Baselworld 2019: Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1L.1. and FB 1L.4. Live Pictures & Pricing.

Continuing with the saga of their incredible watches, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud just hit another home run with their latest release from Baselworld 2019. The new Chronomètre FB 1L is a new experimental collection, combining the in-house tourbillon movement with a new display of the age and phases of the moon in a way in which we have not seen it before. The new Chronomètre FB 1L intertwines the world of astronomy and chronometry, paying tribute to Ferdinand Berthoud’s work on chronometric precision and the calculation of longitude. It was to this end that the master watchmaker designed his famous Marine Chronometers, which inspired the creation of the FB 1L collection.

Available in two 10-piece limited editions, one with a case in 18K white gold and black ceramic lugs and the other in anthracite ceramized titanium and sandblasted 18K white gold, this new collection displays the hours and minutes on a dedicated subdial at 12 o’clock, seconds at the central pinion and the 53-hour power reserve on the back of the movement. A large hand at 6 o’clock indicates the age and phases of the moon in a continuous back and forth movement. This patent-pending complication, combined with the constant force of the FB-T.FC.L calibre, ensures astronomical precision corresponding to a one-day difference in 577 years of operation.

Background on the Creation of this Timepiece

During the 1750s Ferdinand Berthoud submitted several documents, the first forms of patents on his many inventions, under sealed cover to the French Académie Royale des Sciences, which became the Académie des Sciences in 1666 in Paris. At the same time, at the same location, the knight Jean-Charles de Borda also submitted his first works as an engineer, a few years later, embarking on various ships to clarify the calculation of longitude. For these missions, he used measuring instruments created by Berthoud. This collaboration between watchmakers, engineers and sailors forms the essence of Ferdinand Berthoud's period, the famous age of Enlightenment, which he lived through in its entirety. Its purpose was to disseminate and enhance knowledge. Ferdinand Berthoud actively contributed to both missions, as well as writing a large number of articles relating to horology for Diderot and d'Alembert’s Encyclopaedia —the first systematic attempt to provide an exhaustive summary of human knowledge— as well as authoring eleven watchmaking treatises in 30 years.

As early as 1752, the accuracy of longitude readings was greatly improved thanks to an instrument optimized by the same Jean-Charles de Borda, after whom it was named the Borda circle a.k.a repeating circle. This instrument was designed to measure angular distances by repeating the same observation several times on the circle without returning to zero. Its particularity, the more the measurements it performs are repeated, the smaller its margin of error. The Borda circle was the essential link that made it possible to pass from the octant —with an accuracy of 150 nautical miles, or more than 270 km— to the sextant —accurate to 0.2 miles, or 370 metres.

The Borda circle was conceived as an improvement of the reflecting circle invented in 1752 by Tobias Mayer, a German astronomer known for his lunar tables, which made it possible to determine the position of the Moon and hence longitude in a precise manner. The Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1L is a tribute to these pioneers who combined their knowledge to achieve a level of chronometric and astronomical precision that would change the course of history.

Things to Know About the Watches

The new Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1L Chronometer is a model displaying the age and phases of the moon. Available in two 10-piece limited edition models, the FB 1L.1 ‘Near Side of the Moon’ ref. FB 1L.1 comes in a luminous approach reminiscent of the visible face of the Moon and the intensity of the full moon. The piece has a case middle, side elements and crown in 18K polished white gold and its lugs are made of black ceramic.

The FB 1L.4 ‘Far Side of the Moon’ ref. FB 1L.4 version evokes the dark and mysterious tones of the Moon's hidden face. This time, its 18K white gold case middle is sandblasted and, in place of ceramic, the lugs and side elements are made of dark grey ceramized titanium.

The Moon Age and Cycles Display

This consists of two indications. The first is the display of the moon's age in days, marked from 1 to 14 on a sector swept over by a hand moving back and forth.  Day "1" is the first day since the new moon. Facing this "1" is a circle symbolizing the latter. The next three quarters are spread over the same sector as the days go by. Facing the 14th day is a solid disc, symbolizing the full moon. At this point, the hand performs a gradual backward move passing through the same quarters in the opposite direction: three quarters, two quarters, one quarter, until the return to the new moon.

