Ferdinand Berthoud might be a relatively “young” brand, but it bears the illustrious name of one of the greatest chronometer makers of the 18th century. Although the brand manufactures just a few dozen of watches every year, the sincerity and the integrity of its approach has won plaudits from collectors and experts alike. Presented in 2015, the FB1 Chronometer, the first modern Ferdinand Berthoud watch, received numerous industry accolades including the Aiguille d’Or at GPHG 2016, the ‘Oscars’ of watchmaking. Five years later, it is time for Ferdinand Berthoud to present its second collection… Meet the Chronomètre FB 2RE, the brand’s first round and no tourbillon watch and its spectacular movement with fusée-and-chain and remontoir d’égalité.
If you have been following the development of Ferdinand Berthoud, the inspiration behind the Chronomètre FB 2 will come as no surprise. Obviously, the watch comes with a new case and a new calibre, but the brand’s focus remains the same: precision watchmaking. Back in the 18th century, Ferdinand Berthoud was one of the most prominent chronometer makers. At the time of the conquest of the oceans, crafting precise timekeepers was a major endeavour as marine chronometers were essential to determine longitude at sea and to provide safe navigation. To establish longitude, you need to know the time aboard ship and at your home port with great precision to convert the hour differences into geographical separation.
In 1770, Ferdinand Berthoud was awarded the title of “Clockmaker and Mechanic by appointment to the French King and Navy”. Two hundred and fifty years later, the eponymous brand unveils a new collection inspired by the Berthoud Marine Clock No.6: the Chronomètre FB 2RE.
FIRST ROUND CASE
The first thing to catch your eye is, of course, the new case. The round design of the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE is surely less polarizing than the octagonal FB 1 but remains distinctive. The watch picks up the shape of Berthoud Marine Clocks and their modular construction. It is based on a cylindrical container fitted with short, tapering lugs secured to the case by stylised bolts. The curved bezel frames a domed sapphire crystal. Just like the FB1, there is a lateral porthole along the case middle at 10 o’clock, in a screw-down frame. It provides an original view of the pillar architecture of the movement. The large knurled crown features a dynamometric system that disengages as soon as the barrel is fully armed. Measuring 44mm in diameter, the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE comes in white or pink ethically sourced gold. Last, it is water-resistant to 30m or 3ATM.
Time is displayed on a traditional Grand Feu enamel dial combining Roman numerals for the hours and Arabic numerals for the minutes. The beautifully crafted two-piece construction is made of a flat slightly recessed central part and a domed disc at the periphery. Because the dial base is made from anti-magnetic metal, there is no need to apply a counter-enamel coat on the back of the dial to protect it from deformation. It is paired with openwork dagger-type hands in 18-carat gold.
A SPECTACULAR MOVEMENT WITH FUSéE-AND-CHAIN AND REMONTOIR
Turning the watch over, the exhibition caseback reveals what is, without a doubt, one of the main attractions of the watch: the breathtaking hand-wound movement powering the Chronomètre FB 2RE. The Calibre FB-RE.FC combines a fusée and chain mechanism with a remontoir d’égalité, two mechanisms to regulate the driving force delivered to the oscillator.
The period of oscillation of a watch’s balance wheel is affected by the variation of the driving force delivered by the barrel. This led watchmakers to design mechanisms to compensate for the variations in torque of the mainspring. A fusée consists of a cone-shaped pulley, linked to a chain coiled around the barrel. The fusée features a spiral thread to receive the chain. Thanks to the increasing circumference of the thread, the diminishing force of the mainspring is compensated (very much like the gearing of a bicycle). As the mainspring unwinds, the chain rolls on the barrel and off the fusée. The increasing leverage of the fusée compensates for the waning torque of the barrel.
The remontoir d’égalité is a system that stores a small amount of energy in a secondary hairspring. It delivers exactly the same amount of energy to the balance every second. The result is a constant amplitude and thus a high degree of rate accuracy. The remontoir of the Chronomètre FB 2RE is fitted concentrically with the escape wheel and thus directly connected to the escapement. Its spring is re-tensioned by means of a triangular ruby cam that releases a stop-lever every second.
According to Berthoud, the remontoir “complements the fusée by acting on another level. The fusée equalises the torque reaching the gear train, yet irregularities are created when the teeth mesh. These variations, of a much smaller magnitude than those generated by the uncoiling of the mainspring, are nevertheless important in light of the precision demanded by Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud.”
In conjunction with the remontoir, seconds are displayed with discreet jumps, once per second. Once again, this makes perfect sense in light of the quest for precision. Unlike traditional watches, in which the seconds hand sweeps in increments of a second, dead-beat seconds watches show one-second beats and provide a more legible and precise reading of the time.
The balance wheel is fitted with four inertia blocks and a spiral with a Phillips terminal curve. It runs at 18,000 vibrations per hour and the stop-seconds mechanism allows for precise time setting. Although the barrel stores energy for several more hours, a Maltese cross stopwork limits the power reserve to 50 hours (which is quite nice for a watch with dead-beat seconds), using only the optimal range of its spring. The power reserve is displayed at the back of the watch.
As you have come to expect from Ferdinand Berthoud, the movement looks spectacular. Although the pillar architecture, which it shares with the FB 1, is no longer visible on the reverse side of the watch, the spotlight has clearly been given to all strategic mechanisms to achieve chronometric performance: the balance wheel, the escapement, the remontoir and the fusée-and-chain. These are presented in their full glory standing out over the frosted German silver intermediary plate. The finishing is top-notch: the arrow-shaped steel balance bridge is mirror polished, as is the upper part of the stepped escape-wheel bridge. The barrel and the fusée are satin-brushed… horological art in its purest form.
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
The Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE is worn on a hand-sewn alligator leather strap fitted with a pin buckle matching the material of the case. The watch is released in two limited editions – 10 pieces in white gold and 10 pieces in pink gold. Price is set at CHF 210,000.
More details at www.ferdinandberthoud.ch.