Move over MB&F, budge up Kari Voutilainen and watch yourself, Laurent Ferrier, because Ferdinand Berthoud just released their newest piece to remind you that they are a thing and they make some of the best watches on the planet. The Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.1 and FB 2RE.2 are a pair of devilishly handsome timepieces from this small but potent brand, and they’re ready to stick it to the Swiss watch industry.
Ferdinand Berthoud’s watches so far have been known for their octagonal cases and unique dial designs, but that’s made them quite a hard watch to sell to people who aren’t die-hard super-wealthy octagon fans. The new FB 2RE watches use a round case that measures in at 44mm x 13.95mm and is made of either white gold or rose gold. Although Ferdinand Berthoud is, technically, an independent watchmaker, it shares its top-brass management with Chopard, that would be Mr Karl-Friedrich Scheufele.
That gives Ferdinand Berthoud access to a wealth of developments that are usually inaccessible to a small indie watchmaker. The result of this is that Ferdinand Berthoud uses ethically-sourced gold for its watches. Called Fairmined Gold, it ensures that everyone involved in the gold’s production from the digging of the ore to the refining the gold into ingots gets paid equally and is not forced to work. It’s more expensive than the gold used by other watchmakers, but it’s a step they should all look to take.
The dials of the watches are made up of different elements. The inner flange is gently domed, leading to the minutes track that dips in the centre to break up the form of the dial without using guilloché. The domed flange and main dial are two separate pieces of grand feu enamel that require attention to detail and the patience of a saint.
As with all Ferdinand Berthoud watches, the real fun begins around the back, and it’s no different here. The calibre FB-RE.FC is a mechanical marvel that is able to hide the more boring components of the movement while showing us the best bits. At the top is the signature fusée & chain, this system averages out the torque curve from the mainspring to provide greater accuracy. Below that is the balance wheel which, for the first time I can recall, is not inside a tourbillon. Connected to it, though, is a remontoir d’egalité, which makes up for the lack of tourbillon.
This is one of the most complicated things to put in a watch, as it deliberately restricts the amount of power sent to the balance wheel. A spring is wound up by the fusée and chain until it reaches optimum tension. At this point, it slowly releases its power to the escapement assembly, in the case of this Ferdinand Berthoud that release takes one minute to complete (the remontoir can have a 1-second release up to several minutes, it’s down to the designer). Using this system, the watch’s escapement receives a consistent supply of power, when there isn’t enough torque left in the mainspring barrel to power the remontoir, the watch stops, but its accuracy didn’t falter along the way.
The power reserve is 55 hours for this watch, and it has a 3Hz beat rate. Including the components for the chain, 1200 pieces make up the calibre FB-RE.FC and the chain is 28.5 centimetres long.
You may have noticed the technical theme running through the watch and the case, this is designed to recreate the feeling of the original chronometer watches from centuries ago. That’s quite fitting as the watch is COSC chronometer certified. It’s not a sports watch, though I like the modernistic/masculine style very much.
The watches are priced at CHF210,000 a piece. So it’s one of these or a house, make sure you invest in a good robust cardboard box.