This display of the age of the moon is complemented by another function revealed through a dial opening between 4 and 5 o’clock, showing the current moon phase, waxing or waning, thereby indicating whether the moon-age indicator hand is rising —up to day 14— or returning —to the new moon. Since this hand progresses at a rate imperceptible to the naked eye, this precious moon-phase indication makes it possible at a single glance to see whether one is heading towards a full moon or a new moon.

This age-of-the-moon display is provided by an arrow surrounding a half-sphere accurately depicting the two large faces of the Moon —visible and hidden— on both versions of the FB 1L collection.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1L ‘Near Side of the Moon’

The moon phase is the most common in watchmaking. This is the complication that visually indicates the different lunar cycles. The moon phase is divided into four phases: new moon, first quarter, full moon and last quarter. A lunation or lunar cycle is the time interval between two new moons. A symbolic and aesthetic complication, the moon phase does not, however, offer the accuracy necessary for astronomical use.

The age of the moon is a more accurate indicator which counts the number of days since the last new moon. This veritable scientific measuring instrument, coupled with the chronometric measurement of time, made it possible to determine longitude at sea with unparalleled accuracy nearly 270 years ago.

For the first time, the FB 1L collection combines these two instruments: a chronometer and an indicator of the age and phases of the moon within the same model.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1L Near Side of the Moon

 The Case

The distinctively shaped case is based on the architecture of the marine chronometers designed by Ferdinand Berthoud from 1760 onwards, inspired by his Marine Clocks, and their gimbal suspension in particular, which allowed the on-board chronometers to remain permanently in a horizontal position. For the new FB 1L collection, the case was completed for the first time with a selector switch placed between 4 and 5 o’clock which enables the wearer to choose between two positions, L —lune, moon in French— and H —heures, hours in French—, to set the age of the moon or the time. The 44 mm case features the same portholes as all other Ferdinand Berthoud watches where one can appreciate the fusee chain system.

The Movement

Entirely independently conceived, developed and produced by the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud in Fleurier, the manual wound in-house calibre of the Chronomètre FB 1L features an original suspended fusee-and-chain construction. It delivers a constant force to the escapement throughout the operation of movement, from its first turn of the crown to complete winding, thus achieving a 53-hour power reserve. The movement also features a tourbillon with direct-drive seconds, compensating for the variations in rate induced by the different positions the watch adopts throughout the day. Direct-drive seconds are made possible by the correlation between the seconds wheel and the wheel driving the tourbillon carriage.

 Finally, for the first time, Calibre FB-T.FC.L is complemented by a patented complication: the age of the moon.

This original mechanism is inspired by a system for displaying the equation of time developed by Ferdinand Berthoud in 1752. It was based on the use of a feeler-spindle arm that followed an equation of time cam. In this instance, however, it is an age-of-the-moon cam.

This invention earned him the title of master watchmaker a year later, by decree of the King's Council. This contemporary interpretation serves to provide a disc-free display of the age of the moon by means of a hand moving back and forth with an accuracy of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 15 seconds —corresponding to a mere one-day difference in 577 years of continuous operation. This exceptional result is made possible thanks to the large number of teeth on the moving disc revealed between 4 and 5 o’clock. The Chronomètre FB 1L thus achieves a degree of accuracy in displaying the age of the moon that exceeds conventional moon phase displays, most of which remain accurate over a period of “only” 122 years.

On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, the Chronomètre FB 1L wears slightly bigger due to its unconventional shape. Available in a limited edition of only 10 pieces for each version, both watches are incredible and delivered on alligator straps. Without a doubt two of the best watches released at Baselworld 2019.

Sticker Price $265,000 USD for 18K white gold —Near Side of the Moon— and $250,000 USD for 18K rose gold with ceramized titanium —Far Side of the Moon. For more info on Ferdinand Berthoud click here.