Insider: Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition. An Incredible Unique-Piece in Rose Gold for Mexico.

Following the huge success of the award-winning FB1.1, FB1.2 and FB1.3, comes the latest from Ferdinand Berthoud. Unveiled at the SIAR 2018 in Mexico City where we were able to review the new Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition which is the rarest timepiece in its kind to date. The Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition is attired in a stunning 18K rose gold case framing a vertical satin-brushed silver-toned, blue-accented dial. After winning the Grand Prix “Aiguille d’Or” prize at the 16th Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève —GPHG— in 2016 the brand has set a path to success with unconventional watches that exude ‘haute horlogerie’ from every angle. You can see the previous iterations of the FB1.1, FB1.2 and FB1.3 here.

Things to Know About the Watch

Paying tribute to Alessandro Malaspina, an Italian explorer who spent most of his life as a Spanish Naval officer. Malaspina undertook a voyage under a Spanish Royal Commission exploring and mapping most of the west coast of the Americas all the way from Cape Horn to the Gulf of Alaska. Combining an 18K rose gold case with a one-of-a-kind color combination on its dial, the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition also features sapphire crystal half-bridges on its movement, highlighting the exceptional finishing and pillar-type structure of this calibre with tourbillon and constant-force transmission.

By now you must be wondering what does Malaspina have to do with Mexico and Ferdinand Berthoud that they decided to name one of their watches after him for this SIAR 2018 release. Well, during his expedition that started on July 30th 1789, funded by the government of King Charles III of Spain, Alessandro Malaspina made a stopover in Acapulco, Mexico in 1791. This large Pacific port of the Mexican colony played an essential role in the expedition. It was there that Malaspina received new orders to push north towards Alaska, where a coastal glacier still bears his name. It is to this major episode in the history of the great explorations of the Age of Enlightenment and that is why this special edition of the FB 1 Chronometer is dedicated to him and Mexico.

Additionally, Malaspina had two Ferdinand Berthoud Marine Clocks aboard his expedition: numbers 10 and 13. The Kingdom of Spain was an ally of France at the time, a fact that had facilitated authorization for the sale of these time-measuring instruments. Ferdinand Berthoud had even organised the knowledge transfer essential to their maintenance.

The Case, Strap, Clasp & Crown

Featuring the same 44 mm octagonal case construction as all the other FB chronometers, there is one thing that is not present on the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition. Where one can typically find black ceramic inserts at the lugs, this time the watch features 18K rose gold matching inserts to allow for a seamless design that flows beautifully with the blue alligator strap —by Camille Fournet— equipped with deployant clasp with apparent pin buckle.

Still equipped with its four lateral watertight sapphire portholes allow for unobstructed views of the power reserve mechanism and the constant-force module. Meanwhile the display case back allows for full view of the back of the movement with its tourbillon and fusée and chain mechanism. At 9 o'clock on the caseband, the reference number and Piece Unique is engraved.

Another unique element in the design of this watch is the dynamo-metric winding crown. Unlike its other FB1 siblings, the crown does not feature a ceramic insert, instead it is fully made of 18K rose gold matching the case.

The Dial

The brass dial of the Chronomètre FB 1 Malaspina Edition features the signature vertical satin brushed finish that has been on Ferdinand Berthoud timepieces since day one. Featuring a cut-out that is carefully chamfered and contoured in 18K rose gold, the seconds are boldly displayed through a translucent sapphire crystal ring on the rim of the dial that this time features a blue background. The circular satin-brushed galvanic opaline blue hours and minutes subdial with white Arabic numerals at 12 o'clock is the perfect match for the warm tones of its 18K rose gold case. Lastly, in order to match the blue theme of this watch, the wheel driving the tourbillon carriage and the fourth wheel —seconds wheel— have also been blued.

At 9 o'clock, the icing on the cake comes in the shape of a recessed chamfered gauge-type power reserve indicator with its 'high' and 'low' indications in French. As a homage to the man that inspired the founding of this manufacture, an inscription that reads 'Val-de-Travers Suisse' is located between 6 and 4 o 'clock. Val-de-Travers accentuates the regional nature of the watch referring to the birthplace of Ferdinand Berthoud and to the place where these stunning timepieces are manufactured. The Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 is one of the rare tourbillons to have a central sweep-seconds hand. Extremely long, slender and made of gilded bronze, the latter indicates the seconds with great precision and remarkable stability.

The Movement

With its characteristic pillar-type construction, the manual wound calibre FB-T.FC-2 is built according to an architectural concept that is unique on the contemporary watchmaking scene. Featuring 15 nickel silver bridges and three sapphire half-bridges, the movement is all held up by polished titanium pillars surrounding the mechanical organs. This construction is typical of 18th century marine chronometers and this demanding architectural blueprint is reflected in the design of all components, and above all in the symmetrical visual identity of the main movement sections.

 The Calibre FB-T.FC-2 is one of the rare movements to feature fusée-and-chain transmission, the oldest solution for supplying constant force to the escapement. It acts like an automatic gearbox, since the torque delivered by the barrel varies according to the level of wind. When the movement is fully wound, the chain is entirely wrapped around the small end of the spindle-shaped fusée and the mainspring is at maximum power.

The force dwindles over time and the chain coils around the drum, transitioning from the narrow to the broad end of the fusée. The varying diameter of the fusée compensates for the reduction in mainspring torque. The escapement thus receives a constant supply of energy, thereby equally out the amplitude of the balance wheel and improving the movement’s precision.

This accuracy also stems from its tourbillon, visible exclusively through the case back and composed of 67 elements assembled within a 16.55 mm-diameter titanium carriage. It is fixed to an arrow-shaped steel arch. Another aspect that contributes to making this tourbillon so distinctive is the fact that it rotates at a rate of once per minute, but does not display the seconds.

The calibre’s three half-bridges are positioned on either side of the tourbillon, and between the barrel and the fusee. In this model, they are made of transparent sapphire. Their contours have been entirely chamfered, a supremely delicate and difficult operation given the hard and precious nature of this material. The blued steel arrow-shaped tourbillon bridge is decorated with meticulous care. The upper face is mirror-polished, the flanks are straight-grained and the bevels are polished. All levels of the titanium tourbillon carriage are entirely chamfered and the power-reserve cone is mirror-polished. The 285 mm-long chain composed of 790 steel components is entirely hand-finished. The edges and studs are satin-brushed and the flat surfaces are polished. Composed of 1,120 components including its chain, this 46-jewel movement features four patents pertaining the suspended fusée —differential winding system—, the suspended barrel —Maltese Cross stopwork system—, the suspended power reserve —mobile cone system— and the reversed tourbillon with direct-drive seconds. Beating at a frequency of 21,600 vph, the movement provides a power reserve of 53 hours when fully wound.

On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, this is by far our favorite Ferdinand Berthoud ever released. There is something so special about an 18K rose gold watch with blue accents and the execution here is simply on the money. A remarkable example of 'haute horlogerie' that keeps showing the horological prowess of this young manufacture with a very rich history behind.

Sticker Price $237,000 USD. For more info on Ferdinand Berthoud click here.