Ferdinand Berthoud is the latest resurrection of a very well-known name in the horological world but forgotten by many. The responsible for the resurrection of the Ferdinand Berthoud name is Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the co-president of Chopard and founder of Chopard's in-house manufacture L.U.C division. Fueled by the rich history of the horologist after which their manufacture has been named, last night September 22, 2015 at the Hotel de Vendôme in Paris, the brand was officially launched and its first creation the Chronomètre FB1 was presented. Ferdinand Berthoud was a master watchmaker and chronometer-maker that left an indelible imprint on history with his fabulous creations, including the 18th century Marine Clocks that guided the vessels of the King of France towards new horizons. Today, while the purpose of the Ferdinand Berthoud brand lies first and foremost in paying tribute to this exceptional artisan and his incredibly destiny, they also aim to exalt the very essence and the inherent fascination of the watchmaking art.
Ferdinand Berthoud was born on March 18th 1727 to a family of distinguished clock and watchmakers in Plancemont in the heart of the Val-de-Travers region of the Canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. At the age of fourteen he was taken on by his brother, Jean-Henry, as a clockmaker's apprentice in Couvet, also receiving a sound scientific education. At the age of 18, he moved to Paris, where he continued to hone his skills as a clockmaker. In 1752, Ferdinand Berthoud submitted to the French Royal Academy of Sciences an equation clock marking leap years, demonstrating his extraordinary mastery of the art of horology. Academy members Charles-Etienne Camus (1699-1768), a mathematician and astronomer, and Pierre Bouguer (1698-1758), a mathematician, physicist and famous hydrographer, produced a glowing report on the quality of his work. Thus, on December 4th 1753, following a ruling from the King's Council in contradiction of by-laws and by special favor of the sovereign, Ferdinand Berthoud was officially granted the title of Master Watchmaker at the tender age of 26.
On May 7th 1766, Berthoud submitted a memorandum to the Duke of Praslin, Comte de Choiseul and Minister of the Navy, detailing his plans for the construction of the No. 6 and No. 8 Marine Clocks. Two years later, the Duke of Praslin presented Marine Clocks No. 6 and No. 8 to the Count of Fleurieu, a French explorer, hydrographer and Lieutenant of the Royal Ships. His aim was to test the timepieces during a voyage from Rochefort to Santo Domingo and back aboard a corvette called “L’Isis”. The timepieces successfully withstood the conditions encountered on the 18-month journey. Marine Clock No. 8 was used to determine the actual position of the boat on a map, and to calculate the longitude to the nearest half degree based on astronomical observations. A first for the French Royal Navy. On April 1st 1770, following the successful testing of Marine Clocks No. 6 and No. 8, Ferdinand Berthoud was awarded the warrant of Watchmaker-Mechanic to the King and to the Navy, receiving a royal commission for 20 timepieces. In 1795, Ferdinand Berthoud was appointed a First Class Resident Member of the Mechanical Arts section of the Institut National.
Stemming from a reflective process undertaken in tribute to the horological genius of Ferdinand Berthoud, the new timepiece from Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud embodies a modern vision of the creations that the master might create if he were still living today. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, President of the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, wanted this exceptional new timepiece to represent a continuation of the work of the master chronometer-maker. This was to be done by adopting a contemporary approach guided by the same innovative spirit, while drawing inspiration from the marine chronometers created by the master watchmaker. Housed in an imposing 44 mm in diameter —13 mm in thickness— octagonal case with watertight portholes, the new Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 is equipped with an original mechanical hand-wound movement comprising more than 1,120 components. Entirely independently conceived, developed and produced by the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud in Fleurier, the FB-T.FC calibre features a tourbillon with central seconds, a distinctive pillar-type architecture, an innovative suspended fusée–chain regulating system and a mobile cone indicating power-reserve. Patents have been filed for each of these features.
The new Ferdinand Berthoud Tourbillon Fusée–Chain chronometer is powered by an exclusive hand-wound movement entirely designed, developed and produced by Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. The calibre FB-T.FC is distinguished by a striking pillar-type architecture typical of the marine chronometers created by the master-watchmaker in the 18th century. Equipped with a remarkable low-frequency —3 Hz— tourbillon with central seconds, this exceptional movement also features a constant-force regulating device with suspended fusée – chain transmission, a differential-based winding system, as well as a highly specific power-reserve mechanism called a “suspended mobile cone”. The result of almost three years of research and development, culminating in cutting-edge reliability tests, Calibre FB-T.FC delivers exceptional precision and rating regularity duly certified by the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute —COSC—, along with 53 hours of autonomy and optimal readability of its hours, minutes, seconds and power-reserve functions.
Inspired by Berthoud regulator-type clocks, the particularly slim, long spokes of the gear wheels are decorated with meticulous care. Patiently finished with a circular brush, bevelled and countersunk, they subtly reflect light onto the pinions. Patents have been filed for several of the unprecedented mechanisms composing this new calibre. The unique architecture of the FB-T.FC calibre highlights a fascinating play on the symmetry between the barrel, the fusée and the tourbillon, visible through the generously open back of the octagonal case.
Fitted on gear wheels with tapering spokes and supported by stylized pillars, the barrel, fusée and tourbillon appear to be suspended in mid-air, thereby creating an airy, light feel. The polished titanium pillars securing the bridges to the mainplate generate a space that draws light to the heart of the movement and reinforces the pure nature of this exceptional construction comprising more than 1,120 components within a 35.50 mm diameter and a modest 8 mm thickness. The entirely hand-decorated half-bridges are satin-finished and bevelled with straight-grained flanks, while the jewels are set in finely polished and chamfered chatons.
Focusing firmly on time read-off and the display of its precise measurement, the dial of the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 is as understated in its appearance as it is technically complex to produce. The off-set hours and minutes tick by on a white-lacquered subdial at 12 o’clock. Standing out against a black satin-brushed or ruthenium background depending on the case material, the seconds scale appears on a matte translucent sapphire surrounding the dial. In the center, an opening with carefully chamfered contours reveals the seconds wheel-and-pinion and the driving wheel of the tourbillon carriage —each turning in the opposite direction to the other. Meanwhile, the movement power reserve is indicated on a scale directly engraved on the mainplate and shown at the heart of a 9 o’clock counter.
Its degree of autonomy is signalled by an arrow pointing to the words “Haut” or “Bas” – the French terms for high and low written in the native language of Ferdinand Berthoud. Alongside the confirmation of “Chronometer” certification appearing at the bottom of the dial, the inscriptions “Val-de-Travers” and “Switzerland” underscore the hand-crafted nature of this precious timepiece entirely developed in the birthplace of the master-watchmaker. Meticulous care has been lavished on the execution of the hands, inspired by the characteristic shapes of creations bearing the Ferdinand Berthoud signature. The understated lines and contemporary refinement of the Ferdinand Berthoud chronometer extend right the way through to the hand-sewn rolled-edge alligator leather strap with matching pin buckle.
So far we don't have price information but our guess is that this beautiful timepieces won't come cheap at all. This new brand right here, is definitely one that will become a wrist statement very quickly. The watch is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces each.
Sticker Price €220,000 Euro. For more info on Ferdinand Berthoud click here.