that differed from the usual rules governing regulators – which assign a different place on the dial to the hours, minutes and seconds displays – by the use of a large central seconds hand.
That’s why the new Chronomètre FB-1R.6-1 is like no other regulator in production.
AN EVOLVING CASE
The Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 employs some unusual details and a unique evolution of aesthetic and technical characteristics from the previous versions. It remains a 44 mm-diameter watch, with less than 14 mm thick case that sits naturally and comfortably on the wrist.
Now comes the technical wizardry: The steel cylinder housing the movement is like no other. The molecular structure of this steel has been reinforced by a thermo-chemical diffusion of vapour-phase carbon, giving a superlative surface hardness of 1200 Hardness Vickers. It is also exceptionally corrosion-resistant and biocompatible. Regular stainless steel is only 140 Hardness Vickers and ceramic is 1400 Hardness Vickers.
The case has two octagonal-shaped stainless steel side pieces, giving it a characteristic shape including two lateral portholes at 2 and 11 o’clock – providing a chance to admire the chain-and-fusee mechanism in action. These two openings are complemented by a screw-down stainless steel case-back fitted with glare-proofed sapphire crystal enabling observers to appreciate the high-quality finishing lavished on the FB-T.FC-R movement.
The knurled 9mm-diameter stainless steel crown bearing a black ceramic medallion ensures smooth winding of the movement, endowed with a 53-hour power reserve.
AN EXCEPTIONAL REGULATOR
The Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 is like no other existing regulator-type display. Instead of the high-up opening on previous FB 1 watches for a view of the tourbillon and the fourth wheel (driving the seconds hand), the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 has a mostly solid dial. The tourbillon is still there but hidden from view; at this esoteric level of appreciation, it suffices that you know its there. No need for vulgarity.
Eighteen nickel silver bridges framed by polished titanium pillars surround the mechanical organs. This construction is typical of 18th century marine chronometers.
The dial is made of nickel silver, vertically satin-brushed by hand and black rhodium-plated. There are three small apertures; the first serves to show the hours, offset at 2 o’clock and appearing on a glare-proofed sapphire crystal disc bearing transferred Arabic numerals.
The second opening features an ingenious power-reserve display mechanism, distinguished by a large dial cut-out revealing part of the finely sandblasted and black rhodium-plated mainplate. Trust me…it’s complicated…a suspended cone is topped by a feeler spindle in the form of a mobile arm, tipped with a watch jewel.
Located at the centre of the finely chamfered, bead-blasted and black rhodium-plated minutes counter, the third aperture displays a hand-engraved “pyramid” motif inspired by an openworked Ferdinand Berthoud astronomical clock belonging to the L.U.CEUM collection.
The seconds appear around the rim of the dial on a flat inner bezel ring made of black rhodium-plated, bead-blasted and chamfered nickel silver.
Finally, the provenance of the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 can be read off on this large dial, engraved with the inscription “Chronomètre Val-de-Travers Suisse”. More than merely representing a signature or an appellation of origin, it proudly proclaims the watch’s identity.
Smooth as Butter
The manual winding is as “smooth as butter” with a clever mechanism fitted with a pinion gear with cone-shaped teeth. Coupled with a large-diameter knurled crown, it enables gentle winding motion, which is an essential quality of the day-to-day connection between the watch and its owner.
Tourbillon with Central Seconds
The tourbillon contributes to earning Calibre FB-T.FC.R its chronometer title awarded by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC). Although the tourbillon cage performs one rotation per minute, it does not indicate the seconds, since the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1 is one of the rare tourbillons to have a central sweep-seconds hand. Extremely long, slim and made of gilded bronze, the central seconds hand moves with remarkable accuracy and in a remarkable stable manner.
If it can be decorated, specular-polished, straight-grained, circular-grained, smooth-polished, stain-brushed, sandblasted, or chamfered, every part will have been superbly finished this watch.
The 790-part stainless steel chain measuring 285 mm long is entirely hand-finished. The quality control of this finishing is performed at a far higher degree of magnification than usual, with a 6x loupe. Under such intense scrutiny, no detail, however tiny, goes unnoticed. No error, imperfection or insufficiency is tolerated.
This is the Best-of-the-Best.
To some extent, this evolution of the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 chronometer may be the purest yet. Eschewing overt vanity, the tourbillon is hidden and the focus is on the time keeping display on the dial. The clear legibility of hour, minutes and seconds displayed runs true to the philosophy of chronometry. Reassuringly, all the horological wizardry can still be admired through the case back and portholes, if you so wish.
Instead of precious metal, this pure chronometer is enrobed in one of the hardest utilitarian steels in the world. How marvelously contrarian in this luxury world?
What price this exclusivity and luxury for the lucky 20 owners?
CHF 230,000 or USD 241,500.
Previous AlphaLuxe Reports
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was also CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).