Monochrome Watches
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The Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB3 SPC (Live Pics, Video & Price)

A superb wrist chronometer with cylindrical balance-spring

| By Robin Nooy | 4 min read |

When resurrecting the Ferdinand Berthoud name, an eminent 18th-century horologist, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele and his team have shown quite a talent to surprise and amaze us. First with the Chronomètre FB1, which was awarded the coveted Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG 2016, the Oscars of watchmaking. And then, with the no less spectacular, Chronomètre FB2, which was awarded the Chronometry prize at GPHG 2019. For 2022, the brand starts writing its third chapter with the FB3, Atelier Berthoud which keeps the fundamental themes for the brand, in particular the focus on chronometry, on exclusivity and exceptional craftsmanship. But the FB3 is different in many respects and it pays tribute to new aspects of the brand’s tradition.

The Chronomètre FB3 SPC is the answer to the desire from Berthoud enthusiasts to be able to wear a slightly smaller timepiece and to have a (relatively speaking) more affordable piece. The model keeps the fundamental themes for the brand, in particular chronometry, this time with a focus on the balance spring. Its calibre is paced by a cylindrical hairspring which was inspired by a Louis Berthoud (Ferdinand Berthoud’s nephew) pocket watch with decimal time indication, the No. 26 decimal watch.

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Cylindrical hairsprings offer the advantage of developing concentrically and perfectly on the axis of their pivots. However, these are extraordinarily difficult to craft and require more space compared to a regular balance spring. Months of testing were required to define the number of coils and the geometry of the terminal curve at the attachment points in order to optimize rate precision in relation to a new variable inertia balance equipped with four fine adjustment screws and 12 load screws.

The development of this oscillator has required 2 years of work. Its manufacturing and assembly are no less demanding. The spring’s terminal curves are shaped by hand using a profile projector. The movement adjustment then requires several days of work. All of this to ensure chronometric precision (certified by the COSC). In addition, a stop-second mechanism ensures precise setting operations.

This hypnotic oscillator ticks at the heart of a new calibre, the Calibre FB-SPC (SPC stands for SPiral Cylindrique or Cylindrical Hairspring in French). This superb movement stands out with its graphic, three-dimensional architecture. In an original way, the movement is built with the main plate at the centre with bridges on each side.

On the dial side, an array of six bridges traces a beautiful layout. Unlike the previous Berthoud calibres, it no longer features a fusée-and-chain mechanism (which requires quite some space). At 12 o’clock, held under an arched bridge, the large barrel (with a slip-spring to avoid overwinding and damaging the mainspring) delivers 72 hours of power reserve. The indication of time is pared down to the minimum: a peripheral inner bezel ring for the hours and minutes. The large small second indication creates a symmetrical counterpoint to the barrel. At 2 o’clock, the power-reserve indicator is engraved in a sector graduated in 12-hour segments from “0” to “1”. The left-hand side is dedicated to the regulator with the balance, anchor and escapement positioned in line each with a dedicated bridge (also note the beautiful heel-shaped bridge for the balance).

As you have come to expect from Berthoud, the decoration is top-notch and involves over 100 hours of work. The finishing of each of the 230 movement components is impeccable and checked with a x6.7 magnifier. The main plate and bridges are made out of nickel silver. Their matt surface is achieved by manual fine sandblasting. Their chamfers are cut and polished by hand before being coated with a galvanic surface treatment contrasting with the gold colour of the case.

The round 42.3 mm case is fashioned out of white or pink ethical gold. Its style is more classic than the design of previous Berthoud models. Still, it is fitted with signature features such as the large crown allowing for easy operations and the porthole in the case middle at 9 o’clock which offers a captivating view of the beating cylindrical hairspring. The water resistance is rated 3 ATM / 30 meters.

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB3 SPC is presented on an alligator leather strap with a gold pin buckle matching the colour of the case. The Ferdinand Berthoud FB3 SPC radiates timeless beauty. With it, Ferdinand Berthoud has created a superb watchmaking classic, whilst retaining the brand’s distinctive style. It is a superb example of uncompromising craftsmanship, reflecting the ethics of the company and its carefully thought-out approach. The production is naturally limited by the capacities of the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud workshop in Fleurier to a maximum of 25 timepieces per year.

At CHF 140.000, the Ferdinand Berthoud FB3 SPC is certainly not for every pocket but it is a watch that can be worn in confidence in front of the most rarefied gatherings of watch snobs.

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