By Harlan Chapman-Green

Our good friends at Chopard have been delighting us all year with their different watch releases and interesting news topics, and rightly so as I’m sure you’ll agree the company has come along leaps and bounds over the past twenty years since L.U.C. started. So you might be a little confused as to why they are sending us information about Ferdinand Berthoud watches, I mean, they’re independent aren’t they? No, they are most certainly not. A couple of years ago now Ferdinand Berthoud became part of the Chopard group, which currently consists of Chopard Jewellery, Chopard wristwatches, L.U.C., Fleurier Ebauches S.A. and now Ferdinand Berthoud as well. In fact, the Co-President and lead figure in the watchmaking side of the business Mr Karl-Freidrich Scheufele is sitting on the board for the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève this year as the honorary guest after Ferdinand Berthoud won the Aguille d’Or last year (the grand prize, the CEO of the company that wins this award is invited to sit on the board of judges for the following year, but may not take part in voting for categories that Chopard has watches in).

Ferdinand Berthoud is named after its founder, surprisingly enough, Mr Ferdinand Berthoud, a Swiss born scientist and watchmaker who became master watchmaker in Paris and was appointed Horologist-Mechanic by appointment to the King and the Navy. As if this wasn’t enough at the height of his career Ferdinand Berthoud was considered the arch rival to Basile Le Roy, the namesake of L. Leroy watches.

The FB 1.3 watch has a case made mostly of platinum and withholds the unique octagonal design of the previous watches FB 1.1 and FB 1.2 which is said to take inspiration from a marine chronometer, a speciality of Ferdinand Berthoud himself. The lugs of the watch are, strangely, not made of platinum but rather ceramic instead, they’re held in by titanium bolts. I’m just a little concerned about how it might look once its been worn around for a couple of years, where the watch head itself is a bit scratched, nay ‘loved’, but the lugs are clean and scratchless.

Inside is a stupendous movement and just 7.96mm thick, the architecture of which is classic and true to 18th century chronometers in its design. It has a total of fifteen bridges and three had bridges which are constructed of german silver and nickel silver. The components themselves have been finished to a very high degree and are visually symmetrical to make it subconsciously more pleasing to behold. To regulate delivery of the power to the balance there is a fusée and chain inside it. Credited as the oldest power regulation technique, the fusée and chain uses a conical gear system to even out the torque curve from the mainspring, essentially meaning that there should be very little effect on accuracy when the watch is either fully wound (when the spring wants to deliver most power), or when it’s nearly fully unwound (when there is little tension left in the spring).

The movement inside the FB 1.3 is pretty technical and robust in design. For example, it has a special differential gear train inside, this allows the watch to continue running whilst it is also being wound, something you couldn’t do on a traditional fusée and chain setup as it could damage components. There’s also a pinion with conical teeth which is coupled to the oddly large crown, this makes it a smooth and enjoyable sensation when winding the watch. As well as this included in the watch is a stopwork device which limits the number of turns on the crown to six, when fully wound up the spring can exert 3kg of force which is more than enough for the movement. Even the power reserve is overcomplicated. A special cone is moved along an arbour connected to the barrel, on the top of the cone is a feeler spindle topped with a jewel, depending on where this arm is along the cone there will be a different reserve shown on the hand on the dial, that’s the super basic explanation of this patent approved method.

As if all that wasn’t enough there is also a tourbillon with a stainless steel bridge and titanium carriage that’s been painstakingly decorated. Unlike nearly every other tourbillon in existence ever, the tourbillon inside this watch doesn’t display the running seconds, even though it still performs one rotation per minute. It’s connected to a bronze seconds hand on the dial which is extremely long and thin, reminiscent of antique timepieces from the 18th and early 19th centuries. The movement is also COSC certified and every one of the 790 components in the fusée and chain (which is 28.5cm long) is also hand finished as well.

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1.3 is a demonstration of excellence in both watchmaking and business, while yes it is technically group owned it still acts and designs its watches like a true independent would. This isn’t a repeat of the whole Mercedes Benz/Maybach thing from ten years ago where the cars had different badges and body styles, there is no Chopard stuff in here, it’s all Ferdinand Berthoud. For more info, please visit ferdinandberthoud.ch

Specifications:

CASE

  • Bimetallic in platinum (PT 950) with anthracite grey ceramic lug elements

Total diameter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44 mm

Thickness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 mm

Water resistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 metres

Crown diameter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .9 mm

Numbered edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .   01/50 to 50/50

  • Dynamometric crown (uncoupling device) in platinum (PT 950)

with anthracite grey ceramic medallion

  • Octagonal case fi tted with four watertight portholes in glareproofed sapphire crystal
  • Mounting bolts in titanium
  • Screw-in case-back with glareproofed sapphire crystal

• Domed, arched and glareproofed sapphire crystal

DIAL

  • Vertical satin-fi nish dial made of solid nickel silver material
  • Cut-out centre and power reserve chamfered by hand and black rhodium-plated
  • Off-set hours and minutes in matte black-lacquered subdial, white Arabic numerals
  • Seconds scale in matte translucent sapphire surrounding the dial
  • Power-reserve scale engraved on the main plate “0_1/4_1/2_3/4_1”
  • Degree of autonomy indicated by an arrow pointing to the French words “HAUT” (high) and “BAS” (low)
  • Inscription: “CHRONOMÈTRE VAL-DE-TRAVERS SUISSE”

HANDS

  • 18-carat white gold dagger-shaped hours and minutes hands, openworked and facetted
  • 18-carat gold black nickel-plated dagger-shaped power-reserve hand with curved triangular tip
  • Bronze black nickel-plated central sweep-seconds hand

STRAP AND BUCKLE

  • One-piece hand-sewn rolled-edge black alligator leather strap

(115 x 75 mm, buckle 20 mm)

(Different sizes available on request)

  • Double-blade adjustable-length safety folding clasp in platinum (PT 950)

(Pin buckle available on request)